Over two years ago (in March 2002), Product Support Services (for Exchange) began detailed analysis on Exchange support issues. The goal of this process was (and, has been) to improve customer satisfaction with Exchange Server by improving the supportability of the product and related content.
The analysis of each support incident is done by root cause. Meaning, if SMTP relay configuration causes mail flow problems, the root cause is SMTP relay configuration. Doing the analysis by root cause allows the Exchange development team to take better action to improve the product.
Moreover, this process allows us to analyze issues where no root cause was determined. Understanding issues with no root cause helps us to identify opportunities for better logging and diagnostics capabilities.
During the development of Exchange 2003, PSS met regularly with the Exchange development team to discuss the top root causes of issues for Exchange 2000. From those meetings, our conversations mainly focused on areas, like: Disaster Recovery, Mail flow problems and Deployment problems. There were many other issues discussed, but too many to list here.
Understanding our top support issues is fairly easy. Getting these issues turned into workitems for Exchange 2003, and prioritized accordingly, was another thing. The good thing about our root cause analysis is that we have quantitative data showing how much our top support issues are costing Microsoft (and our partners) to support. This helped solidify priority.
By the time Exchange 2003 released, we got 22 of the top 35 issues either fixed or partially fixed in the product (or, in Exchange 2000 SP3). Some of those features or improvements to the product came in the form of:
· Recovery Storage Group
· Internet Connection Wizard
· Deployment Tool
· Improved Logging/Diagnostics
o Improved Transport logging
o Improved Store Startup logging
· Miscellaneous Improvements
o Zombie User Improvements
o Improved Content for Events Linked to the Web
Future Root Cause Analysis
We continue to do Root Cause Analysis on Exchange 2000 Server issues, and have added: Root Cause Analysis for Exchange Server 2003 and all Exchange high severity support incidents. From this breadth of information, we can continue to build strong stories for supportability improvements in future versions of Exchange Server.
At the same time, we are collaborating with other product groups doing similar Root Cause Analysis (i.e. Windows, Outlook, etc…). From this data, we can collectively identify cross-product areas for improvement.