It started with data. Data showed customers were experiencing difficulties onboarding to Azure, not knowing how to get started, with murky understanding of all the tools and services available to them. Ayesha Ghaffar, a data scientist who analyzed these and many other customer onboarding experiences, saw an opportunity to improve the existing process. She put together a proposal of a new way to acclimate customers to Azure. Ayesha began meeting with a few product teams about her idea and everyone felt it was worthwhile to pursue – but what she found was resources were thin and other commitments took priority. “I just wanted to make this idea a reality, but I was a data scientist and I didn’t know how on my own. I needed help to make this happen.” The answer came in the 2017 company-wide Hackathon. “A week before the Hackathon started, I thought, ‘I’m just going to write an email and put it out there. This is the problem, this is how we can solve it, and this is the impact.’ I sent it to everyone.”
Soon, employees from around the world – designers, user researchers, developers, program managers – wanted to join her Hackathon project. They found a common passion for the customer experience. Peilin Nee shared her experience as part of the hack team. “Designing with empathy begins with yourself. This was my first time working with 15 others coming from different disciplines who have never met before. What amazed me is how we put aside our differences and work towards our shared dream – provide new Azure users a better getting-started experience and ultimately increase trial users’ adoption rate. And, we did just that in two and a half days.”
For their hack project, called Azure Launchpad, they created an extension in the Azure Portal that served as a hub for key getting started resources and personal recommendations for customers to achieve their cloud goals. Their efforts were noticed by the head of the Azure Portal product, Leon Welicki who was able to secure a Portal developer, Asher Garland, to continue to work on the project. While Ayesha was still a data scientist, she worked with Asher on a private preview version of Quickstart Center for the Ignite 2017 conference.
After the positive feedback they received from the private preview released for the conference, they were invited to present their work to Scott Guthrie who later mentioned it in one of his employee meetings. Because Ayesha moonlit as a product manager for the hack project, the Portal team eventually hired her to work on it full time as the PM in November 2017.
At Build 2018, Azure Quickstart Center shipped in public preview and became available to all customers through the Azure Portal. In 2019, Azure Quickstart Center partnered with the FastTrack team and Azure Docs to introduce Azure setup guides in the Quickstart Center to help customers deal with more complex scenarios like governance and migration based on the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure.
“The Cloud Adoption Framework provides the One Microsoft voice for cloud adoption. Azure Quickstart Center has made that voice actionable by injecting pointed and relevant guidance into the customer experience. The user now has prescriptive instructions at the point of execution. Together, these assets create a seamless integration of strategy and tactical execution,” shared Brian Blanchard, Sr. Director, Cloud Adoption Framework.
The Hackathon helped the team get feedback and continues to be a way to showcase the value of their ideas and projects. For Ayesha, “Hackathon is one of my favorite things at Microsoft – it helped me land a job as a PM, get visibility on the solution, and I learned how to solve customer problems in depth.” For the 2019 Hackathon, Ayesha and team (along with FastTrack team) iterated on features they could add that customers have said they wanted. “The goal is to democratize knowledge and put it in these custom guides. Our superpower is enabling our customers and partners to find their own superpowers. Cloud can be complicated, we want to enable customers and partners to simplify it for their organizations by creating their own custom guides for their users.”