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How does MS do market research?

I've started this thread before, gotta ask it again - how does Microsoft figure out "how people use their products"? Because every so often I see something that makes me think either their dev teams work in an ivory tower, or else they're interviewing aliens.

The one that prompted the thread last time, and has raised my hackles again - Biztalk Server 2004 beta currently ships without EDI support.

Now, a document processing engine that works 100% XML would seem cool if you were someone who just reads IT magazines, but if you talk to one single person who actually works on EDI documents, they'll laugh at you if you try to pitch a document server that doesn't understand EDI.  I honestly do not see how anyone on the Biztalk team could have talked to *anybody* that works EDI in the real world.

So the subject question - do they even do market research? Or do they trust themselves too much to know "what people want" without even talking to real people until beta time?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, August 28, 2003

"Innovator's Dilemma"

You only listen to your biggest customers, and if they lead you astray, you're screwed.  I can speculate that in this case, it might be that the key customers who advised the BizTalk team didn't need an EDI engine maybe because they already had legacy systems they were integrating with BizTalk.

Ankur
Thursday, August 28, 2003


Well, if they'd released it with EDI support and no XML support people would laugh at them too.

Maybe they're going to support EDI in a follow up release?

anon
Thursday, August 28, 2003

I'm not saying they should've gone all EDI and no XML - they should've supported both; that alone would put them ahead of several of their major competitors (that don't do XML except as a plain text file).

Their current plan (until we hear otherwise) is "to release the EDI system in the RTM" - i.e. "take it or leave it". Three or four customers have already stated on the beta newsgroup they'll be leaving it.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Microsoft have lots of consultants working in the field. Part of their duties is to report back what problems did they find and what requirements don't the MS products meet. Sometimes they are assigned to work with the development teams when defining requirements.
As for the BizTalk 2004, obviously it's a temporary solution. They have to add EDI at some point. It has always been there before, right? BTW Philo, is this thing still unstable? I have some pretty nightmarish memories from using it in 2002.

Alexander Chalucov
Thursday, August 28, 2003

I'm diving in right now - Biztalk 2002 (since we need the EDI). I'll keep you posted. :-)

Philo

Philo
Thursday, August 28, 2003

So I guess the question is, just how easy is it to acquire quality third party EDI -> XML glue? Because clearly the MS folks thought you could get such things.

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Last time I was in Redmond, I seem to remember market research working in the following way.  First, you select a bunch of random people in the Seattle area.  Then you send a bunch of program managers over to their houses to observe them using software.  You look at what features users think the product is missing, etc.  I don't know specifically about BizTalk, but the product group I worked for did market research with maybe a pool of 20 to 30 people on an intimate leve, and maybe 100 on an expanded level.  Then feedback was provided within the product to find out what additional users want.  Unfortunately market research comes out of each groups own budget, therefore if it's a smaller group, or one strapped for cash, things like extensive market research often suffer.

Elephant
Thursday, August 28, 2003

so BizTalk 2002 supports EDI, but BizTalk 2004 Beta does not? I seriously doubt Microsoft would remove features (even deprecated ones). Maybe there is just some temporary beta problems with their EDI code?

runtime
Thursday, August 28, 2003

EDI is actually handled by a preprocessor, and from what I understand another company is handling it (it's like a "crippled but functional" version ships with BTS 2004 and you can buy a better version to augment it)

Philo

Philo
Thursday, August 28, 2003

The version I worked with had lots of bugs. I remember there was a diagram I created in Visio and something got wrong inside and I had to edit the XML file myself (I think it was a workflow diagram). And lots of problems like this. Unstable. I've learned they have been fixed in following versions, mostly.

www.alexlechuck.com

Alexander Chalucov
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Here's an insider information about how MS does research

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnstone/html/stone101199.asp

The One You Loved (TOYL)
Friday, August 29, 2003

Microsoft sees a lot of their products as "platforms" on wich VAR's and other 3rd parties can build.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, August 29, 2003

Philo,

MS has 'outsourced' the EDI functionality in Biztalk 2004 to another company (called Covast if I remember correctly).

Their reasoning being that EDI development was not in their core business or such.

Sam
Monday, September 01, 2003

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