Following up the request for input for an interview with Perry Clarke, Microsoft VP for Exchange development (the interview is this coming Friday, and I will publish the result on my Exchange Unwashed blog), a number of the Exchange MVPs have discussed how best to collect real-world user input for feature requests. The result is the Exchange Improvements site. Please visit it to add your input, browse other ideas, and vote for the improvements that you consider most worthy.
Why have such a site? After all, surely Microsoft receives tons of customer feedback either direct or via its field? The answer is that Microsoft absolutely does receive many ideas and suggestions for future products but many of these ideas naturally go through a filter. Ideas coming from a customer reflect the needs and requirements of a particular customer (obviously) and might be highly specific to their industry or business. I also think that the logic and rationale of some of these suggestions are badly communicated because they tend to come up during highly structured executive-level meetings between Microsoft and customers. Customer executives who attend these meetings are not usually experts in Exchange and don’t have the necessary background in operations or the technology to understand why a request might be important. Likewise, the Microsoft representatives might not just “get it” when they hear the idea and anyway, the discussion is often overtaken by more important and pressing events such as the need to review an enterprise software licensing agreement. I’ve participated in many executive-level meetings between vendors and customers and have seen this kind of interaction happen often.
Microsoft field representatives do their best to advance the needs of their customers but I suspect that they are just one voice in a very large company and that voice, unless it is well known and recognized by the product group, might be overlooked or ignored. It’s human nature to impose a personal filter on the deluge of email and other communications that flow within major corporations.
So the Exchange Improvements site will give us all an overt, public voice on improvements that you would like to see in the product. You can contribute ideas for both the on-premises and cloud versions of Exchange – given that the two share a common code base an idea that makes sense for one platform might very well make similar sense for the other and it’s a real win if an idea can be implemented for both Exchange Online (Office 365) and Exchange on-premises (either in an update to Exchange 2013 or a new version).
Naturally there is no guarantee that Microsoft will pay any attention to the outcome but I hear great reports of solid product group interaction for a similar site dedicated to Lync improvements, so there’s always hope.
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