How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle

This is about me taking a traditional role in software development and creating its counterpart on the customer side to improve communications between all stakeholders. This is where Product Manager meets Community Product Manager.

Social Content 2.0: Content derived from the spontaneous, effortless, contagious and insightful use of social software. This content flows independent of the networks, platforms and tools themselves and is solely driven and by the interests, concerns, opinions and experiences of the community and their desire to contribute.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software (Oct 2008)
Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software (Oct 2008)

The social software state of affairs

  1. According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Social Software, there is not one software company in the Leaders quadrant and only Microsoft & IBM in the Challengers quadrant. That means, there’s lots of room for improvement in today’s social software offerings.
  2. Based on these excerpts, almost 40% of the players have size issues when it comes to their ability to execute:
    1. AskMe-Realcom: The impact of the June 2008 merger between AskMe and Realcom on the company’s direction and product evolution will take time to work through.
    2. Atlassian: The company’s size (currently 190 employees) and reach can limit its ability to handle growth and meet the demands of large global organizations.
    3. Awareness: Despite doubling to 50 employees during the last year, Awareness is still a relatively small organization.
    4. blueKiwi Software: Despite some growth in 2008, blueKiwi is a small company with about 30 employees, limited resources and no activity outside Europe.
    5. Blogtronix: The company’s small size, small partner network and limited enterprise deployments limit its ability to execute.
    6. CustomerVision: CustomerVision has limited market presence, is very small in size (18 employees) and has a limited “ecosystem.”
    7. Drupal: Acquia is a small and new organization with an unproven ability to execute.
    8. eTouch: eTouch is a small company (15 employees) with limited ability to execute.
    9. EMC: EMC has a document- and process-centric view of collaboration, with little support for informal communities in its current eRoom product.
    10. EPiServer: The company has almost no presence outside Europe.
    11. FatWire: Although TeamUp is being deployed independently, its primary short-term appeal will be among existing FatWire customers and creative marketing teams or media agencies dealing with rich media content.
    12. Google: Weaknesses in social interaction support and group information organization, moderation and expertise location will need to be addressed before the product is suitable beyond content authoring and sharing.
    13. GroveSite: The company’s small size (15 employees) limits its ability to execute.
    14. Huddle: Huddle is a small U.K.-based company, with a limited ability to execute, and no large-scale deployments (beyond 2,000 users per site).
    15. IBM: Whether justified or not, perceptions of complexity and dependencies on other IBM products such as Domino, WebSphere or DB2 will make it more difficult for IBM to reach customers outside its existing customer base.
    16. Igloo: Igloo is a small company that needs to attract a broader customer base beyond its handful of customers in Canada and the U.S.
    17. Jive Software: Although growing, Jive Software’s size will inhibit its ability to establish a clear positioning as an enterprise vendor.
    18. Josh: The company is very small (16 employees) and has limited exposure outside Europe.
    19. Leverage Software: Leverage is still a small organization (40 employees), with activities mainly in the U.S.
    20. Liferay: Commitment from the vendor and the Liferay communities to the collaboration and social software market is still unproven.
    21. Lithium Technologies: It offers limited support for team collaboration via document/content creation and sharing, and no informal project support.
    22. LiveWorld: It has limited authoring, document sharing or team collaboration support.
    23. Microsoft: There are functional gaps including social tagging and bookmarking, social search and an improved wiki (although some of these are offered by Microsoft as open-source components through its Codeplex community).
    24. MindTouch: Despite doubling to 26 employees in 2008, MindTouch is still a small and young organization that has yet to prove its ability to serve enterprises.
    25. Mzinga: The company has little experience with internal employee collaboration beyond talent development and social learning.
    26. Novell: Product visibility beyond the existing Novell customer base is limited.
    27. ONEsite: Despite the Social platform acquisition, ONEsite is still a small organization with just over 50 employees.
    28. Open Text: Despite capability enhancements in Livelink ECM – Extended Collaboration and the RedDot product line, some gaps will remain (for example, rich profiles, social tagging, social analytics and mobile support) until the release of new social computing offerings currently in production.
    29. PBwiki: The company is small (30 employees).
    30. Six Apart (Movable Type): Six Apart’s main focus is not the enterprise, where it has an unproven track record beyond blogging services and technology.
    31. Small World Labs: Although it is a growing organization, it is still small.
    32. Socialtext: Its primary audience is outside the IT department, which makes it easier to strike quick opportunistic deals but harder to close large enterprise deals.
    33. Telligent: Although very good in general community support, there are functional gaps in social network analysis, social search and support for more structured collaboration (such as tasks, simple workflow and projects).
    34. ThoughtFarmer: It is a small organization with a small client base and no evidence of large-scale deployments.
    35. Tomoye: It has limited geographic and vertical-market diversification.
    36. Traction Software: Traction is still a very small organization (10 employees) that needs to grow faster if it is not to be left behind.
    37. TWiki: The governance issues between the commercial organization and the TWiki developer community, and the subsequent creation of a new splinter project ( in October 2008 will impact its ability to execute.
    38. Vignette: Collaboration has not been Vignette’s main focus, although it is an important ingredient both in its outward facing Web Experience strategy and for supporting internal collaboration.

    Using your browser, Find for the word “employees”. Aside from this last occurance, there should be 12. Now Find “small”. That should add another 2. That means 14 of 38 – almost 40% of the companies Gartner chose, have size issues related to their ability to execute. If you look through the rest of the report, you’ll see that all of them, not just the others listed above, have product issues.

  3. The global financial crisis has resulted in major job cuts – software developers and service providers are not immune. That means that all of them are being asked to do more with less. For many that may mean focusing on customer support and maintenance issues, as opposed to, new features, innovation and growing their market. That makes the 40% even more vulnerable.
  4. Outside-in (see below) and Agile software development processes are proven & accepted methods for getting & validating that customers’ needs are not only being met & delivered, but delivered with high quality. These methods help reduce the risk that precious development & testing time is only spent on features valuable to the business.
  5. Social software, in itself, is vital to outside-in agile software development. The content that flows through these products, like blood through your viens, is intellectual property conceived by the social network. Let’s call that “Social Content 2.0”. This content, this priceless commodity, needs to be injected into the products’ development lifecycle to not only reduce risk but increase its value to the business and its stakeholders. (See my 2 minute video which refers to the various stakeholders.)

Community Product Manager – The missing link
Everyone is low on talent. Many are missing, or, simply can’t afford the connection between the market and development. So why not have an outside-in community product manager for your social software? What does that mean? Traditional product managers work alongside the development team. They are responsible for a multitude of tasks, including gathering, prioritizing, managing and conveying requirements and priorities from their stakeholders to the development team. That’s a lot of stuff for someone to do with decreasing resources. So how about having a counter-part whose sole purpose is to represent the outside stakeholders – like Principle, End Users and Partners. Preferably a Community Product Manager would have some of the following traits:

  1. A software product development background
  2. Customer facing experience
  3. Strong presentation skills
  4. Strong writing skills
  5. Training/mentoring experience
  6. Ability to effectively work remote to keep expenses down and more importantly, timeliness up
  7. Willingness to travel on-site
  8. Has a stickman profile image

One of the challenges facing many product managers is described in Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. They call it …

The Curse of the Knowledge: When we start to forget what it’s like not to know what we know.

IBM’s Carl Kessler and John Sweitzer wrote Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-based Products. One of the key take away points for me, is the importance of mixing the social process into the software development process.

So the primary responsibility for the Community Product Manager is to filter, manipulate & translate that Social Content 2.0, derived from the stakeholders, into the language of the product manager and the development team. If everyone gets along, this should not only reduce the workload of the over-burdened product manager but also infuse the community’s Social Content 2.0 into the product’s development lifecycle. This is the aim of outside-in software development.

The time is now
Clint Boulton reports in Enterprise Social Software Headed for Consolidation Cycle During Recession

What do companies like Socialtext, MindTouch, Jive Software, Awareness, Yammer and NewsGator have in common? As providers of messaging and collaboration enterprise applications, they all may be fodder for acquisition in 2009. Gartner analyst Matt Cain says 60 percent of such vendors will get bought or go under, with the recession paving the way for more deals at cheaper prices.

Q. Now what else do you think these companies have in common?
A. Everyone should be highly motivated to welcome the services of a Community Product Manager.

It’s your move
So this is my big plan. I’m going to reach out to the social software development community and offer my Community Product Manager social services.

Infusion anyone? Do you think there’s place in today’s economy and social software’s state of affairs for a Community Product Manager?

22 Replies to “How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle”

  1. Hi Steven,

    Thanks for including us in this post. I wanted to comment on this statement “Collaboration has not been Vignette’s main focus”.

    We see a huge opportunity at the intersection of content and conversation and have placed a huge effort on developing our social media suite. Our collaboration tools play a significant role in this.

    If you have not done so, see what we have done recently here:

    Thanks again, this is a great post.


  2. Interesting post, Steven. I especially appreciate point #8 on the traits of an effective Community Product Manager, “has a stickman profile image”. We’ve struggled with this one — previously we were too focused on looking for someone with a chin pose. LOL

  3. Hi Steven,

    More and more software development life cycles (SDLCs) adopt the Agile methodology. You’re right to mention the successes of Agile development. In my experience, organizations choose Agile to reduce costs (don’t reinvent the wheel, reuse open-sources, etc.) and to match customer needs (be prepared to changes).

    One key element which is often missing is: “the customer is part of the process.” I can see your proposition to act as the Community Product Manager as a SDLC evolution for Social Software:

    1. You’re one Agile team developing a traditional product for one customer. This customer meets with you each month to validate the closed sprint and to prepare the next one.
    2. You’re one Agile team developing a traditional product for many customers. These ones are represented (or proxy-ed) by a Product Manager/Business Analyst. This PM meets with you each month to validate the closed sprint and to prepare the next one.
    3. You’re one Agile team developing a social product for a large community. The community is represented by a Community Product Manager. This CPM continuously polls the community, filters the various requests, etc. and meets with you each month to validate the closed sprint and to prepare the next one.

    IMHO, this CPM role cannot just focus on the community aspect (I mean the people using the products and the way they interact with the developed system). In cases 1) and 2), the customer and the PM can choose one interaction model (a webapp, embeddable portlets, native applications, etc.) and then focus on the business logic. In the case 3), in addition to the 8 traits you mentioned in your post, I think the CPM should be also a technologist. This one should understand the new trends before they become mainstream, to prepare to the development teams for change…

    I really think your positioning comes at the right time. There are a lot of people ready to start new ideas, ready to follow the companies mentioned in Gartner report. Your valuable experience and your willingness to facilitate the communication between product builders/content producers and the crowd have a great potential.

    A+, Dom

  4. Steve, I know what was said for Blogtronix and others in the Gartner overview, but if you think that size matters, maybe you should ask our big clients why we can deliver, time and time again, where the BIG companies like EMC, MSFT, IBM, Oracle, etc. still can’t deliver a good social platform to their clients. Why is it that companies choose small social companies like ours to deliver a working solution? I don’t agree with he MQ that IBM and MSFT should be in the ” Challengers quadrant”. Sorry I just don’t get it. I am not sure if many out there have even looked very closely at their solutions, but they simply suck even after years of trying to copy what we do 😉

  5. @dom derrien Thanks for the positive feedback &encouragement for the Community Product Manager role. I definitely agree with you about extending my first point to include a “technologist”. Spoken like a true dojo-guy!

    It’s always been a pleasure collaborating with you & reading your blog.

  6. @vassil mladjov Apparently you don’t need a Community Product Manager – your passion rings through loud & clear. For the record, I was not criticizing Blogtronix, but simply drawing attention to the Gartner report & using it to test the waters for a position I’d like to fulfil since they placed a lot of value on ability to execute. I suspect, as do you, that IBM & MSFT are in the "Challengers quadrant" perhaps more for their girth than depth.

    I also noticed how both your blog & have "blogtronix is in the new Social Software Magic Quadrant by Gartner" published in their upper right quadrants. So I guess you and I are no different when it comes to taking advantage of a situation.

    BTW, I think your stuff looks awesome & you are, without a doubt, the most passionate social software evangelist I’ve ever seen, heard and/or read and have no desire to engage you in a duel. Please let me know if you’re thinking about delegating some of those efforts & if I could be of any help.

  7. @Steven,
    Hi Steve, I am not sure if you got my comment. I am not looking for a duel, I just wanted to share my point of view here 😉
    We did have a community manager, but no one at Blogtronix is as passionate as I am about it, so due to the economic weather and other stuff now I deal with this myself again.
    It seams like we should be talking by the way for sure. You got my email. Feel free to contact me at any time.

  8. Interesting topic and thread. One point you did not identify but bears mention is that the reason why many of the social content companies are small is exactly because social interactions are hard to monetize. Sure, you can build a company to support a product (like Acquia), just charge for it (like Atlassian), develop subscriber-based revenue streams with SaaS-based delivery models (like Six Apart), or give it away in hopes of improving your brand and making money elsewhere (like Microsoft). But most of these business models have a hard time delivering the requisite funding to support size, and inevitably the role of Community Product Manager.

    I think you’re totally right about the value of the position and my experience in Product Management is that successful products always work better when you can integrate the development process with a user community. However, paying for both roles with two separate employees is a challenge for many small companies. Until social content companies find more lucrative ways to monetize social interactions, the role of Community Product Manager will be a shared activity.

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