Bob Davis at Plutora explains how building technology communities is an essential part of strengthening innovation
Across many nascent areas of the technology industry, taking a product, service or solution from obscurity to widespread adoption will almost always require the support of a community of like-minded people and supporters.
Indeed, organisations that can organise and nurture an ecosystem that underpins everything from product development and user feedback to education and even publicity are much more likely to succeed.
Moreover, technology and product communities are essential if innovative organisations are to have their market niche recognised by customers, influencers and the industry as a whole. Ideally, these communities will draw on the knowledge, experience and enthusiasm of every stakeholder to help establish and build market and business momentum.
Ultimately, the more engaged a technology is with its community, the better chance it has of doing the equivalent of ‘crossing the chasm’ and delivering on its potential.
On the flipside, innovation alone is rarely enough to ensure success, even when it’s very well funded. Granted, some tech organisations and market niches benefit hugely from transformative communities that spring up around their products or services without much effort on their part.
But this remains the exception rather than the rule, and any technology business – or group of businesses – with ambitions to scale to a point where they establish a recognised market segment will need consistent and vocal support. For many, the alternative is to remain confined within a narrow, unrealised niche where they are vulnerable to alternative or new approaches that can draw on the power of a community.
From Google and Apple to Amazon and IBM, the list of tech businesses with big community followings is long and well established. Their importance is not just confined to the most recognised businesses, however. Names such as ServiceNow, Jenkins and Jira are among many that are largely unknown to the general population, each of whom have large and highly engaged communities that are deeply committed to their success.
Value stream management: a community case study
The role and impact of a community is perhaps best illustrated by looking at an emerging example, in this case Value Stream Management (VSM), which aims to optimise everything in the software delivery lifecycle – from idea to production – required to deliver products or services to customers.
Although only a few years old, VSM is quickly establishing itself as a distinct category in the software development ecosystem, and its community has played a key role.
In practical terms, VSM helps organisations to address the challenges of increasingly complex software delivery processes. It focuses on a win-win-win scenario where software development is faster with better quality, but also reduces risk.
This meets an often overlooked objective inherent in many development teams: to deliver maximum customer impact and value. Instead, teams that employ VSM employ a software delivery process that gives them end-to-end visibility and control of their value streams.
Today, the VSM segment is benefiting from community initiatives such as the Value Stream Management Consortium – a non-profit organisation established to widen the adoption of VSM to improve software-centric performance and build customer value.
Built on the co-operative involvement of a range of VSM companies and stakeholders, it acts as a central hub of information and education to support the adoption and practice of Value Stream Management.
This collective effort is designed to help organisations measure value and become higher performing as a result. Among its early activities was to publish a research report examining ‘The State of Value Stream Management’, which offers insight into its implementation within software development teams, alongside recommendations for best practice.
The Consortium also has a wider remit to support members worldwide with training and certifications to promote VSM as the industry-standard approach.
Organisations the world over understand the make-or-break influence that a healthy community can create. But, building, engaging and nurturing a technology community requires a long-term investment of time and resources and should not be taken lightly. Done with genuine care and commitment, however, they can deliver huge benefits for everyone involved.
Bob Davis is CMO at Plutora
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com