How would you characterize the growth of the MVP
program over the past few years?
Specific to the growth of the MVP program, in
the past two years we have seen accelerated growth. That growth is a
function of a
couple different things. One, is basically the diversity of products
that Microsoft is covering - therefore we have a larger number of
MVPs covering a broader base of products nowadays.
Second, we have been very focused on
building a globally based program. Historically, the program was
very US-centric. So given our aspirations of creating a global
community, that has really fueled added numbers to the MVP program.
When we first started the MVP program we
were very much focused on the connection of the product teams. While
we still have that connection of the product teams, other groups
within Microsoft are now seeing the value in the MVP program.
Historically, we have been very focused on newsgroups. Today, it is
much broader in terms of what groups of people we bring into the
program - i.e. not just the people in newsgroups, but people who
blog, speakers, authors, etc. We have a much broader diversity of
people who are in the program. The sales and marketing teams are now
more interested in how they connect with the community as well, and
they are leveraging the MVPs in many different ways to drive value
in terms of being the voice of the customer, etc.
If you think about where things are going in
the future, I would say the future represents sort of an
extrapolation of what we have done the past few years. One is
looking at global coverage; languages, community types, venue that
are not currently represented, etc. Another is new technologies that
were not represented, ie now we have MSN Search MVPs. I would also
point to emergent communities. Two years ago we really didn't think
a lot about blogs like we do today, now there is a drive around
wikis, podcasting, and other community types. You should expect the
MVP program to grow and encompass any of these destinations that
customers are finding value in peer-to-peer based conversations.
I think one of the great changes in the
summit this year compared to last year's summit is the unparalleled
presence of the product teams. This year we have almost four times
as many Microsoft employees (nearly 1500) registered to engage which
is a key success measure in showing what value to the product teams
and to the MVPs of what this kind of interaction can lead to.
Do you feel Microsoft is embracing a continuous
improvement philosophy with regards to the MVP program and its products?
I would say that continuous improvement is a
core operating principle that we have run our overall business and
certainly with the MVP program. One of our key priorities in the
company has been evolving our culture to customer centric and
customer focused. The connection there with the MVPs truly do
represent a voice of the customers, and the customers that they are
interacting with. This program shows how we can be a better citizen
in the global community. The product groups now see the value in the
MVPs, the voice they have, their skills, and the expertise they
bring to the table.
So you feel the MVP program adds to the overall
value of Microsoft products?
With the MVP program being global now and
connected to our subsidiary structure worldwide, what you see
happening is engagements through different mediums chat sessions,
webcasts, roundtables, etc. We are now able to engage the MVPs and
send their feedback back to the product teams. Now the specific
changes that are made as a result of MVP feedback are tracked. For
example, in the security newsgroups a lot of MVPs are providing
feedback on security issues. The top posters are being recognized by
the security team by creating a lot of good value. That is just one
specific example across the different products of MVPs being active,
providing relevant feedback and driving specific changes to make
inherent improvements in the products. The fact that we have more
product teams participating in this event this year is a testament
to the value that they see in the relationships with the MVPs.
I think the question you ask about growth,
positive impact, etc. is really a good question. Sometimes people
just look at "you are over your numbers...there are two and a half
times more MVPs, how can that be good?". The reality is there are
many different ways to look at that. One of the things that I always
believed in is the value of the critical mass - that voice gets
louder as you have more people, more expertise in the room - that
voice becomes an immovable force. That brings value to all the MVPs
and to the customers and the communities they represent. I think in
some ways the MVP community may actually be smaller than it was a
few years ago. If you take a look at the growth in participation in
communities around the world - even though communities are growing
exponentially - I wonder sometimes if the MVP program of experts is
smaller then it once was. Sometimes I think we get too focused on
the numbers and not realize how the world is changing around us in
terms of valuing communities as a high value destination.
So you are saying there isn't significant
dilution of the quality in the community?
It's always the highlight of my trips to meet
customers and engage with MVPs. It is easy to say you are global but
being global means you have to be there and engage with the
different groups of people. The needs of these people are the same
worldwide - the focus is always on product feedback. How do I
connect to the product teams? How do I make the community better? I
love seeing the connections between MVPs with that local product
teams, allowing to see them connect globally. It's interesting and
fun...I don't think I travel as much as Sean now, though.
Really thinking how executives integrating MVP
connection into their global travel schedule proactively is a great
advance of how we see the evolution of the program headed.