Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Please Participate in the SBS Customer Experience Improvement Program

I was in a secret meeting with the Home and Small Business Server development team last month, held deep in an underground cave in an undisclosed city just across the water from Seattle. The discussion was about the future (As William Gibson says, "The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.”). So I can't tell you about that.

But . . .

An interesting side conversation erupted about the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP).

The CEIP is that one check box in the server install that gives you the option to send some anonymous configuration information to Microsoft. Many people (I get the sense most people) disable this function.

Dean Paron, Principal Architect for the Home and Small Business Server products, was quite interested in getting more people to opt-in to this program. Of course, like you, I wanted to know why WE should care. Here is Dean's response:

    "At a high level, the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) collects information about how our customers use our programs, the problems they encounter, and automatically sends that information back to Microsoft on a regular basis. Each team at Microsoft 'instruments' their product to collect the most useful information for the product development team.

    For example, on SBS, we collect a variety of information, such as which wizards are commonly accessed, what error conditions are encountered by customers, how heavily our partner applications such as SharePoint are being used, and what common network topologies are deployed. Each of these pieces of information is critically valuable to us as a development team, because it lets us know where to focus in future updates, service packs and major releases. On the Home and Small Business Server team, we review this information regularly - at least monthly, and often more so, depending on the decision that we're trying to make."

As you can imagine, there are some architectural changes coming in the next generation of SBS and Home Server. Not just on the server itself, but in recognition of the network environment in which the server sits.

Think about the generational changes from Proxy Server to ISA. Now ISA is out. In the meantime universal plug and play routers dominate the scene. The wizards evolve over time in response to the physical environment, the related products shipped with (or sold separately from) SBS, and how you actually configure and use all that.

As Dean told me, they really want a lot larger participation in this program.

If you've ever taken a statistics class you know that you need a large enough sample to get an accurate representation of the whole. In this case, you need enough people participating in the CEIP so that you can safely say they represent the actual user base.

I can't tell a good story about why the people who opt-in are different from the people who don't. But my Ph.D. training tells me there IS a difference even if we don't know what it is.

How can you help? Here's Dean again:

    "Participation in CEIP is optional for Microsoft customers, and you can choose to opt-in or opt-out at any time. Typically, Microsoft presents the choice to opt-in during the initial product setup and configuration, and those settings can be later tweaked in an options or preferences menu. For example, the CEIP settings for SBS 2008 can be accessed in the Getting Started list. We're also very careful to protect our customer's privacy: all CEIP data points collected are extensively reviewed during the development process to ensure that they don't contain any Personally Identifiable Information, such as customer names, addresses or phone numbers."

There are no surprises here. You knew this option existed. But like me you probably never gave it much thought. We all have an interest is making SBS continue to be an awesome product. Your SBS Dev Team would like your assistance.

BTW, this is the second request I've had to check that box. The last time it was Paul Fitzgerald asking me to make sure The Network Migration Workbook included it in the big 220 page checklist. :-)

You can read more about the Customer Experience Improvement Program at the following website.


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