Using social software to avoid building something that someone – other than me, thinks is awesome.
Once you have the community, let them tell you how to improve your product by exposing your engineers to the cheers and jeers. This type of feedback is one of the greatest values of a community.
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.
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.
– Wikipedia based on Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-based Products, Carl Kessler & John Sweitzer
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.
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.
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.
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 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.