|By Andreas Grabner||
|March 11, 2013 10:30 AM EDT||
Two years ago, my team decided to extend our community portal to become "a real"APM Community where members (both commercial and free products) can go to find help and educational content on all topics regarding Application Performance Management (APM). The most critical pieces to that community were: free access to all relevant content (documentation, best practices, knowledge base, downloads) as well as a very active discussion forum where members can get answers to their questions. Two years later I have to say we achieved this goal with more than 60,000 registered members. In this blog I want to first share the Lessons Learned and then discuss the ideas we have for the future.
Lesson #1: Give Access to Content
We know that APM is a very broad topic. We have many best practices on how to analyze, optimize and manage application performance from small to enterprise applications. But no one out there is an expert on all aspects of APM. So we decided to make all content available so that our members become successful when dealing with their own APM challenges.
As we have a lot of content in different areas we decided to have four levels of access privileges to content:
- Public: There is some content that everybody can read - such as all articles on our APM Blog, our Web Performance Best Practices or general articles about Application Performance such as Monitoring Amazon Cloud Environments
- Registered AJAX Edition: Customers of our free AJAX Edition get access to discussion forums after they have registered an account. The product is free to use- but after a five-day registration-free period one is required to register in order to access the Web Performance/AJAX Edition related discussion forums.
- Customers/Partners: Customers of the paid products get full access to all production documentation, APM discussion forums, product and community downloads as well as additional educational services such as Video Tutorials, self-guided online training or webinars. They also get access to our Knowledge Base and our Support System in case they need help from our Technical Support Engineers. In a pre-sales engagement, prospective customers can try the resources to experience the benefit of this community and available content. As we don't have any secrets we always treat potential customers the same way we treat our existing customers and grant full access during our product evaluations. It's a huge plus and helps make a more comfortable decision
- Employees: We also use the community for internal discussion forums and information exchange. We used to have a different platform for that but decided to provide all relevant information through a single portal. The internal discussion forums are a big success.
Lesson #2: It Takes Time and Passion to Get a Forum Started
I remember the discussion I had with our CTO regarding open discussion forums. We would have to accept negative feedback that everyone - including our prospects - could read and risk lack of activity and with that giving the wrong impression that we have a very small user base that doesn't leverage the community.
Well - two years after that decision I can tell you that the small number of negative postings actually helped us, as we treated it as "constructive" feedback in order to make our product better. Postings from frustrated members who were not happy with a particular feature or release resulted in these problems being fixed and also created a more direct way of having our members influence the direction of the product. We introduced RFE (Request for Enhancement) forums where members can post their ideas. Through Up/Down-Votes we allow the community to tell us how important these RFEs are.
But it was a long a bumpy road to get people share their experience on how they use the product and also raise their complaints. We started with seeding questions or encouraging customers who had contacted us directly via email to use the forum instead. We started with one or two questions per week, now we are between four and five on average per day on both the customer-facing as well as internal forums - that's more than a tenfold increase. It also took a while for community members to start answering questions that other members asked. In the beginning it was our team that answered questions as fast as possible so that members saw the benefit of posting questions. The more members who were drawn to the forum the more likely it would be for other members to answering questions -> this is what really defines a community!!
Lesson #3: You Need to Measure Your Own Success
I already talked about some basic forms of measurement - how many blog posts we have, for example. However, it was critical as an organization to see whether the time spent actually paid off. That's why we built dashboards to monitor the activity on the Community Portal. I use these dashboards every week for reporting. The following focuses on forum activity where I am interested in the number of new posts and replies on our internal as well as customer-facing forums. I also get to see which types of users are reading our forums:
Our traditional forums show constant growth with spikes explained by special events. It is also great to see which users are consuming that content
Another critical metric is the number of registered members. We want to make it easy for customers to register and by looking at the numbers of registered customers, partners and AJAX Edition users we can see whether we grow our community base at least as fast as our customer base:
In case community growth is not aligned with the growth of our customer base we know we have to improve our registration process or even have a problem with our registration.
So - make sure you measure. Otherwise you won't know whether you are successful or not.
Lesson #4: Search Is Critical - What You Can't Find Isn't There
With more and more content on our community it becomes even more important for the content to be found. One way is to provide good navigation and structure of the content. The other option is to provide a good search capability. I have to admit that this is something we need improvement on. Even though the Search capability is good in our current implementation it can get better. We don't want members to say "I know I've seen this before but I don't remember where and I can't find it!" We also see that certain questions get asked over and over again.
For this reason we decided to invest in new search capabilities by looking at integrating our community with a Search Appliance that our company already owns. That will probably lower the number of new forum entries - but will subsequently increase the number of members who become successful faster because they can now find past forum posts with answers without having to ask the same questions over again.
Lesson #5: If You Are Global - Use a CDN and/or Lower Your Page Footprint
After getting acquired by a larger corporation that already did business in the APAC region, we found that User Experience could be improved. For example, images could be optimized (compressed, smaller resolution,...) and a CDN would help with more members from different geographical regions signing up. Looking at the UEM (User Experience Management) World Map showed us that our user experience in some of the APAC countries is lower than in EMEA or US:
The WorldMap highlights regions and the respective user experience. Certain countries in APAC show a higher level of frustrated users than others
We try to watch these problems on a continuous basis. We get alerted on problems of slow pages or errors that happen and with that have the ability to fix these problems before they affect too many of our users. With that we make sure to keep our users happy and keep these red dots on the World Map to a minimum.
Lesson #6: You Need to Keep the Ball Rolling
It is hard to build a community - but it is almost as hard to keep it rolling. Once you have reached the critical mass where community members help each other out - it still requires you to play a very active part in moderating forums as well as constantly providing new and valuable content for the community (Best Practices, Tips & Tricks, White Papers,...). As we grew the number of forums on our community, we appointed different moderators for each forum to make sure that comments of the community continually get addressed in the absence of another community member doing it for us. This is one way we make sure that we keep the ball rolling.
If you want to build a good APM Community it takes several things: easily accessible and searchable content, a dedicated group of content creators, members and moderators to get it going and a system that allows you to measure your success as well as identify problems fast.
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
May. 29, 2016 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,441
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
May. 29, 2016 04:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,308
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...
May. 29, 2016 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,586
SYS-CON Events announced today Object Management Group® has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
May. 29, 2016 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,645
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
May. 29, 2016 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,966
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
May. 29, 2016 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,980
Customer experience has become a competitive differentiator for companies, and it’s imperative that brands seamlessly connect the customer journey across all platforms. With the continued explosion of IoT, join us for a look at how to build a winning digital foundation in the connected era – today and in the future. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Nguyen, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how to successfully leverage mobile, rapidly deploy content, capture real-time d...
May. 29, 2016 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,683
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
May. 29, 2016 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,288
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
May. 29, 2016 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,543
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
May. 29, 2016 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,041
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...
May. 29, 2016 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,310
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...
May. 29, 2016 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,763
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
May. 29, 2016 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,310
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
May. 29, 2016 06:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,963
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
May. 29, 2016 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,180
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
May. 29, 2016 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,363
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
May. 29, 2016 05:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,278
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
May. 29, 2016 04:30 AM EDT Reads: 3,261
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
May. 29, 2016 03:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,015
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
May. 29, 2016 02:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,508