Involving Customers in Your Product Design: What a Difference a Decade Makes. Back in the summer of 1993 I was an intern at Microsoft (a couple of years before I got back there for a real job), and I have a vivid recollection of a conversation I had with a product manager. When I expressed my frustration about the product design being process driven by focus groups, as opposed to the collection of real feedback from the field (i.e. from real users outside of the marketing lab), the guy sneered back at me that Microsoft didn't need me (i.e. Joe Plain User) to improve Excel, which I believe was the specific program I had ideas about. I was shocked by his reaction not only for its self-congratulating smugness but also because it felt so out of touch in the face of obvious shortcomings in the products. And the worse is, this is actually a good marketer I'm talking about, not some completely clueless jerk.