How often have you built the software that your users asked for, but not necessarily what they wanted? One of the determining factors between success and failure of software projects is getting the right feedback, at the right time, from the right individuals. In Microsoft Visual Studio 11, we have enabled feedback deeply throughout the product (refer to Brian Harry's blog to get the full context), such as:

  • Feedback on priorities
  • Feedback on requirements/design
  • Feedback on code
  • Feedback on working software

 In this post, we will focus on the "Feedback on working software" phase.

 As the product team keeps churning out incremental "consumable modules/bits" at end of each sprint, it is critical not just to test these within the product team (Dev/QA etc), but also to involve the business stakeholders to evaluate it from business perspective. The frequency of such stakeholder reviews can vary within teams, but it is often beneficial to get feedback from stakeholders early and often, so that you can fine tune/course correct early on if there are any deviations from the business side of the house. Visual Studio 11 helps you optimize this workflow by enabling both Solicited and Unsolicited feedback workflows using Microsoft Feedback Manager.

 Solicited Feedback Workflow:

  1. Product Owner initiates Feedback Request: As a product owner, when you feel that certain user stories have stabilized and would be a good time to get stakeholder feedback, you can solicit feedback by initiating a Feedback Request. Within the feedback request, you specify the set of user stories on which you want feedback on, the set of stakeholders from whom you want feedback and provide any background context for them to get started. When you submit this request, the system generates a set of "feedback work items" for each user story/stakeholder combination (traceability between user stories and feedback work items is created automatically) and sends an email to the selected stakeholders
  2. Stakeholder provides feedback on working software: Within the email, links are provided to install the Microsoft Feedback Manager and then launch the feedback session. The stakeholders can start providing their feedback on individual user stories using the Microsoft Feedback Manager, which allows them to capture rich feedback in a simple and consolidated manner. The stakeholder can capture rich text notes, take screenshots and annotate them, capture all his interactions with the application using desktop video & audio recording, add file attachments etc. Once the stakeholder submits the rich feedback, it is captured in the corresponding "feedback work item" in Team Foundation Server.
  3. Product owner acting upon the feedback: As a product owner, you can query for the status of all your requests and see who have/have not responded to your feedback requests. Since all the feedback from the stakeholder for a user story is consolidated and captured in a "feedback work item", you can process/review the feedback and take next set of actions such as filing of new bugs, creating new user stories etc.

 Unsolicited Feedback Workflow:

  1. Stakeholder provides feedback on working software: The stakeholder can use the Microsoft Feedback Manager to provide feedback even when there is no explicit feedback request from the product team. Consider the scenario where the stakeholder is interacting with the application on his own and runs into issues that he wants to pass onto the product team. In this case, he can simply launch the Feedback tool from Start->Programs, capture his rich feedback (notes, screenshots, annotations, video/audio, attachments etc) and then issue a Submit. By default, the tool automatically connects to the last used Team Foundation Server/Project, which can be overridden at any time. The feedback is again captured within the "feedback work item" - the only difference being that these work items do not have any traceability with a user story, and hence categorized as "general feedback".
  2. Product owner acting upon the feedback: As a product owner, you can query for general feedback work items and process/review the feedback and take next set of actions, as appropriate.

 Links:

The following MSDN topics go through the solicited workflow in lot more detail:

Ravi Shanker, Prinicipal Program Manager, Visual Studio ALM