Many Microsoft engineering groups have a forum on the UserVoice platform to collect and respond to customer feedback. Signs that change is in the air came in a message posted by the Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) team in their Yammer community posted on March 3:
“Due to recent policy updates within Microsoft across all products, [the] Microsoft Information Protection product group is discontinuing the usage of UserVoice and starting to use other methods to stay connected to customers and collect product feedback.
The team is committed to have an open channel to hear customers and stay connected, therefor we have updated the UserVoice link to route to a new form at: https://aka.ms/MIP/UserVoice. That in addition to a new link that will route to the same: https://aka.ms/MIP/FeatureRequest.”
True to their word, the MIP UserVoice forum is marked as not currently active (Figure 1).
Since then, several Microsoft contacts have confirmed to me the move to dump UserVoice is a Microsoft corporate edict that affects all development groups. According to a Microsoft post in the MIP Yammer community, concerns about customer data protection requirements lie at the heart of the issue. I’ve also heard that the specter of GDPR has raised its head.
No doubt the axe will soon descend on Teams UserVoice, which I regard as a good example of how to have two-way customer interaction. Although they don’t always get it right, I know that the Teams development group have leveraged the feedback received through UserVoice to influence decisions about product directions. As of the time of writing, the Teams UserVoice forum remains open and active, with updates to product requests being posted this week (here’s an example about the availability of the Graph API for Presence).
Other popular Microsoft UserVoice Sites include To-Do, Word, and Planner. SharePoint has nine UserVoice sites while Outlook has six. The Office 365 and Office 365 Groups sites are marked as inactive (here’s a good list of feedback sites).
There’s no word as to when these sites will close, but I imagine that this won’t happen until the sponsoring development groups find suitable replacements. Hopefully, they’ll be able to migrate all the ideas, comments, and responses which exist in UserVoice to the replacement platforms.
March 8 Update: In a motherhood and apple pie statement, Microsoft published their position on moving from UserVoice. It’s a holding statement to acknowledge the passion about this topic expressed by many customers.
Customer Feedback is Critical
Any sensible person understands that bidirectional customer feedback is critical. Decisions made within Microsoft based on the knowledge, experience, and background of program managers are not always as well-rounded as those making the decisions think. Regretfully, listening to customers is not a skill some Microsoft engineers have acquired.
As Microsoft gets rid of UserVoice, it’s obvious that they need another platform to allow customer ideas and reactions to surface. To be fair, many development groups conduct extensive customer research and maintain sites where people can ask questions of engineers. The MIP group has its Yammer community, which is open to all. Other groups (but not many, and not consistently) use the Microsoft Technical Community. Others have Teams open to guest users from outside Microsoft. Many of the guests are MVPs, so they’re part of the Microsoft ecosystem anyway, but some are open to customers, especially those in Technology Adoption Programs.
What’s missing is a platform where anyone could bring an idea and ask the community to back the idea with their votes. UserVoice, for all its flaws, is such a platform. We can only hope that the replacement Microsoft choses is equally useful, and that the development groups continue to interact with customers and listen to their views.
Update: Read what an administrator of a 4,000 user Office 365 tenant thinks of Microsoft’s decision to shutter their UserVoice sites.