Building A More Inclusive Product Development Process With Social Software

While this may be easier to relate to for those who work in large enterprises, regardless of what size and level a business operates at, if you are a product company, product development is core to your being and the better you can make your product development process, the more success you’ll find around the corner. The challenge facing most product companies is how to step up the development cycle and get products to market quicker while being able to innovate and give customers exactly what they are looking for. It’s not that businesses are not listening to their customers while developing products, but often by the time they are ready and rolled out, customers are already looking for something better or competitors have swiped market share while the product was still in the works. What’s needed is:

  • A quicker product development cycle
  • Customers involvement and participation in the development process
  • A more inclusive process where more minds can contribute and collaborate without involving inefficiencies

The problem with the last requirement is that the more people you involve in the process, the more inefficiencies you’re likely to invite. Inefficiencies of time, place, and communication. At the same time, if you can’t include more customers within the process, you’re gambling on the fact that the opinion of a small focus group or fewer people will reflect the way all customers will react to your final product.

This is where social business software has been able to provide solutions for product companies. By implementing a social networking based collaboration platform, a business can have a base to build a more inclusive product development process that is scalable. Employees, partners, product experts, and selected customers can be granted access to an online social collaborative environment where they can freely interact, share ideas, and jointly work towards developing new products.

Companies that have built their product development platforms on social software have seen significant improvements in their process and ability to get products to market sooner — giving a significant edge over their competitors. Here are just some of the advantages that companies have observed since they’ve adopted social software environments for their product development efforts:

  • They have seen that, when placed within a company, the social architecture (that many people are now familiar with from social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and others) has encouraged greater interaction and activity, creating a conducive environment for collaboration. Also, the adoption of the platform was easier — and employees, project teams, and customers found they could interact freely.
  • The platform is completely suitable for freely interacting with others, sharing ideas, opinions, collecting data and feedback, have open discussions, and have a very transparent working system that high level management and just about anyone with access to the system can simply observe by just logging in and checking on current activity.
  • Customers and project teams located in all places around the world can log into the same system and participate regardless of where they are. This means they don’t have to disturb their schedules and travel and also means they can have customers from the US, Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, and any other country included in the product development process and get as wide a participative group as they need.
  • There is a record of all previous interactions and conversations between each member within the platform — this becomes a great resource for the company well after the interactions have taken place. The system becomes a permanent resource for anyone within the process who needs access to that information.
  • It fosters a truly open communication culture for open collaboration — the product development process need not be restricted to a fixed number of customers and select project teams, but others within the business can simply pitch in suggestions or share their ideas if they can contribute something useful towards the development process.
  • It’s highly scalable and very inclusive allowing wider collaboration and more sharing of ideas without being inefficient.

While each business will need to build on a social networking platform and customize the environment to work cohesively with their specific product development strategies and processes, the advantages of having a powerful business collaboration tools to drive better products out more efficiently are clear. With the ability to include customers within the deepest levels of the product development cycle and still speed up their development cycles, we are bound to see businesses truly working with their customers.

Written by

Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.


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