Building off of Tom Grant's post about Google Buzz earlier today, Google Buzz is an interesting case study about how winning market share is not just about having the first or the best product. It is often about having a product (including marketing and sales) that does the best job at getting users to use it and getting developers to create quality content.
Google knows this better than anyone, and which is why they just released a product that they hope will be easier to adopt than Twitter or Facebook. Google Buzz is not fully baked and its privacy settings are badly broken; however its intended audience already uses Gmail and just had this new tool literally dropped into their inboxes. Google is probably hoping to replicate its successful introduction of GChat, an instant messaging client that was substantially worse than any other when it was introduced in late 2005 but today enjoys widespread adoption because it is on by default for anyone logged into Gmail and was gradually improved.
Non-social products can survive with gradually declining market share for a number of years, and then potentially come back if users become convinced that their offering is superior. However a social media product without users is a ghost town, a phenomena that MySpace knows well as their CEO leaves today.
This is not a battle over who has the neatest features; it's a battle over who will be the most successful at capturing user time, an increasingly limited resource.
Therefore: Do you think the technical problems with Google Buzz, both privacy and other, are enough to stop it from gaining broad adoption, at least among existing Gmail users?
You might applaud this recent op-ed article by former Microsoft executive Dick Brass, grumbling how his ex-employer can't innovate the way that Apple does, as evidenced by the recent iPad announcement. Or, you might dismiss it as sour grapes from a disgruntled ex-employee. Both reactions are probably wrong.
Software innovation plays an increasingly vital role in your success, as software is a key part of more and more products and services, whether on the Web, a phone, a desktop PC, a car, or in your home. But how to get it? I’ve been working in the world of software development for many years, so had a few ideas of my own to start, but I also interviewed fifteen experts across a dozen organizations that excel at software innovation.
Service companies definitely understand business problems better than product companies. Case in point: I've been talking a lot lately to both kinds of companies about innovation. When you ask vendors the question, "How do you approach the innovation process?" service companies, on average, say something about business problems first. Product companies, on average, talk about technology.
By no small coincidence, many product companies are now trying to figure out the kind of solutions in which they might play a role. That question has two sides:
In this week's Heretech podcast, I spoke with Alex Bender of Archer Technologies about the role the Archer community plays in the development process, all the way through the release. If you click the thumbnail shown below, you'll see their process in graphic detail. While Alex and I didn't get into all the specifics of how they do it, we did cover most of their "social product management" approach in the podcast.
Among other interesting aspects of how they use their community as a resource for innovation and adoption, the role of partners really stands out. Of course, in the governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) space, you have an ecology of partners who are experts in things like Sarbanes-Oxley and risk management best practices. They'll tell you in plenty of detail why your product isn't really doing the job it should as a GRC tool.
You just got out of the meeting with potential customers, and they're not big fans of your Big Idea. You were sure it was brilliant, but they just don't get it. Or they applaud the effort, but they think you're going approaching it from the wrong angle.
Here's the moment of truth when many projects go bad, and sometimes drag companies down with them. The crisis isn't unique to the technology industry--there's the cautionary tale of New Coke, after all, from a well-established industry that should have known better--but given the immaturity of the technology industry, and the plasticity of the work product, it happens quite often.
At this moment of truth, development teams choose from among the following responses:
In response to the last couple of posts about invention and innovation, Jennifer says:
While this is an interesting thread to read, and can definitely cause many long hours of debate sitting in front of the fire with our pipes et al, it seems that it might be missing the mark with product management.
Yep, I agree. Which leads me to the next point I wanted to make in this series:
Inventors in development need innovators in product management.
While the two groups often don't get along very well (product managers are naysayers, development is just doing its own thing, etc.), the partnership between them is essential. Someone with a cool idea and enormous technical skill is usually the first person in a new product group, or a new startup company. However, that inventor can benefit immediately from someone who's a professional reality checker and opportunity finder--a product manager.
Except that despite being poor and having many of his inventions unrealized, a hundred years later we're still using Tesla's work rather heavily. This says something about his pure success as an inventor, with or without massive market capitalization.
...And I agree. Yes, our electrical distribution mechanisms use Tesla's AC, not Edison's DC. Yes, Tesla's coils became a component of other inventions, such as radio transmitters and medical devices. And yes, arguably, Tesla is a vastly underappreciated inventor.
It's not clear when it happened, but at some point in the history of the technology industry, people lost the distinction between invention and innovation. While insisting on the difference between the two words may seem like a minor semantic difference, it's as fundamental as distinguishing between speed and velocity as the same thing. In fact, mixing up invention and innovation is potentially as dangerous as confusing chemicals and medicines, if you prescribe one when you really need the other.
Tesla, Shmesla Both Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were inventors. However, Edison was the better innovator. Fannish biographies of Tesla that complain about history's indifference to Tesla's genius are missing the point. Even if everything Tesla had invented exceeded Edison's in brilliance, Edison was much better at getting his inventions developed, sold, and distributed. (Throw in Tesla's unproven inventions, like the death ray and ion-powered aircraft, too, if you want.)
One sure sign that Web 2.0 is a genuinely new epoch in the tech industry: the haymaker punch it threw at a repository-centric view of application architectures, effectively knocking it out of the ring. For those who aren't familiar with what I'm talking about, I'll give a little bit of history for the young 'uns out there.
Forward into the past Let's hop in a time machine, go back 10 years, and eavesdrop on conversations in development teams building multi-tier applications. Chances are you'll hear no small number of words about the repository. For example, suppose the project was integrating two middleware applications, such as content management systems and ERP applications. In many development teams, you'd get funny looks if you didn't advocate some merger of the two repositories as the solution to the challenge. Integration at the middle tier sounded, to many ears, like trying to pull a fast one, substituting a hack for "real" integration.