Participating in product feedback loops, and understanding roadmaps


Introduction: The purpose of this post is to help you understand how you can provide feedback to Microsoft on products and services and participate in the feedback loop.

Feedback is extremely important when developing software, without it the developer will not know if what he/she is building will actually meet the needs of their target audience. Providing feedback is a continuous lifecycle, for example if a new feature is released feedback is required to understand what's working right, and what's not working, what needs to be fixed, what needs to be removed, what needs to be enhanced, etc. When changes are made to that feature, feedback is required to understand if the changes indeed meet the users' expectations and the cycle starts over again.

Generically speaking, once the feedback is provided, the developer will then prioritize that feedback against feature backlogs, feature requests, bug fixes, security fixes, revenue impacting changes, etc. An analysis will need to be performed to understand the broader need among customers for said feature request or enhancement and weigh that against the cost of developing versus the benefit for the user and the return on investment the business will receive after implementing that specific feedback. What's important is that not all feedback can be implemented because of many variables among of which are cost and number of resources available to do the work.

Perfect, so how do I submit feedback?

The best way to get involved in the feedback loop is to participate in the loop with the developers, and your peers from other organizations. Microsoft has placed most of it's product feedback loops on the UserVoice website. This enables you to vote ideas/features up or down to indicate the demand, make detailed comments justifying why you feel that item should be built into the product, and receive notification on items that are in development, planned, launched, considering, etc. Most of all, it allows you to interact directly with the engineering teams and conduct rich dialog to help them understand what you want and why you want it.

The following list, is a short list of some of the UserVoice sites I am aware of and that I participate on a regular basis. Most of these are of the naming convention http://productname.uservoice.com
Note: If there are other products you would like for me to add to this list, please let me know if the comments below:

So, is this how roadmaps are developed?

Generically speaking, yes. When a developer builds their feature roadmap it will contain a backlog of features they would like to add to the product, but may not have time to build, resources available, or the budget required at the time and so these features will be prioritized. However, if features are based on customer feedback and there is clearly a demand, then those items will be prioritized as well and aligned with the cost and resources required to build and placed in the roadmap. This can quickly turn into a very complex process and isn't as easy as taking an individual piece of feedback and immediately implementing it into a product.

Okay, I get it – the roadmap is based directly on customer feedback then?

As I mentioned before roadmaps are based on many things such as priorities of the business, bugs and security features, but they can also include customer feedback and reflect the demand for what customers want in the product.

So how do I view the roadmap of Microsoft Office 365 products?

Ah good question. Office 365 has a special website devoted to displaying the roadmap of the features, products, services and workloads in Office 365. To view the roadmap, browse to https://products.office.com/en-US/business/office-365-roadmap. Here you can view roadmap items that have launched, currently rolling out to the service, items that are in development, items that were cancelled and roadmap items that were previously released:


Let's take for example the roadmap of Microsoft Teams. In the search box type Microsoft Teams and press Enter. I can see that 2 features have recently launched, 22 are in development and 11 have been previously released:


Clicking In Development allows me to see all the features that are currently being developed:


Clicking on a specific feature will then expand it's card and allow me to see more details, this specific feature is for integrated presence. Note the added to roadmap and last modified dates:


Conclusion: Hopefully this blog post helps to give you a basic understanding of roadmaps and more importantly how to provide feedback and understand the importance of providing feedback.

Comments (2)

  1. Cian Allner says:

    Great article, it’s really useful having these UserVoice sites listed all in the one place and an explanation of how this helps shape the Office 365 roadmap through product feedback. By the way, I have added this article to the Office 365 Change Management Survival Guide – https://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/37821.office-365-change-management-survival-guide.aspx

  2. David Giles says:

    This a great resource. Thanks for providing this information in a concise easy to read format.

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