As I noted in yesterday’s post about the power of Social Support Communities, I recently chatted with Todd Sierer, Product Manager for LabVIEW, about their Social Support Community (SSC) efforts. I also, however, discussed their recent efforts with customer co-creation leveraging the ideation platform from Lithium Technologies.
For those of you who are unsure of what I mean by ideation platform, let me take a second and explain. An ideation platform is simply a technology solution that enables customers to comments on, and vote for, ideas that will make the product or solution better. As I have explored in the past, companies, federal agencies, our entire government, have started leveraging ideation platforms successfully. Included in this list are:
- HP collects, reviews, and implements customer ideas with weekly review meetings be a key part of their success.
- When the Memorial for Flight 93 was designed, solutions from INgage Network helped this non-profit effort that required citizens, private corporations, and government agencies to work together.
- When the Federal Government recently requested citizen feedback for improvements across the government, the IdeaScale platform was used to gather feedback that is already being acted upon by agencies like the GSA.
The LabView product has one major feature release yearly as ell as one mid-year maintenance release. The team has a clear vision for where the product needs to go, they have a vision. However, the LabVIEW product also has an active and engaged customer community with great ideas for the product. The challenge, how to merge the long-term vision of the product from the company perspective with the great insights of their customers. The solution, an ideation platform.
Clearly there were concerns with deploying the solution, concerns such as:
- What if the ideas requested were not aligned with the strategic direction the company has in mind?
- What if the ideas were great but far too large to carry out in a near-term release?
- What if the ideas were all great but there were far too many to carry out, leaving customers feeling that the LabVIEW team was not really listening?
Fair concerns, of course. To mitigate these concerns the platform was not marketed heavily to the community, at least not initially. The LabVIEW team shared with their greatest product champions stating in May of 2009 as a kick-off for their August 2010 release. Guess what happened:
- Within the first month 300 ideas were generated by the community, ideas are still flowing in as we speak.
- The ideas, according to the team, were fantastic. In many cases they were minor changes that the development team had simply not realized made a big difference to the customers.
- Starting small, the LabVIEW team selected 13 of the ideas to make it into their yearly release. These ideas, which are now coded and in their beta, will benefit the entire community.
- The team invested around 200 – 300 development hours on these efforts. Relatively small but a great start.
The team is doing a good job. My only words of advice for them, and for you if you start down this path:
- Be genuine. If you are asking for feedback make sure you are willing to put the effort into delivering value to your customers on at least some of the items they are requesting.
- Carve out time in the budget to carry out these features. Communicate clearly with customers the level of investment you are planning to put into this new way of working.
- When ideas are selected, highlight these selections. Use it as an opportunity to publicly acknowledge the customers that have made the suggestions and an opportunity to confirm with your entire community that this is a real process, not just some marketing fluff.
Create value with your customers.