Can You Spot My Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Moment? Part 1

#7. PRACTICE THE ART OF COLLISION

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is a metaphor for life. What seems completely new is often just an unexpected combination of the familiar but previously disconnected. This is Innovation 101, but too often we forget, and think the one asset we have is the answer, rather than asking what we can bundle it with to transform its value.

Mark Payne on Blogging Innovation: The Ten Tenets of Transformation – Innovation blog articles, videos, and insights

Worlds Apart?
Worlds Apart?

The Chronicles

Peruse my blog and you’ll see I pretty much chronicle my experiences as an ultra light, non-funded, start-up entrepreneur. You’ll also see that I divide my time, not necessarily equally, among two main efforts: 1) called :Twetailer, which has morphed into :AnotherSocialEconomy and 2) :edu.cyn.in. While both were born out of a burning desire to correct something I found profoundly wrong, yet so “simple” to fix, I’ve always considered them to be worlds apart. That was until I tried to fill a void in my execution plans – sales & marketing. Now I know these are not subjects to be treated lightly but, in my own defense, I was primarily concerned about the Guy Kawasaki lesson How to Change the World: Defensibility. With all that reasonably taken care, I started educating myself on Search Engine Marketing (SEM). As a matter of fact, my very last post was how I used that new knowledge to rethink AnotherSocialEconomy’s :Widget. Who knew? It was not only another entry point/channel/stream into the system (remember, I’m a techie) but it actually competes – quite nicely, with Pay-Per-Click (PPC), Cost Per Click-through (CPC) and Cost Per Action (CPA).

Selling sucks

In the early days, I tried getting schools to pay for the edu.cyn.in service but, being a techie and not a sales rep, failed. There was either not enough budget to go around, not enough qualified staff to support the service, or, simply the FUD Factor (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt). But I’m a persistent bugger and based on my prior experience with social software on the Internet, within enterprises and even within schools, I  just couldn’t give up.

I knew the service was greatly appreciated by the kids. I knew the service was greatly appreciated by educators – albeit a special select few. And as a parent, I also knew the frustration of organizing events, committee meetings, car pools, other extra-curricular activities and even purchasing related goods and services.

And on top of all this pressure to sell edu into schools, I was still struggling to sell AnotherSocialEconomy – which needed a way to reach retailers & consumers.

Started getting that sinking feeling

Things just seemed to be getting worse.  Was I going to be one of those start-ups with a great idea – in my case, two great ideas that no one other than myself, Dom & a few others knew about? It’s not like I don’t know my limitations.  I think I’m a pretty good technical business analyst, software product manager, maybe even a social media manager. I love pre-sales demos, presenting at shows and conferences, have a pretty cool online education story to tell, love story telling and I’m pretty pleased with my stickman videos and presentation creations. But I just can’t seem to get past this marketing & sales hump. I’ve tried to bring in others but it just hasn’t gelled yet. Maybe some seed money would be the way to go. Either way, if I don’t get any traction, I’ll probably have to drop edu. Yikes! That would really hurt because not only have the Cynapse folks been more than fair with me (I’m also a struggling Reseller), it would mean that my daughter Sara & friends would lose the service.

Perseverance

Back in my IBM days, Perseverance was not only a welcomed characteristic, but encouraged too (by some). In a company of over 390,000 (at the time), it was all too easy to say things like; “I’m waiting for so-and-so to get back to me”, or, “Today’s first agenda item is to decide when we’ll meet again to discuss this matter”. If you truly wanted to make a difference, you had to persevere – you had to press on people, press a few buttons, or, as my wife Anna says, I just had to continue being the real pain in the ass I can be.

Dropping edu, dropping, AnotherSocialEconomy, getting a real job are options I’m just not ready to accept yet. What I really have to do is find a better way to persevere.

Suggestions?

Do you have any suggestions on how I can make edu & AnotherSocialEconomy work for each other? Stay tuned for Part 2.

The Twouble with Twetailer

Golden Rule of Branding:

  1. Choose a name that is your URL
  2. Don’t choose anything that paints you in a corner. With the word “tweet” in it, it’s painted into a corner.

— Mark Suster, referring to TweetUp at 6:11 into This Week in Venture Capital #2 with Mark Suster.

In the beginning

There was something familiar about Twitter back in December 2008 when I posted My Five Ws of Twitter in less than 10 minutes (video included). It wasn’t necessarily the short messages – like text messaging (SMS), even though those were its roots. It wasn’t so much the chat-like short messages either. It was something I recognized as an IBM MQ Series feature call Message Persistence – basically meaning, the messages are saved on some hard disk on some server somewhere on the network. So what? So as opposed to email, text messages, or, chat messages that are 1) unless they’re spam, are sent to a select group of people, and 2) can be deleted, Twitter messages are potentially in the public domain, persisted (save to some disk) and searchable.

The original idea behind Twetailer was to expand on those persisted tweets, as if they were MQ Series persisted messages and use them as a poor-mans’ communication channel. And just like MQ Series with its ability to have operating system agnostic clients communicating to the MQ Series server, there were already a whack of Twitter client applications out there like TweetDeck, Twhirl, Seesmic, etc. That way Twetailer could focus on the transaction engine and let its users choose their favorite client app. We even had free text messaging (SMS), courtesy of Twitter.

Hence the name Twetailer, which is short for Twitter Retailer.

Sounds like a plan, eh?

But Dom Derrien was concerned about relying on Twitter for these persisted messages, so, we decided to persist our own. Still true to our Twitter inspiration, we built a transaction engine that runs in 140 characters, or, less. As a Consumer, your initial request looks like:

d twetailer wii console locale:1235 us range:25 mi expires:2010-12-23

and subsequent requests could look like:

d twetailer rent twilight dvd

since we already knew your previous preference for location and default the expiry date to one month in the future.

Oh, by the way, Dom was right! To date, Twitter does not persist searchable messages beyond a few days, at best!

Too cryptic

While everyone we yakked to about the concept Where Demand comes to meet Supply loved it, they either didn’t tweet, or, thought the messages were too cryptic.

How to paint yourself out of a corner

Twitter is still a force to be reckoned with. But so is email and so is the web and so is text messaging and so is Facebook and so is Google Talk and so is iChat and so is Android and so is iPhone and so is yada yada yada. Cryptic, shmyptic!!! Our  Twitter-inspired transaction engine has an open application programming interface (API) allowing us, or, you to build more client apps than ever before. Nonetheless, we have to heed the outside-in advice of  those we respect.  So we’re keeping http://twetailer.com as our project name but moving forward with http://AnotherSocialEconomy.com.

Thanks Jason, Mark & ThisWeekIn

A big thanks to Mark Suster, Jason Calacanis and the rest of the crew at ThisWeekIn for helping us paint our way out the corner. I’m pleased to say we have gone from the single Twitter Stream to multi-stream and from Twetailer to AnotherSocialEconomy.

Thoughts

Has anyone out there been faced with a similar situation? Did you stick with your ‘program”, or, re-positioned yourself?

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Connecting the dots – Part 2

There is no plan… well, maybe a little one.

Garr Reynolds' 'Career Advice '08' - Page 99
Garr Reynolds
Background

In my previous post, Connecting the dots – Part 1, I provided three sources of inspiration for this three part series.

Taking inventory of my own dots

While I may not share much in common with Steve Jobs – aside from a first name, I do feel I have to stop trying to connect my dots looking forward. I’ve been in the business of software development for over 25 years now. Truth be told, if I had to do it all over again, I would still be in this business – but I’d do things a little different. There’s nothing I love more than creating things. And the only thing more exhilarating that thinking

Wouldn’t it be great if you could… yada yada yada” 

is actually bringing it to life.

Back in the dot com days, I was fortunate enough to get asked to join a start-up. We put together an e-learning solution & without going into too much detail, I have yet seen anything better. But as you may have guessed, it was a dot com & it suffered the same fate as many. I held on for three years, despite only being paid for one & picking up the odd contract here & there. Others, for their own reasons, clung on to hope even longer. For myself, with a wife (Anna), two kids (Sara & Alex) and many of the other things that come along with them, it was the hardest lesson I ever learned. It was also the best time of my life. From early morning conference calls to one’s that stretched into Sara’s soccer games, or, Alex’ bottle, to working through the night feeling quilty while Anna was alone watching TV, or asleep in bed. We were at it 24×7 and would gladly have worked more if we could have only found a way.

What started from a 10-minute phone call, went to whiteboard, proof-of-concept, alpha, beta and live. For the first time in my development life, I actually understood and contributed to the value of marketing, sales, service & support. It was the best & the worst all neatly bound together. But my dot (com) s were not going to connect as dreamed.

Dot change

Within a few months, I was fortunate to get a much appreciated job with IBM Canada’s Montreal Rational Software Lab. And while it was a great experience, I never really felt my dots would all of a sudden start aligning. And so, as Seth Godin might say, it was a good Dip-dot, but a dot nonetheless.

Value-dot first, Sales-dot second

And so, here I am. If you’ve seen any of my last few posts, then you may know I’ve been trying to build a case for the shared services of a Community Product Manager. To be quite honest, it’s been a tough sale. Not so much because the concept lacks merit, but more so because it’s difficult to only talk about delivering value. Today, you have to deliver value first and then build on that in order to get the business. Unfortunately, the cost of delivering first and selling later – in this particular case, is just too high for me. So I’m going to consider this a little Dip-dot and simply move on.

My next dot

My next and final post in this three-part series will lay the foundation for my next dot. In the meantime, it’d be nice if any of you could share some of your own dot-stories here.

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Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 3

My outside your firewall, shared listening and engaging Community Product Manager service offering for social software vendors/providers.

Sharing
Sharing does have its advantages

According to wikipedia

Shared Services refers to the provision of a service by one part of an organization or group where that service had previously been found in more than one part of the organization or group. Thus the funding and resourcing of the service is shared and the providing department effectively becomes an internal service provider. The key is the idea of ‘sharing’ within an organization or group.

Background

As the title suggests, this is the third and final part of my Lessons Learned series and where I’ll propose the business model I’ve come up with. Here’s my previous related posts:

  1. How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle
  2. Trial offer to test the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life
  3. Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 1
  4. Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 2
The Business Model
  1. I will assume the overhead costs associated with:
    1. Monitoring the social software market. Using Radian6, I would create a Topic Profile including keywords for social software vendors / providers like Socialtext, Atlassian, Blogtronix, MindTouch, Cynapse, Liferay, Vignette…
    2. Filtering out and tagging relevant buzz about product features and directions across the market
    3. Offering free service exporting tagged content and publishing on blog
  2. Offer monthly fee-based services where I would:
    1. Net out tagged content with respect to product features and publish on permission-based site (Say for example there’s a few posts about “permissions”. I would then write a 1-liner describing the “permission feature” and link to the original supporting content published Step 1.3)
  3. Offer hourly, or, tiered fee-based services where I would:
    1. Collaborate with respective social software vendors’ / providers’ (Customers’) Product Managers to determine which features described in Step 2.1 should be elaborated
    2. Engage with original content authors and elaborate on product features selected in Step 3.1
    3. Privately share results of Step 3.2 with respective Customer Product Managers
    4. Collaborate with respective Customer Product Managers to determine which features described in Step 3.3 require further assistance / services

Other variations
I could resell Radian6 Seat licenses – governed by certain permission restrictions and share my Topic Profiles for those:

  1. Customers whose only pain is the cost of Radian6 (who can then determine later on if they want Steps 2 and/or 3)
  2. Potential colleagues who would collaborate on Steps 1, 2 & 3
Thoughts?

What do think? If you’re a social software vendor/provider, is this a service that may be of interest to you? Do you currently have a Product Manager? If so, is your Product Manager able to keep up with the social content? Do you see the any value in consolidating the redundancy? Do you see where it really is just a matter of per·spec·tive? Where …

one piece of content can yield dividends for many investors 

I’d love to hear from you folks in the field & prove there is a way we all could succeed at doing more with less.

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Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 2

per·spec·tive n. Subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view.

Perspective
Perspective
Background

In an earlier post, How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle, I reiterated a common theme I noticed in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Social Software. That theme basically stated that many social software providers’ ability to execute may suffer due to their lack of resources, or, size does matter – according to Gartner. To address this issue, I posted my Trial offer to test the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life where I proposed the services of a new player – the Community Product Manager. And finally, after receiving some much appreciated feedback, I followed-up with my Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 1 where I clarified the distinction between a Community Manager, Product Manager and a Community Product Manager. In this post, I’ll focus on what I discovered during that trial week by presenting some concrete examples and how I think it fits into the big picture.

A fleck of paint

Recently, there’s been a lot of news about Space Junk;

In June 1983, the windscreen of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger had to be replaced after it was chipped by a fleck of paint measuring 0.01 of an inch that impacted at four kilometers per second.

So here’s my fleck of paint: For the purposes of discussion, I purposely selected trivial content in order not to distract from the point I’m trying to articulate. For now, you’ll have to trust me about the volume of content flying around in cyberspace 🙂

It’s really a matter of perspective

Here’s some content I found using Radian6 during the trial period and a few different perspectives:

Scenario 1: Broadcast of new feature to anyone listening for Socialtext
Tweet from pascal_venier on Feb 28, 2009 02:48 PM

Studying Socialtext wiki automatic “Email notification of Recent Changes” to your inbox. A nice feature. http://twurl.nl/ypcmoj…

Perspective Possible reaction
Anyone connected to Socialtext May retweet
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may contact support, or, retweet
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about feature and if it exists, may tweet their own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & if it exists then tweets their own spin else documents 1-line User Story. For example: “As someone interested in the contents published on a particular wiki, I’d like to receive email notifications of updates on a scheduled basis, so I don’t have to visit the site to ensure I have the latest content.”

Scenario 2: Broadcast of feature request to Liferay & anyone listening for Liferay
Tweet from helmblogger on Mar 03, 2009 12:34 PM

@Liferay Our business problem… “News” both organizational and departmental. Need to display “all-in-one” and “by department”.. thoughts?…

Perspective Possible reaction
@Liferay (Perhaps Community Manager) Depending on their role, may forward to Support, or, Development
Anyone listening for Liferay May retweet & contact Support too
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may retweet & contact Support too
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about feature and if it exists, may tweet own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & if it exists then tweet their own spin else documents 1-line User Story. For example: “As an author, I’d like to publish hierarchical content, so that groups based on the hierarchy have permission to read it.”

Scenario 3: Blog post targeting sought after project management features and referencing a few social software players
The Best and Worst Project Management Apps posted Feb 08, 2009 05:17 AM

… But there are a number of organizations that command large amounts of cash who need to procure project management systems for their divisions around the world. This includes NGOs, Government Agencies, International Schools, Non-Profits and more. In these harsh economic times, businesses should be looking for ways to tap into new markets. Most emerging economies still have nearly 100% room for growth, if only developers take into account their needs and circumstances.

Do any project management products exist that are ready to serve this multi-billion dollar sector?…

Perspective Possible reaction
Anyone listening for Basecamp, Zoho, Google Apps, Zimbra, ActiveCollab, ProjectPier, OpenGoo, Dot Project, Cyn.in, Confluence, Rockclimbr, Drupal, Yammer, Noodle, Present.ly, Collabtive, Trellis Desk, Achievo, or, Product Planner May comment, or, tweet
Anyone associated & listening for any of the above organizations Compares to current experience and may comment, tweet, or, contact Support too
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may comment, tweet, or, contact Support too
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about features and possibly comment/tweet their own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & possibly comments/tweets their own spin else documents 1-line User Story for each missing feature. This example is really about architecture: “As an emerging market decision-maker for social software selection, I need a self-hosted solution, so my users need only intranet access since Internet access is not always available.”
Do you see the pattern?

Assuming the organization has a Community Manager then there may be an overlap in responsibilities with a Community Product Manager. However, this can be easily addressed with a little bit of collaboration. However beyond the overlap, a Community Product Manager could potentially extend the above scenarios by:

  1. Reviewing User Stories with their counter-part Product Manager & determine any course of action
  2. Engaging with the source and/or user community to elaborate and document the feature requirements
  3. Supporting the Product Manager in the feature development lifecycle thereby completing the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life (see post title)
Panning the river for gold
Panning the River of News for gold

However, the most important pattern that emerged and lesson I learned was the one of Perspective. No doubt, even with the help of Radian6’s River of News, there’s a lot of work involved in mining for gold nuggets in cyberspace. But the beauty of striking these nuggets is that they’re environmentally friendly – they’re reusable! As illustrated in this post, one piece of content can yield dividends for many investors. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Up next

My next post will propose a Community Product Manager business model. I’d love to hear any of your ideas and will be more than happy to attribute and share them here.

Reflection
Do the above scenarios and quotes help in providing concrete examples of where a Community Product Manager can add value to your development process? Do you need more? Do you have any examples of your own you could share with me?

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Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 1

Distinction between a Community Manager, Product Manager and a Community Product Manager

Feedback
Feedback
Feedback

First of all, thanks to all of those who shared their thoughts with me on my last post – Trial offer to test the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life. In general, there were two common threads:

  1. Disticntion between a Community Product Manager and a Community Manager
  2. Can’t justify business case for that role
Community Product Manager versus Community Manager

Despite my attempt at defining the former, most thought I was offering the services of a Community Manager. To be clear, my understanding of a Community Manager is based on Chris Brogan’s post Essential Skills of a Community Manager. Here’s a quick summary: Community Managers

  • are like a good party host mixed with a fine restaurant host.
  • must be experienced communicators
  • are ambassadors and advocates in one
  • are bodyguards and protectors
  • must build actionable reports
  • cultivate internal teams for further support

On the other hand, there’s Pragmatic Marketing’s Product Manager definition which can be illustrated as;

Pragmatic Marketing Framework
Pragmatic Marketing Framework

In my opinion, while a Community Product Manager is in between these two roles, it’s much more aligned with the Product Manager’s, except, it’s outside the development organization’s firewall. Which means, a Community Product Manager could potentially assist the Product Manager with the highlighted areas illustrated above.

Can’t justify business case for that role

In an earlier post, How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle, I reiterated Gartner’s findings that many social software providers / vendors may suffer from lack of resources. And while I received a bit of flack for the “size matters” point, I still believe the Community Product Manager role need is there – to some degree, which I’ll save for another time.

Up next

In my next post, I’ll focus on the content by presenting some concrete examples of what I discovered over the past week & how I think it fits into the big picture.

Reflection
As always, all comments are welcome.

Thanks again to those who shared their thoughts and a special thanks to Alora Chistiakoff over at Social Computing Magazine for suggesting a few concrete examples will help clarify matters.

Trial offer to test the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life

More on infusing community and product management for social software development. Read on and email me at steven@stevenmilstein.com if you want to participate in my free trial offer.

Circle of Life
Circle of Life

Background
I recently posted How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle where I mentioned 38 social software companies reviewed in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. I then went fishing for Comments by tweeting all those names and more (see tags listed below), with a link to the post. Good, or, bad, almost immediately, three of them left comments plus one sent an email plus another responded with a few tweets. I’m guessing that means their listening for their brands. I’m also guessing that the others may either not be listening, or, are too busy to get engaged – even with the post being resyndicated at Social Computing Magazine the very next day! As a result, I feel its time to stop blogging about it and start delving deeper into my theory.

 

Definitions

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 by the interests, concerns, opinions and experiences of the community and their desire to contribute.

Community Product Manager: A new type of product manager whose primary task is to listen, engage and represent the stakeholders outside the software development organization and help communicate this nurtured Social Content 2.0 into the agile development process.

Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life: Harvesting Social Content 2.0 from both the outside and inside of the organization to feed further development and support of it’s products and/or services, in turn producing it’s next generation.

Tools supplied by Radian6
I’ll be using Radian6‘s social media monitoring solution to harvest the social content.

Free Trial Offer Iterative Process

  1. Select social software vendors based upon their interest, ability to assign owner on the inside to collaborate with me and timeliness in replying to my offer
  2. Configure Radian6 for social software market place and filter for selected vendors
  3. Discover the content and it’s contributors for five business days
  4. Analyze trends, keywords, level of engagement for five business days
  5. Blog about market-level results on my site
  6. Blog about vendor and product level results on vendors’ extranet, intranet, or some other private space

Service Offering – Post Trial Offer Iterative Process

  1. Collaborate with traditional product manager representing outside stakeholders
  2. Participate in development process as required
  3. Engage with community contributors as required
  4. Reflect with respective community contributors

Trial offer
So how pragmatic can a Community Product Manager be? If you’re a social software vendor and prepared to collaborate with me, let’s measure the fruits of our labour. To be clear, my resources are limited, as I’m sure yours are too, and I cannot possibly agree to help everyone that responds. So if you’re as serious about this stuff as I am, then please do not hesitate to respond and lets get going. You can email me at steven@stevenmilstein.com.

SERVaaS – Service as a Service?
If all goes well, then I hope to have a better understanding of the demand for Community Product Managers and the viability of offering the above services. Once I have a few customers in place, then taking it to the next level is already the subject of sleepless nights in Montreal and will have to be saved for another post down the road.

Reflection
What do you think? Are you in development? Do you think there’s a place in the software development lifecyle for Community Product Managers? Or, are you a stakeholder on the outside yearning for a(nother) voice on the inside? Either way, please comment, share with a colleague, customer, developer and help get those email requests coming in.

Many thanks to the good folks; Amber Naslund, Cory Hartlen , Marc Whitchurch, Chris Ramsey and Marcel Lebrun at Radian6 for all their time and consideration.

And another Thank You to Alora Chistiakoff over at Social Computing Magazine for reaching out to me and offering my first resyndication.

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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 TWiki.net commercial organization and the TWiki developer community, and the subsequent creation of a new splinter project (www.twikifork.org) 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.

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

It was a good Dip – but a Dip nonetheless

I started off writing my farewell email to my IBM social network but then thought it would make a better post and help drive traffic at the same time 🙂

Cover of "The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches ...

I’m fascinated by social software and the content that runs through it. This is where I want to immerse the next chapter of my career.

To all the IBMers I socialized with …

On the very first page of Seth Godin‘s “The Dip”, he writes:

Most of the time, we deal with obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get get discouraged and turn to inspirational writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

I joined IBM three years ago by quitting a start-up. I was the CTO for an online education company that, to this day, I’ve yet to see anything come close to as good as what we had back then. But, three years had gone by and I only got paid for the first one. Things were going from bad to worse and I just had to quit.

Luckily for me (here’s some thoughts on the meaning of “lucky”), I quickly landed a job in the Montreal Rational Software Lab.

Two years later, our only product was heading into maintenance mode and it was obvious that there wouldn’t be much need for my services in the near future. Any other company would have fired me right then and there. But not IBM. I spent the last year improving my skills and increasing my social network looking for work. I tried outside my Brand and when that door shut (gosh darn Global Financial Crisis), I even tried creating two new positions inside Rational. I thought the positions were necessary to the business and equally as important, necessary to me.

I’m fascinated by social software and the content that runs through it. This is where I want to immerse the next chapter of my career and am currently making headway to do just that. Doing anything else just to stay an IBM employee, would be a disservice to IBM and myself. And so Friday 06 Feb 2009 marks the end of this sprint at IBM.

I’m grateful to the greater IBM and it’s values, and to all those in my social network who helped me in one way, or, another with their own values. I wish everyone the best of luck moving forward in these challenging, yet exhilarating times, and hope to meet up again one day.

I’d be honored by any of you who’d like to stay in touch.

You can read my blog and maybe even leave a comment every now and then. By the way, some of you have already been mentioned in Getting my affairs in order – If this were Twitter, I’d just say “Thanks”, or, No one could accuse Big Blue (IBM) of being cold, even at -19c/-5f outside. Please don’t forget to subscribe by pointing your news readers to my news feed. (If you’re not sure what that’s all about, take a look at My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included).) If you prefer, you could simply subscribe to my blog by email. You could read My Five Ws of Twitter in less than 10 minutes (video included) and then Follow me. If you prefer the more enterprise-like method, you could connect with me on LinkedIn – maybe even give me a recommendation. And finally, there’s always the classic anti-social route – just give me a call at +1-514-990-1697 🙂

Respectfully,
Steven Milstein

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Getting my affairs in order – If this were Twitter, I’d just say “Thanks”

My First Profile Image - The Happy IBMer
My First Profile Image - The Happy IBMer

Social Values 2.0
Its more about the folks in your social network than the technology that enables your social network. Its the value they can spontaneously and casually generate with a simple click of a button.

The rumors were true. There are layoffs & I’m among them. I have until 6 Feb 2009 to find a new job within IBM, or, yada yada yada. This is the first of two posts I’d like to share with you about my experience inside Big Blue. It’s all good. Here is a cleansed version of my 19 Sep 2008 internal blog. (All internal links have been removed.)

I hear the train a comin’
About mid-September 2008, I was informed my current role as Lead Business Analyst (aka Product Manager) in Rational Portfolio Manager (RPM) has been discontinued. I have until the end of October 2008 to find a new job inside Big Blue, or else, yada, yada, yada. Now the truth is, this wasn’t a big surprise to me. RPM sales to new customers was halted back in Q1 2008 and for now, there will be no further releases – just iFixes. So managing requirements & providing demos is just not something the business needs.

Gotta get out of this place
So back in Q1 2008, I started improving my skill-sets and finding news ones. There’s loads of stuff out there & I chose to invest my time in learning about Agile software development. Almost immediately, I got into Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-Based Products by John Sweitzer and Carl Kessler of IBM SWG. It’s a great read & if you’ve been in software development long enough, can easily relate to the experiences they write about. I was so inspired by the book, that I decided I needed to put my Agile education and outside-in software development knowledge to practice. Unfortunately, this was not going to happen back in RPM-land.

So on the advice of my manager Robert St-Laurent, I looked into “Blue Opportunities” (a way to temporarily join another team to gain new experiences) to see if there was anyone out there looking for this kind of help. I couldn’t find what I was looking for so, I simply created my own custom made opportunity. All I had to do was shop it around and see if I could get any takers. But where? These development practices seemed so foreign from where I was coming from. So I took a shot and sent an email to Carl Kessler, John Sweitzer & Scott Ambler asking if they knew of any teams already well experienced in outside-in agile software development & if they would be OK with me shadowing the process and more specifically the product manager/owner.

Now this was a sort of Hail Mary for me but, you never know if you don’t ask. Less than two hours later, Carl Kessler answers me & within days I’m hooked up with the Search and Discovery, ECM team from Information Management shadowing Jake Levirne & Rishi Patel. In the end, I had a better understanding of their environment and provided them with a proof-of-concept where I mapped their current tools & process into that of the Rational Team Concert (beta 3 at the time).

Funny, eh?
Trying to leverage my experience, I used my new found connections to go after a few new product manager/owner opportunities with the IM group. I thought it went well but nothing materialized & heard recently that they were not able to hire outside of IM. Get it? The group practising outside-in development couldn’t hire from outside. 🙂 Nonetheless, it was a phenomenal experience & to this day I get great mileage out of the whole story.

Giveback
If you’re interested, I blogged (internally) the entire Blue Opportunity, presented a Lunch & Learn back in the RPM lab and just a few days ago, was given the opportunity to repeat (no pun intended) the Lunch & Learn at the Disciplined Agile Development Work