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  • Community Implementation: Speed vs. Detail

    Get Satisfaction out of the box solution

    Communities, like suits, may need to be tailored, but are best out of the box.

    I love going to weddings: you celebrate the newlyweds, see old friends, meet new people, and I get to wear one of my nice suits. I love my suits—I am particularly fond of the color of the stitches: Rosso Ferrari.

    A few years ago, my wife and I were invited to a wedding in Los Angeles. Immediately after we landed at LAX, I realized that I forgot my suit at home! Needless to say, right after checking into our hotel, we went shopping.

    First we visited a tailor; he took the measurements, we discussed the design, he showed me his fabric and all the other bells and whistles. The suit was going to take 2 days to make. He could get the thread I like, but he needed another day to order it from a distributor in Burbank. That’s fine with me: the wedding is in 3 days. Oh, and he tells me that I need to come back once a day for fittings and adjustments.

    This tailor is very professional: he has worked as a tailor for over 30 years, has many VIP customers, and his team will send me text messages along the 3 days, letting me know the progress of the manufacturing process. But before giving him the go-ahead, my wife suggests to go take a quick tour at Nordstrom next door.

    Nordstrom has about 200 suits of all colors and sizes, ready for purchase, in the store. All I need to do is try a few in the dressing room, pick one, pay, meet with alterations, and pick it up whenever I want, as early as the next morning. Unfortunately though, Nordstrom doesn’t carry any suit with Rosso Ferrari stitching.

    What to do?

    Note that the price is not something I’m considering in this equation. I need a suit; I want to look nice, and I’m willing to invest in something I’ll have for many years to come that will add value to my life. I’m only concerned with the way these vendors are delivering their product to me:

    • One needs 3 days, he has to involve a subcontractor in the project, and I need to adapt my leisure schedule to see him 3 times, while stressing out about the suit not being ready in time for the wedding.
    • The other can get me in and out the door in 20 minutes, giving me the chance to focus on the main reason we came to LA: have fun.

    Until 2 years ago, I used to deliver software solutions on behalf of my ex-employer with a very solid project methodology, perfected over several years and proven to work well. We would start with a 10-people kickoff meeting, then we would work on a project charter and a project plan, we would do a detailed requirement analysis, deliver design specifications, procure the servers (production, redundancy, etc.), install the software, customize it, train the administrators and the end-users, test and go live. A project would last between 3 and 6 months, and I would work only with one customer at a time, rarely two. Actually not too bad! Granted, it was not as complex as an ERP implementation.

    When I joined Get Satisfaction, I knew things would be different, but I had no idea of how significantly so. On my first week, I had about 20 new enterprise communities waiting to be implemented, and I was the only person on the implementation “team.” There was no way I could work with one customer at a time.

    In the SaaS world, when a customer subscribes to your product, they start to pay for the subscription right away. Asking them to wait until we had more bandwidth was not an option. I needed to come up with a dramatically different delivery methodology, quickly!

    A year and a half into this job, today our implementation team is able to handle dozens of projects in parallel. We ask our customer to bring in a small team of 3-4 people: a project owner, a lead moderator (or “community manager”), and a web developer (mainly for branding and single sign-on, when needed). Occasionally we have ad-hoc interventions of other resources, for example the Salesforce system administrator for the installation of our managed package. We’re able to complete a launch project in about 3 weeks. Now that’s fast-track implementation!

    Our methodology is at the same time structured and flexible, and can be easily adapted to fit our customers’ approach to projects.

    Like Nordstrom, we need the customer to come in, make sure their community helps them achieve their business goals, and get out as soon as reasonably possible. Every day that passes until the community is live, their support team will keep handling the same duplicate tickets, their marketing team will keep struggling with SEO and with the chaos on their Facebook page, their e-commerce team will keep suffering from cart abandonment because customers don’t have an easy way of asking last-minute questions before they click the “Purchase” button.

    One time, we kicked off a project and the customer said right away “I’m sorry, but we’re working on other high-priority initiatives, so we need to postpone the community project.” After 2 months, he called us, and said “I just realized that every day that I run my business without a community, I’m losing money. Let’s get it up and running right away!”

    Yes, let’s!

    We’re here to help you enjoy a thriving community, not sit in boring, weekly check-in meetings for months, until you can customize the font color of the notification emails with that Rosso Ferrari thread that you love so much.


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    About Peppe

    Peppe has over 12 years in product management, professional services and software engineering. He also has experience in a wide range of domains including telecommunications, web technologies, social media, CRM, contact center systems and customer service processes.

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