Partnering, building communities and pitching social software to Sara’s elementary school.
Cut win-win deals. A partnership seldom takes place between equals. As a result, the more powerful side is tempted to squeeze the other party. The weaker side, for its part, will begrudgingly accept such deals and try to get what it can. Bad idea. Bad karma. Bad practicality. If the partnership is a win-lose deal, it will blow up because concrete walls and barbed wire cannot hold a partnership together. Only mutually beneficial results can. In the long, the bitter seed of resentment planted at the start of a partnership will grow into a giant, destructive weed.
A couple of posts ago, I wrote about building communities to help drive my start-up’s outside-in software development and my working relationship with the good folks at Cynapse. And while my last post was – for the most part, about getting to be a TechCrunch50‘s semi-finalist, I did end with my desire to sow the social software seeds in my daughter Sara’s elementary school.
As a passionate software entrepreneur and social software evangelist, it breaks my heart when Sara tells me she’s bored learning how to use Word and Excel in Computer class. Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about her teacher – a fine and qualified professional. I’m not complaining about the curriculum, nor about the state of our education system. In no way would I ever expect the school to provide social software education. But nothing says that I can’t.
Who’s in for a little extra-curricular activity?
So I approached the school and offered just that. I prepared a marked-up version of Cynapse’s Flash marketing material & evangelized the virtues of, not only the mechanics of learning social software but the life lessons – I truly believe, it can teach the kids.
Our 30 minute meeting became an hour and a half and ended with a few action items:
The school would have to agree to a trial period with the understanding that, if successful, they would continue the program.
Cynapse would have to agree to barter three months of free hosting in return for a modified version of their Best Practices Guide for Elementary School Students.
The students would have to volunteer for the extra-curricular activity and agree to collaborate on the Guide. Delivery of the Guide deems success.
Since the meeting, the school has delivered on Action Item #1. In addition, Cynapse has delivered on Action Item #2. So later this week, I’ll be presenting my offer to Sara’s Grade 6.
I’ve since elaborated on my initial presentation by incorporating some keywords mentioned during our meeting and added the narration. But after playing it back for Sara, she thought it may be “too much” and I should try to be more funny. 🙁
The problem was, I tried to create something that would appeal to too many audiences – students, school staff and maybe even parents. So in the interest of outside-in development, I created two more videos which have passed the Sara Test. Once, approved by her teacher, I’ll start with those & save the one above – hopefully, for another time.
Please feel free to share any thoughts, or, experience around social software in schools.
In the spirit of openness, I just want to state that this post is a plug for the wonderful folks at Cynapse and their awesome and even at times inspiring, social software platform – cyn.in.
Outside-in software development
The underlying theory behind outside-in software is that to create successful software, you must have a clear understanding of the goals and motivations of your stakeholders. Your ultimate goal is to produce software that is highly consumable and meets/exceeds the needs of your client.
Now Guy, Carl & John can’t all be wrong – developing software solutions in an ivory tower is no longer an option. As any external & internal stakeholder will tell you, you need feedback – especially in the world of global development & delivery (GDD). So how do you connect all these people from all over, with different skill-sets, different perspectives and most importantly different roles and rights? For example;
As a Developer (Internal Stakeholder), I would like to see Customers’ (External Stakeholders), comments on how they interact with the system, so I can better understand what value they’re trying to achieve.
As a Founder (Internal Stakeholder), I would like to collaborate with other Founders on our financial planning by sharing discussions, files and bookmarks, so we can communicate in a more timely and efficient manner than email.
Both of these scenarios involve the sharing and disseminating of information. However, not necessarily across Developers, Customers and Founders.
The state of the solution – Version 2
Having software development & start-up in my blood, I was thrilled to see the state of cyn.in. What the solution lacks in features, as compared to some of the competition, it makes up for in design, ease-of-use, quality and support.
I think the business model is great – its got something for everyone. For the techies, the open source model is a great way to use & potentially contribute to the code. For the folks looking for a free open source solution to experiment with, the VMware image provides the cheapest simplest in-house solution. And for those who want to avoid any hardware/software/networking issues and assure themselves of timely & helpful support, then the Software as a Service (SaaS) offering is the route to go.
For now, the one weakness is lack of documentation and knowledge base contents.
A few benefits
Since I consider myself a cyn.in early adopter, I hope to contribute to the requirements process – with my own spin of course 🙂 In addition, I’ll be blogging / tweeting about how we compliment certain features in their infancy with other solutions to achieve our desired results. Why am I doing this? Well, in the interest of transparency, I get a preferred SaaS deal for helping out and I better position myself as a potential reseller & service provider. However, most importantly, I actually do enjoy this stuff. And I will especially enjoy myself if I can contribute in a meaningful way to what I trust will be a distributed software development effort in an outside-in agile environment.
The state of the solution – Version 3
In addition to Enterprise Support, another SaaS benefit is being seamlessly migrated to the latest release – which by the way is as gorgeous as the Adobe AIR desktop client. If you’re currently a cyn.in Version 2 user, then moving to Version 3 should be one of your priorities. If you’re not, then Version 3 offers every feature you’d expect from a social software platform – minus some functionality. For example, while there are calendar Events, they lack the ability to invite members. Until that’s enabled, we supplement cyn.in Events and with Google Calendar. In my opinion, a minor price to pay.
For whatever cyn.in lacks in documentation, they more than make up for it with their Enterprise Support. Despite being timezones away, I can always count on a timely, concise and helpful experience. There’s seems to be no question too small, or, bug too big for them to answer in the same courtious manner. And in those special cases when I do come across a missing feature, it’s nice to know that my input is used to help contribute to their development process.
A future post – User roles and permisssions
A key feature for this start-up community is the ability to control user roles and their permissions. Currently, we use Personas to help us in our development effort. In the near future, we’ll be ready to search for actual users to assume their own personnas and help us define and satisfy their needs. When that time arrives, I’ll describe our community’s site hierarchy and permissions for members to better understand how they fit in.
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.
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:
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…
Filtering out and tagging relevant buzz about product features and directions across the market
Offering free service exporting tagged content and publishing on blog
Offer monthly fee-based services where I would:
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)
Offer hourly, or, tiered fee-based services where I would:
Collaborate with respective social software vendors’ / providers’ (Customers’) Product Managers to determine which features described in Step 2.1 should be elaborated
Engage with original content authors and elaborate on product features selected in Step 3.1
Privately share results of Step 3.2 with respective Customer Product Managers
Collaborate with respective Customer Product Managers to determine which features described in Step 3.3 require further assistance / services
I could resell Radian6 Seat licenses – governed by certain permission restrictions and share my Topic Profiles for those:
Customers whose only pain is the cost of Radian6 (who can then determine later on if they want Steps 2 and/or 3)
Potential colleagues who would collaborate on Steps 1, 2 & 3
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 perÂ·specÂ·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.
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…
Anyone connected to Socialtext
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.”
@Liferay Our business problem… “News” both organizational and departmental. Need to display “all-in-one” and “by department”.. thoughts?…
@Liferay (Perhaps Community Manager)
Depending on their role, may forward to Support, or, Development
Anyone listening for Liferay
May retweet & contact Support too
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?…
Anyone associated & listening for any of the above organizations
Compares to current experience and may comment, tweet, or, contact Support too
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:
Reviewing User Stories with their counter-part Product Manager & determine any course of action
Engaging with the source and/or user community to elaborate and document the feature requirements
Supporting the Product Manager in the feature development lifecycle thereby completing the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life (see post title)
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.
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.
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?
Disticntion between a Community Product Manager and a Community Manager
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.
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.
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.
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.
More on infusing community and product management for social software development. Read on and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to participate in my free trial offer.
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.
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
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
Configure Radian6 for social software market place and filter for selected vendors
Discover the content and it’s contributors for five business days
Analyze trends, keywords, level of engagement for five business days
Blog about market-level results on my site
Blog about vendor and product level results on vendors’ extranet, intranet, or some other private space
Service Offering – Post Trial Offer Iterative Process
Collaborate with traditional product manager representing outside stakeholders
Participate in development process as required
Engage with community contributors as required
Reflect with respective community contributors
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 email@example.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.
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.
More on how to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle
One of Twitter’s endearing qualities is simplicity. After it’s “@” (Reply), or, “D” (Direct message), you have the remaining 140 characters to get your message across. Another powerful aspect of Twitter is it’s ability to broadcast, as well as, persist these messages. This means that anyone can pick up on a previous conversation and breath new life into it.
Traditionally, if you’re in customer service, or, support, this is probably the last thing you want. Imagine you’ve been working on an open “ticket”, playing round robin with the customer and perhaps development, you finally close the matter and someone, out of the blue, shows up with a new wrinkle. You may never be able to close a ticket again.
Granted, I’m pushing it a bit, but not much. The primary issue here is, Twitter is unstructured and traditional customer service and support need structure. And for good reason too! Customer service and support are legally binding. Customers pay money, in one form or another, for support and perhaps maintenance of the product, or, service. Once we, as providers of these products, or, services accept our customer’s money we are on the hook to deliver for a certain period of time.
So how do we convert this Social Content 2.0 that lives not only in Twitter databases, but in all the social networks, from casual conversations into legally binding action items? My guess is you don’t. I think if you try then you’ll stifle the casual conversations and pollute your service/support systems.
This is what I think you need to do with your customer service and support folks:
1. Explain to them the journey they are about to embark on in the new social networking frontier.
2. Take the time to onboard, or, train them on how to the tools.
3. Encourage them to use the tools in their personal lives first so they can appreciate their new found power and enlightenment.
4. Arm them with a core message so they’ll always know how to handle themselves. Read Chip & Dan Heath’s book Made To Stick about Southwest Airlines’ “THE low-fair airline”.
5. Follow other companies leads, like Dell, and create their social network accounts with their real names suffixed by the company name. For example: DirkShawVignette. Real people want to relate to real people. Not silly unprofessional icons and bizarro, or, no empty profiles.
6. Create a company web page listing all of their accounts so others can a) validate these people actually work there & b) discover more Twitter accounts to Follow. Look how Radian6 does it. Look to them again when you’re ready to scale your monitoring process.
7. To protect the richness and integrity of your Social Content 2.0 and not blur the line between it and your customer service and support systems, I would move some of traditional inside the firewall systems to the outside. Moving to transparent development means anyone, customer, or, not, can participate in the development and debugging process. That means you can see any defects already discovered in the system along with the internal and external conversations revolving around them. The same for feature requests. Maybe someone already asked for exactly the same thing, only slightly different. Go ahead and add your $0.02. The same for usability features. Maybe you’re having trouble with a particular feature. Could it be you’re the only one? Maybe, or, maybe not. At least you can check it out for yourself.
My guess is you’ll see a reduction in backend customer service and support costs, an increase in overall customer satisfaction and a happier, more fulfilled development team that’s not only more in touch with your market but also your new flock of evangelists.
IMO, of course 🙂
Off you go now. Good luck trying to fit this into 140 characters. That’s what tinyurl is for.
Thanks for inspiration! I’m going to blockquote this stuff and repost on my blog.
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.
The social software state of affairs
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.
Based on these excerpts, almost 40% of the players have size issues when it comes to their ability to execute:
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.
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.
Awareness: Despite doubling to 50 employees during the last year, Awareness is still a relatively small organization.
blueKiwi Software: Despite some growth in 2008, blueKiwi is a small company with about 30 employees, limited resources and no activity outside Europe.
Blogtronix: The company’s small size, small partner network and limited enterprise deployments limit its ability to execute.
CustomerVision: CustomerVision has limited market presence, is very small in size (18 employees) and has a limited “ecosystem.”
Drupal: Acquia is a small and new organization with an unproven ability to execute.
eTouch: eTouch is a small company (15 employees) with limited ability to execute.
EMC: EMC has a document- and process-centric view of collaboration, with little support for informal communities in its current eRoom product.
EPiServer: The company has almost no presence outside Europe.
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.
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.
GroveSite: The company’s small size (15 employees) limits its ability to execute.
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).
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.
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.
Jive Software: Although growing, Jive Software’s size will inhibit its ability to establish a clear positioning as an enterprise vendor.
Josh: The company is very small (16 employees) and has limited exposure outside Europe.
Leverage Software: Leverage is still a small organization (40 employees), with activities mainly in the U.S.
Liferay: Commitment from the vendor and the Liferay communities to the collaboration and social software market is still unproven.
Lithium Technologies: It offers limited support for team collaboration via document/content creation and sharing, and no informal project support.
LiveWorld: It has limited authoring, document sharing or team collaboration support.
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).
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.
Mzinga: The company has little experience with internal employee collaboration beyond talent development and social learning.
Novell: Product visibility beyond the existing Novell customer base is limited.
ONEsite: Despite the Social platform acquisition, ONEsite is still a small organization with just over 50 employees.
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.
PBwiki: The company is small (30 employees).
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.
Small World Labs: Although it is a growing organization, it is still small.
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.
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).
ThoughtFarmer: It is a small organization with a small client base and no evidence of large-scale deployments.
Tomoye: It has limited geographic and vertical-market diversification.
Traction Software: Traction is still a very small organization (10 employees) that needs to grow faster if it is not to be left behind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
A software product development background
Customer facing experience
Strong presentation skills
Strong writing skills
Ability to effectively work remote to keep expenses down and more importantly, timeliness up
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.
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?
Look beyond what you see
Are you trying to convince your friends, or, colleauges that they need to get into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, wikis, instant messaging, etc. Worse yet, have you convinced your boss that these tools of social software are not developed and promoted by the Axis of Evil for the purposes of killing our productivity?
Don’t get me wrong. Look at what I blog about. Look at my photo. Do I look like a member of the Axis Of Evil Social Software Society? Look back at my Starting My Own, Thanks to â€¦ post & you’ll see that at one time, I too didn’t see the business value of this stuff. However, since then I can honestly say, that I don’t recall ever learning so much from some many different people – absolute strangers yet, in such a short period of time. Oh yah, did I mention that it was all for free? All thanks to social software, social networking, social media and most importantly the folks that provide the intellectual property – the content. Now that’s just my experience. And it may be just yours too. But it may not be your colleagues’, or, boss’. So the big question is; “What did your organization gain?” Where’s the business value for social software?
The originator of the phrase “Enterprise 2.0”, Professor Andrew McAfee defines it as
the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customersâ€.
Oddly enough, he specifically states that
Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, etc. These are for individuals on the Web, not companies. Some companies use sites like YouTube for viral and stealth marketing, but let’s explicitly put these activities outside our definition of Enterprise 2.0.
Whether Enterprise 2.0 brings real bang for the buck by making the daily work of organizations measurably more productive, efficient, and innovative.
Is it just me, or, don’t you find that a little bit funny? In my opinion, I think these examples of social software actually feed and drive Enterprise 2.0. I think its more about content than tools. But it’s Andrew’s phrase so I guess I’ll have to come up with my own. How about “ Social Content 2.0“?
Hint #2: What starts with someone requesting something & ends with someone else delivering it? (And it’s not pizza.)
Step 1: Find a cause
Now, if we could see beyond all those tools, beyond what is and what is not Enterprise 2.0, and simply concentrate on the content, then I think we’re well on our way to becoming that hero. So find a cause. Find something you need to deliver. Something that you can’t do on your own. Something that cries out for collaboration, sharing, communicating. Use the tools to help you achieve your goal. Sound a little too abstract?
How about a project?
Projects start with someone asking for something and end with someone else delivering it. Projects are very social. So we’ve got our cause now. Now let’s look at our tools. We already have enough examples of social software, so now let’s consider our tradtional project management software.
… “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” says Colonel Tom Kolditz, the head of the behavioral sciences division at West Point. “You may start off trying to fight your plan, but the enemy gets a vote. Unpredictable things happen – the weather changes, a key asset is destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don’t expect. Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into the battle.”
Now replace some of the key words – like “enemy” for “customer”, “armies” for “software labs” and “battle” for “development”. Sounds like the Colonel and I have been on a few software development projects together. And I doubt we’d be alone in that analogy.
… project management is about people making commitments to other people to work with still other people to get something done or built for perhaps some other people. Project management is about people. If that’s not social then I don’t know what is!
Collaboration in software development isn’t a luxuryâ€”it’s a necessity that software teams have to figure out how to do better. With the right tools such as IBM’s Rational Team Concert built on the Jazz technology, any size software development team can stay in sync in real-time, regardless of location.
Step 4: Get viral
Take a look at Business Week’s Social Media Will Change Your Business By Stephen Baker and Heather Green. You don’t have to read it. Just look at the number of comments it solicited. At the time of this post, it was at 3110! Now that’s social. That’s viral! That’s Social Content 2.0. And apparently, it doesn’t even matter how accurate, or, truthfull some of those comments are. According to Rubicon Consulting & Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril, 10% of the community members contribute 80% of the content. These Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs) are second to word of mouth when it comes to influencing others. So while having Web 2.0 technology features in your project management tool may make it more social, it’ll never make your deliverable more viral.
1. Tight budgets will drive the adoption of low-cost Web 2.0 and cloud/SaaS solutions. This seems like an obvious prediction but how it plays out will be very interesting. This could end up actually helping the smaller Enterprise Web 2.0 players as companies look to get away from the big-ticket, enterprise-class offerings from major vendors like IBM, Oracle, and others. But in reality, once enterprises make the decision to move to platforms for wikis, enterprise mashups, cloud services, SaaS enterprise apps, and so on, they may find the one-stop shop of pre-integrated solutions from entrenched software providers more than they can resist. Make no mistake, however, IT shops and businesses alike will be looking to cut costs and I expect a lot of IT and business downsizing to happen in a surge of “Economics 2.0â€³.
Did you catch that? The “pre-integrated solutions” part? To me, that’s the sweet spot. Whoever can, not only integrate Web 2.0 technologies into their project management tools, but integrate that viral Most Frequent Contributor Social Content 2.0 into the products developed by those tools will rule.
Do you have any experience with any of the products in this space? If so, I’d love to see your comments. If not, are you a traditional project management type? Do you think this is just one of those phases & in the end folks will return to the classics?
In the spirit of openess, I’m going to reach out to some of those mentioned above. In addition, I’ll ping someone at Basecamp and Cynapse who I know do great things in collaboration software but am uncertain about the extent of their project management features.
Your opinion along with any constructive feedback is much appreciated.
Use IBM’s Lotus Collaboration Products for free, including Lotus Connections for social networking.
I’ve been blogging, or, talking about IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse for a while now, but have yet to deliver a scenario that folks can relate to. So for all of you out there that have a desire to know more about social software and maybe even start testing the waters, this series of posts is for you.
Most of my friends and colleagues think social software is limited to blogging. Some consider video sharing like youtube. Some know about bookmark sharing like delicious. Some may consider podcasts in there. Perhaps even fewer know about slideshare. I don’t know of any them that consider leaving comments on retailers’ site as being “social”. And again, none of them would consider some form of project management as a social activity.
Now, what’s nice about IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse is that it offers all of these capabilities and more, for free. Why? I can think of two good reasons why IBM let’s you use their production, backed-up software for free:
Outside-in software development: There’s a big push within Big Blue to get more feedback from stakeholders outside the lab into the lab. Greenhouse has a whack of forums for members to provide feedback, or, get help. This goes hand-in-hand with another big push in Big Blue: Agile, or, scrum software development. In very brief terms, this means developing high value chunks of executable software in short iterations cycles – like two weeks, demonstrating it to stakeholders, getting feedback, reflecting on the experience & then moving forward. The objective is to mitigate the risk in developing software no one except the developers think is necessary. (Perhaps now’s a good time to point you to the Disclaimer on my sidebar.)
As the site says:
Bluehouse is the code name for a first-of-its-kind, IBMÂ® software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. â€œBluehouseâ€ is an innovative and powerfully intuitive set of business services integrated with robust social networking capabilities, which enable users to collaborate quickly and efficiently work with others outside or inside the firewall.
So my guess is, if you get hooked on Greenhouse & are reaping the benefits from it, then you would consider going for the full-meal deal with the Bluehouse hosted solution. Makes sense to me!
In order to move forward, you do need to register by clicking Join and filling out the Self Nomination page. Now there’s a few things you should be aware of when registering:
You cannot change the following after you register:
I honestly don’t know if it helps any of us, but I can’t imagine it could hurt, so, feel free to use my name as Your IBM Contact
The first point really tripped me up. As a result, I now have an account with my IBM email address, first & last name and another one with my stevenmilstein.com email address with first name “S” and last name “StevenMilstein”. I’m trying to get this resolved since I have more control over the fate of my stevenmilstein.com email address, as opposed to, my IBM one.
Registration is not automatic. I think there’s a human intervening on the other end. So the sooner you register the sooner you can get started.
Please let me know if you have any trouble following my instructions, or, hit a snafu along the way.