Introducing VMC Ideas: A New Way to Innovate With Our Users

VMware Cloud has launched a new Ideas site where users can enter their ideas to improve the product. It is available at http://ideas.vmc.vmware.com

VMware has been at the forefront of innovation for over 20 years. I still remember that ‘a-ha!’ moment when many years ago I first set up an entire lab over a single weekend using VMware Workstation. As a Product Manager, it gave me the technology to conduct a live hands-on-lab for my users and get instant feedback in order to build the next iteration of my product. Fast forward to 2019, and the rise of Software-as-a-Service, social media, improvements in digital marketing and customer listening tools have really provided product managers with multiple ways to build services using agile methodologies with closed-loop user feedback.

With VMware Cloud on AWS, we have maintained a simple principle of putting our users at the center of our product innovation. This has helped us innovate quickly and release 10 global regions, 200+ features, 13+ SDDC releases, all with a high NPS score, and a 99.99% SLA. We have several ways to listen and respond to users for the VMware Cloud on AWS service today.

  1. Chat: Any user can instantly chat about anything with us directly 24/5. The Chat widget is available in the VMware Cloud Console and it is also integrated into the vSphere H5 UI. Our response times are typically a few seconds. Our users have told us that this has been very useful for them to resolve any problems, questions or sometimes just letting us know we are doing a good job.
  2. In-product support: Last year we introduced a contextual in-product support widget to aid users to search intelligently through VMware documentation, knowledge base articles and community posts. We also offered a way to easily open Service Requests and view Service Health directly in the product.
  3. Online Roadmap: One of our key goals was to provide our users with a transparent way to understand the product roadmap. To help with this, we set up our public roadmap online, where product managers frequently post updates based on changes to their roadmap.
  4. NPS Score: We poll users frequently within the product to rate us on a score of 1-10. This is very useful for us to get a real time report card based on user scores.
  5. Community: VMware has been a long-term advocate of user communities especially with our passionate vSphere users. More recently, we launched a user community to focus on VMware Cloud on AWS topics.
  6. Social Media: With our #VMWonAWS hashtag, we have certainly captured the imagination of our community. At AWS re:Invent in November 2018, we were the top trending partner hashtag. We have a lot of fun on social media, and most importantly we always look forward to answering questions. Our twitter account is @vmwarecloudaws – be sure to follow us!

But there was still a critical gap in our listening portfolio. As our service matured, we wanted to get deeper inputs from our users. We frequently meet with many of our users 1:1, but we still wanted to ensure that ALL users could share their ideas with us at any given time. As we thought about this, we recognized that we not only wanted an “Ideas” site for users, but also a way for our internal teams to organize and respond to user ideas effectively. We absolutely wanted this structured closed loop with our end users. Last year, the product team created this framework internally so that multiple teams within VMware could listen to new ideas internally from our Customer Success and Sales teams. Once we established this internally, we prepared to get this in front of our users.

We are now excited to launch the VMware Cloud Ideas platform publicly for our users! Simply go to http://ideas.vmc.vmware.com/ and enter in your idea, and the product managers will be listening and responding to your idea. Follow these simple steps:

  • Search for existing ideas using the search ideas box. Someone else may have submitted the idea already. Join in the conversation by adding a comment or upvoting the idea.
  • If you cannot find anything similar, click “add a new idea” to document your idea.
  • To add new ideas or upvote, you will be prompted to login with your MyVMware credentials.
  • You will automatically subscribe to updates of the ideas that you submit or vote on.

How we Integrated VMware Cloud Ideas Into Product Development Processes

Behind the scenes, we set up some automation to integrate the Ideas platform directly with our product development process. We thought it would be interesting to share this if you wanted to do something similar for your own organization. Internally, our product managers use JIRA to manage stories and projects. We leveraged the native integration tool provided by the Ideas vendor to integrate with our JIRA instance. The two-way integration allows us to bulk upload the ideas that are submitted on the ideas site into JIRA as new stories and allows us to keep the ideas and JIRA stories in sync. For example, when the status for an idea changes in our JIRA story, the auto-update tool will automatically send an update to the Ideas site, along with a notification to the original idea submitter and voters. This behavior is also true for number of other custom fields associated with a JIRA story.

During this exercise, we realized that the native integration tool was not able to sync a few critical fields into JIRA, such as vote count, idea URL, etc. With the help of our custom automation, we were able to talk both the Ideas site and the JIRA APIs to bi-directionally sync these additional fields that are not sync’d by default. Overall this integration has really helped to establish a tight feedback loop between users and product managers.

It’s amazing how sometimes the simplest ideas are the most transformational ones… so let’s get going and bring it on!

(With contributions from Nancy Cheng and William Lam)

Resources:

Submit your ideas to VMware Cloud Ideas today.

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