Over the past weekend, we had our annual Developer Express "what the [bleep] are we doing?" getogether, spread out over four days.
In essence, the movers and shakers in the company got locked into a room and discussed what we did in 2006, what went right, what went wrong (yes, I have to report there was some, some of it not visible outside the company), and what we'll do in 2007 to keep on doing what we did right and to stop doing what we did wrong. Oh, and also what we're planning to release in 2007.
I, for some inexplicable reason, managed to contract the flu and it made itself felt on the second day. So I've probably infected the upper echelons of the company and you may see us dropping like flies over the next couple of days.
Anyway, despite this incident of British viral warfare, we had some extremely productive discussions. A lot of it I can't talk about, for obvious reasons, but there were some conclusions we came to that I can outline here and flesh out in detail over the next few weeks and months.
1. We have to enhance our contact with our customers. No, not by spamming you with emails (ha!), but by some new initiatives. First up, I'm looking into the possibility of having regular chat sessions (an hour long, say, biweekly and varying the time to suit customers around the world) where we meet with our customers electronically by using some kind of moderated chat software. We would specify the topic of discussion of each chat up front, say on our main web page, and I would invite people from the company who would be able to help answer questions on that topic. So, for example, we could discuss future products or features, design issues with this component, extensibility points for that component, or development problems with this other component. You get the idea. My first job is to find some chat software (if you have any thoughts, please let me know).
2. We've got to do a better job at letting you know where we're going to be, with respect to conferences or user group meetings. I know, you're shaking your head, duh, this is really obvious. Yep, it is, but sometimes you have to be hit over the head to see how apparent it is. Anyway, we've already set up an internal tracking system for this need, and I see that Mehul has kicked off the first post on the topic. (The second one is here.)
3. We have to help you find the information you need to succeed with our components. We have a huge knowledgebase (KB) of information, but, to be honest, searching it is a pain. So we have a project to implement a new search engine for the knowledgebase (details still being decided) and also we're seeing how we can incorporate KB information into our help files so it's available to you at design-time. This would have a double benefit: first, you will be able to more easily find the information we have that you need, and, second, by being successful at that we help reduce some of our support burden (which has increased noticeably in the last six months). This is, needless to say, a more long-term project than some of the others.
4. We must get better at releases. This covers a multitude of sins, but, in essence, we must make you aware of what's coming up earlier than we have done, be ready with the release content (press release, what's new, web site update, etc). You only have to look at our recent release of CodeRush and Refactor! Pro 2.1 to see what I mean: a great release, but we didn't have all the ancillary content ready at the same time. Which is surprising, sigh, considering we had enough time to get it ready. Talking of CodeRush and Refactor! Pro, Mark and the IDE team have agreed to sync their releases to the main DXperience releases.
That's about all for now; stay tuned for more information as we blog about it.