It sure helps to demystify the process, but also shows there is no direct contact between developers and customers. PSS, a product group or reports form software tools are always 'in the middle'.
I'm sorry that I gave you the impression that there is no direct contact between developers and customers. That could not be farther from the truth. It may be a problem that I didn't define the term “product group“. To us, the “product group“ is the group that designs, engineers, and tests the actual product. It comprises mainly program managers, developers, and testers. So for the most part, developers == product group.
I mentioned validation with some types of customers above (e.g. MVPs), but other ways that developers get direct feedback from customers include:
- Newsgroups and public mailing lists. We have quite a few people from the product groups that lurk and even a few that post regularly to such lists. I've been a member of the exchange2000 yahoogroup since its inception. I also read and sometimes write to a number of other lists, including one for Windows usage in Higher Ed (I used to work in Higher Ed so this is near and dear to my heart) and one for SBS.
- Conferences. When I go to a typical conference for a week such as TechEd or ITForum to speak, I will probably speak directly to 200 customers.
- Blogs! I'm getting direct feedback from a customer right now!
I didn't mean for the previous post to be an exhaustive list of how we get feedback from customers.