How Customer Input Shaped Office 2010 -- Lessons For Consumer Product Strategists

My first report addressing Product Creation is now Web-live.  It's a case study about how Microsoft's Office team used customer inputs to shape the development of Office 2010.  Here's why Microsoft's approach is interesting to fellow product strategy professionals:

  • It provides insight into how customer input is used to develop a massively popular product. Microsoft Office is hardly your run-of-the-mill product. It is the dominant productivity tool in the market, and it is used extensively by consumers and businesses worldwide. Yet Microsoft recognizes the need to constantly innovate its product to meet its customers' needs.  Trouble there is, there is no "target customer" for Office 2010 -- it must meet the needs of very different customers. Microsoft's approach enables it to identify a wide range of pain points and solve problems for all types of customers throughout the three-plus-year product creation timeline.
  • It underscores the value of direct interaction with customers during product creation. One of the most interesting points that emerged from my interviews with the Office 2010 team was that the insights you learn from a group of 50 are very often the same issues you would uncover from a group of 500.  Here, less is just as good as more, which not only leads to important product improvements, but also saves time and money.
  • It will either validate your own customer input methods... Custom surveys? Check.  Focus groups? Check.  Interactive communications with customers? Check. Flexibilty within our product creation plan?  Check.  It's always nice to have someone to benchmark against, and if your plan compares favorably with Microsoft's approach, shouldn't your boss know that?
  • ...Or challenge your current approach.  Ever wonder whether you are doing enough when it comes to injecting your product strategy with customer input? While your resources may be more limited compared with Microsoft's, you can still compare notes to figure out where you are strong and where you could do more, based on your objectives.

 

Does your product strategy encompass customer input throughout the product creation lifecycle? Does Microsoft's approach resonate with you?  What customer inputs does your firm use that Microsoft does not?  Love to hear from you, either in the comments or offline.