Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora, examines the role and impact of communities in the development, growth, and long-term impact of ambitious organizations across the tech ecosystem.
The technology industry continues to deliver success story after success story but turning a bright idea into a thriving business is a hugely complex undertaking. Among the factors that can help supercharge growth is the support of a committed community of users and advocates.
As any technology entrepreneur or business leader will testify, taking an IT product or service from design and deployment to long-term business success is a significant undertaking with many challenges to overcome. Yet, the tech sector continues to thrive, with the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, et al. dominating the leading positions in the S&P 500.
In the UK, nearly 20,000 new technology businesses were founded during 2020 – that’s one roughly every 30 minutes across the whole year. This trend contributed to a sector with over 185,000 advertised job vacancies in the first two months of last year. There’s no doubt that the tech sector continues to drive economic growth and is a leading destination for startup investment. In 2021, more money than ever flowed into UK tech, 29.4 bn GBP, up 2.3x from the previous year’s figures of £11.5 bn GBP, according to figures from the UK government.
But, for all the success stories, innovators, and disruptive ideas, many more tech companies don’t make it. Indeed, building a sustainable technology business depends on a vast range of influencing factors. For many, the impact of a community of users, influencers, and vocal advocates is instrumental in the success of niche and mass-market products.
The foundations for success
In reality, communities are essential if firms want their invention – or even more ambitiously, their market niche – to reach critical mass. Moreover, when tech communities operate successfully, they can be transformative sources of experience, skill, and passion, with as many people as possible contributing and benefiting in some meaningful way.
In other circumstances, digital companies are lucky enough to have their communities expand organically, guided by dedicated supporters who care about what they do. In most situations, however, creating an influential community depends on more than just developing an innovative piece of technology; on the part of the technology vendor, it requires dedication and a willingness to interact, as well as an acceptance of responsibility and sometimes, criticism.
On a completely different level, there are also tech organizations out there who build a successful solution and see the opportunity to establish an entirely new industry sector. Success for these organizations is grounded in a more profound understanding that there is a chance for authentic, disruptive market leadership, not merely selling as much of their product or solution as possible.
When these firms are startups or lack the deep financial resources of established corporations, they must rely on all available resources to promote awareness and acceptance of their strategy. Without the boost that an active community can deliver, many brilliant discoveries stay unnoticed, and their promise unrealized.
We take it for granted that Microsoft, Google, and a slew of other well-known IT companies have large and devoted fan bases. But go beyond the most prominent names, and you’ll find that organizations that would be unknown outside their specialty have profited from the unwavering support of their real-world supporters.
Real-world communities: Value Stream Management
So, what about real-world examples of where community support plays an essential role in developing a technology market segment? The growing community behind Value Stream Management (VSM) is a case in point, an emerging software industry category created to optimize the software delivery lifecycle. This includes everything from the conception of an idea to the real-world production and rollout required to offer software-based services and products to clients.
It’s an approach that helps teams handle the problems of increasingly complicated software delivery processes by allowing them to produce software faster, at a higher quality, and with less risk. This addresses a critical business goal often forgotten during the software development process: maximizing customer impact and value. In practice, organizations that embrace VSM benefit from a process that gives them high impact, end-to-end visibility, and control over their value streams.
VSM is still in its infancy compared to many other aspects of the software business. Regardless, it is quickly establishing itself not only as a set of competing products but as a unique category within the software development ecosystem. And it is here that the local community has played a critical role. For example, the Value Stream Management Consortium and other key community activities have contributed to the rising recognition of VSM as a unique market sector. With VSM as its base, this non-profit organization is dedicated to improving software-centric performance and increasing customer value.
It’s crucial to note that this isn’t the result of any single vendor’s efforts; instead, it’s the result of a collaboration between a number of VSM firms and stakeholders, each of whom contributes to education and awareness programs that aid in the acceptance and expansion of Value Stream Management. For example, a report published by the group just last year examines ‘The State of Value Stream Management,’ offering insight and practical suggestions for software development teams. In addition, the community strives to provide training and certifications to members worldwide and promote VSM as an industry-standard method for software development.
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Building a healthy community may accelerate product uptake and hugely influence product strategy, innovation, and long-term success for ambitious digital enterprises in any sector. Users and other stakeholders value brands that reciprocate their willingness to engage and communicate. In most cases, this necessitates genuine, long-term commitment. In addition to benefiting from effective technologies, users and other stakeholders value brands that reflect their willingness to engage and communicate.