Customer-Driven Engineering

I grew up with Microsoft.

The Customer-Driven Culture

In The Customer-Driven Culture: A Microsoft Story, Monty Hammontree and I outlined the foundational culture that’s been built in DevDiv which has empowered our teams to connect with customers and continuously learn from them at scale.

The book cover of The Customer-Driven Culture: A Microsoft Story
The Customer-Driven Culture: A Microsoft Story by Travis Lowdermilk and Monty Hammontree
An image that outlines the 6 culture hacks.
An image that outlines the 6 culture hacks.
The 6 “culture hacks” of a Customer-Driven Culture

Culture Hack #1: Establish a Common Language

One of the single most powerful tools that has impacted our customer-driven culture, was growing a common language that allowed us to communicate our values at all levels within DevDiv.

Culture Hack #2: Build Bridges, Not Walls

Everyone in DevDiv, no matter what team or role, is a vital part of our mission to connect with our customers. CDE embraces a Lean approach that requires continuous testing and iteration. This mindset of continuous learning and experimentation is not only serving our customer and product development, but also serves our cultural development as well.

Culture Hack #3: Encourage Learning vs. Knowing

Being customer driven means embracing a culture of continual learning and growth. It’s not about having all the answers, it’s about having continuous desire to seek the right questions. CDE is a complete system of tools, templates, training, and structure to help teams learn from our customers.

Culture Hack #4: Build Leaders that Build Your Culture

When you’re working in a massive company like Microsoft, it can be difficult to determine how to best navigate your own career path. For most of us, we often look to success of others to help us determine the types of behaviors and actions we should be investing in to grow our own careers.

Culture Hack #5: Meet Teams Where They Are

We learned early on that if we wanted to encourage our product teams to adopt new ways of working, we needed to be “passionately pragmatic”. Changes in culture often happen as a result of small wins, collected over time; not as a result of a significant change that happens all at once. Therefore, it was useful to remind ourselves that we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

Culture Hack #6: Make Data Relatable

As we started to see exponential growth in the number of direct customer conversations and observations our product teams were having with customers, we learned that being data-driven alone wasn’t enough.

UX Researcher and Author