Social Product Development

Friday, May 7, 2010

Forrester’s Roy Wildeman talks Social Product Development

Recently, Roy Wildeman sent me a link to his post on the Forrester blog on the topic of Social Computing for Product Development. He was kind enough to mention PTC as a company on the leading edge of integrating SharePoint with product development (thanks, Roy!) as well as provide some comments on his view of Social Product Development.

I’ll let you read the article for yourself, but I wanted to pick up on a point that Roy made.

Roy shares our feeling that social technologies and trends will not only “make their way into product development” but that they will in fact “transform the way leading product development teams collaborate to bring great products into the marketplace.” One of the key benefits he identifies is the effect that social computing can have on team collaboration:

The distributed nature of Social Computing tools – along with the relative speed by which they can be rolled out – enables development teams sitting in different sites or organizations to quickly convey more design ideas, intent, and context than the standard use of email, instant messaging, or teleconference calls.

While I agree wholeheartedly, I’d also like to expand on another significant benefit social computing has over traditional email, IM, or phone calls - the ability to create and support a one-to-many relationship with content experts. Think about a typical situation when you’re looking for a subject matter expert, but you’re not sure who that might be. Whether you’re using IM, email, or a phone call, the Mad Libs line is the same: “Hi [contact name], are you the right person for [extremely important bit of information I need, um, yesterday]? No? Do you know who might be?” Add to this any lag in response time because said contact left his smart phone on silent and you’ve added significant time to your process before you’ve even started collaborating.

Social computing, on the other hand, supports the independent discovery of not just the one potential expert that you know, but a network of qualified contacts – identified though profiles, relationship, social tags – that you can reach out to for the content or feedback you need. Add to this the benefits that Roy alludes to – being able to see that three of those potential contacts are online and available to chat right now – and you’ve got a significant increase in efficiency. Think of it not so much as identifying contacts you didn’t know, but identifying contacts you didn’t know you knew.

Roy does posit that implementing social computing in a product development environment as “easier said than done” – for our thoughts on overcoming that challenge, see this recent post by our development team. Certainly, there are challenges to successfully implementing social product development – but I also agree with Roy that they can be overcome through process and technology understanding and innovation.

So what did you think about Roy’s post? Did you agree with his perspectives? What do you see as the benefits and challenges of social for manufacturers?