It’s a known fact: R&D engineers are part of a special breed of IT professional who usually live behind closed doors, in a high-security area of the software vendor’s ivory tower.
This means information about what’s needed in their products comes from marketing folks and nagging sales reps (yikes!) and the feedback is usually shielded behind an online form that “takes only 2 minutes to fill.”
This is all wrong!
Opening up the communication channel between R&D and the rest of the world is the best way to find out what users really need, understand how they are using the products you build and what they think is missing.
The problem with an open communication channel is that it also needs to be manageable. Setting up an email account where users can send in their suggestions is a recipe for email flooding; it will require massive manual work to get all feedback and ideas into a workable wish list; it’s difficult to provide feedback, and will probably become unmanageable very quickly. So, how do you solve this problem?
Give a warm welcome to crowdsourcing!
The concept is simple; let a community of professionals interact, share their thoughts, vote and comment on other people’s ideas. As participation grows, bad ideas will be filtered out, good ideas will bubbled to the top and a lot of great feedback on what’s working (or not working) will become crystal clear. The ways this idea actually work have been published in James Surowiecki’s best-selling book Wisdom of the Crowds.
This concept led us, at OutSystems, to create a Wisdom of the Crowds application; one that we could use to trigger, nurture and manage this creative process. We built the first version in just 5 days using the Agile Platform, and started using it internally to gather feedback and ideas from our own employees.
We added some functionality, tuned the usability a bit, solved some minor bugs… and then made it available to our user community. Every community member can now add their own ideas, comment on other user ideas or simply vote on the ideas that they find more valuable.
Here’s what we achieved in the first two weeks:
388 users have contributed 189 ideas with 537 comments and 1719 “likes” (votes) by the community. Ten ideas have already been implemented and have been made available in the latest version of the Agile Platform. Thirteen ideas are set for implementation in the next release.
During the time it took to write this post the idea count rose to 216, with three additional ideas implemented and sixteen more coming soon!
If you’re a member of the OutSystems community, you can access the Wisdom of Crowds here and participate in the online brainstorm.
PS: This app is free, and can be deployed on any Agile Platform installation (including the free Community Edition). If you’d like to use the Wisdom of Crowds app in your company contact us and we’ll give you the pointers on how to set it up.
Image credit:Hideyoshi algn