Mark Cliggett runs the team at Microsoft that is driving the Developer Division's community efforts for Visual Studio and the .NET Framework. Yes, they have a whole team dedicated to this.
On Friday he posted a retrospective about the recent community preview and included:
“In the end, if we do all this and 99% of installs still happen with betas (but 1% continue to make the effort to get more frequent drops), we’ll be satisfied because two things will have changed:
- We will have shifted much of the control/decision-making over how involved customers can be from us to our customers.
- It will enable every person within our division to be much more responsive to customer feedback, without a lot of incremental extra effort.”
Mark's twin goals of increased customer control and increased customer feedback both fall under one of my favourite agile guidelines: 'increased customer collaboration'. It is remarkable to see a company as large as Microsoft giving subdivisions and teams the autonomy and resources necessary to come up with new and innovative ways, like the ones Mark is discussing, to improve their processes and increase their collaboration with customers.
FYI: He also mentioned that the next Visual Studio community preview will be available in a couple of weeks. That release would seem to tie in nicely with the timetable for TechEd (May 23-28), so it should be one that won't be missed :).