Help Yourself, Help the Community
As a consultant focused on helping organizations be more effective and efficient systems managers, one key principal I teach is to participate in the community. One of the major selling points of ConfigMgr is the community that comes with running a product that manages half of all managed devices on the planet. A key aspect of this community is sharing the most valuable thing a person has to offer: feedback.
During ConfigMgr 2012 engagements, every time I see pain and frustration about the way the product works or with a bug, I work with my customers to help them feel ownership for getting it resolved. If you are feeling pain, it is likely someone else is too, so why not check with the community for a solution?
One of the key tools Microsoft has for soliciting and managing feedback from its customers is the Microsoft Connect website. Despite whatever perceptions you may have about the behemoth that is Microsoft, the ConfigMgr product team is pretty eager to hear your feedback. If you submit feedback on Microsoft Connect about a bug or a poor design decision, do not be surprised when an engineer contacts you to discuss the issue and includes your feedback in a cumulative update three to six months later.
During a recent MNSCUG meeting, Wally Mead (ConfigMgr Product Group Guru), explained how feedback from the Connect website drives decisions about what gets worked on for cumulative updates, service packs, and major releases. Information posted to the Connect site is integrated into Microsoft’s internal tracking site for all ConfigMgr bugs, features, and ideas. Microsoft has people who will even go through and coalesce multiple posts together so that if two people share similar feedback, the combined scores help drive the priorities.
Wally also explained how to help your issue/idea make the cut. I have summarized his suggestions with these four tips:
- Describe the problem or feature as thoroughly as possible; one line submissions may get a similar amount of effort on their end. If it is a bug, be sure to include every possible log file that could help them see what is going on. If it is a feature, consider making diagrams to show the process or creating a crude MS Paint mockup of Console changes. The more detail Microsoft has, the easier it is for them to help develop a solution.
- Include information about the real-life impacts to your organization, so they understand how much time/pain the bug costs you or how much benefit the new feature would give you. Be detailed and specific. If Microsoft knows that a feature change would save you some action on 30,000 devices that would equate to a person-year of effort and that other organizations would see a similar benefit, it makes a pretty compelling case
- Constructively leverage your connections to get other customers to participate in the feedback. This can include reaching out to peers and colleagues in your area, making your bug/feature a short topic at your next user-group meeting, posting in the forums, or submitting an article to a community site like MyITForum.com. The more people who participate in the Microsoft Connect entry by voting it up and adding detailed comments, the more likely it will become a high priority.
- Be relevant to most organizations. If your issue/idea only applies to a small corner case, it is likely not going to get a lot of attention. If the feature you are asking for is to address an underlying problem that is already solved by another part of the product (like Role Based Administration), it will be hard to justify building something else to manage it. Feedback that would benefit 80% or more of customers is a no brainer.
So, how do you join Microsoft Connect and give feedback on ConfigMgr and other products?
- You must first Join the ConfigMgr Open Beta Program by signing in with a Microsoft Account at this link: https://connect.microsoft.com/ConfigurationManagervnext/InvitationUse.aspx?ProgramID=4346&InvitationID=VNXO-DFPW-G6HD.
After signing in, it will prompt you to register with Microsoft Connect if you’ve never registered before.
- Once you have joined the Configuration Manager Open Beta Program, you can file bugs/feedback for released and beta versions of ConfigMgr 2012 through the Microsoft Connect site: https://connect.microsoft.com/ConfigurationManagervnext/program4346.
(If you got a “Page Not Found” error when visiting this link, it means you have not yet joined the program. Use the first link in the article to join.)
Now that you are in, take a look at some of the open feedback already there. Some recent stuff that has been on my radar includes
- Robert Marshall’s feature request: “WebApp-Control shortcut destination and implement grouping”
- Greg Ramsey’s feature request: “Integrate company portal features into software center”
- Liliya Tsibulko’s bug: “Last Logon Timestamp sorts as string instead of date in console column”
- My (Nash Pherson’s) suggestion: “Wishing for an X-Mas Update Miracle”
And that’s the other lesson here. If you want other people to look at your feedback and support your ideas, spend some time looking at theirs. You will be pleasantly surprised to see all the good ideas that are out there already. When you find that one “that would be awesome” entry, vote it up and put in a detailed comment about why it would help you.
After you’ve spent some time working with the ConfigMgr Open Beta Program, click the Directory link to see if there are other products and programs that interest you.
I cannot describe the satisfaction that comes with seeing your feedback implemented. It has happened to me half a dozen times in the past year, and it never seems to get old. It is normal to help a customer submit feedback and then get an excited phone call two weeks later about how Microsoft reached out to them asking to test a fix or enhancement that is about to get rolled out publicly.
The key is seeing an opportunity for improvement and taking action. The folks who run into problems, just throw up their hands, and quit will never get what they want or need. Those who take initiative should never be surprised when they succeed in getting things done.
Help yourself by participating in the community and remember that “we all do better when we all do better.”