Company: SolarWinds Company background: SolarWinds was founded 1999. Today it has more than 2,400 employees and 275,000 customers worldwide. Our core mission is to provide purpose-built products that are designed to make jobs easier for IT professionals. Contact: Ben Garves Title: Senior Product Manager Related URLs:
Gamification Points Store Example
Annual Digital Conference Example
Monthly Live Web Series Example
Product Forum Example
Lithy category: B2B Community Innovator 1. Describe the innovation(s) and how you settled on the decision to innovate (user request, Lithium suggestion, internal idea, etc.) Our journey from JX to Core Lithium is just beginning, but we're bringing our JX customizations along during our migration. This will make us the most advanced community on Lithium. Includes: missions, gamification, store, event plugin, livecast capabilities, license validation, product integration. 2. Tell us about how you made it happen Did you stage it first, who got an early look, how you drove adoption/use, and any iterations you had to make to get it right. We've adopted a mantra that "good enough isn't good enough". We use ideation to allow our community to suggest and vote on our next new features and work closely with our marketing and product teams to understand what we can do to make their jobs easier and mobilize the community on their behalf. 3. What were the results? Tell us how it impacted your customer experience or the outcomes you seek as a business. Our community is seeing unheard of adoption from both our internal teams and external members. We have a core group of 70+ content-generating external 'mvp' members, nearly 7,000 daily active users, 2,500 daily active participants, 122,000+ pieces of unique content, and more than 150,000 members.
Because we are gamified site-wide, users accumulate points. On top of being able to climb a competitive leaderboard, we also keep a second value of "spendable" points in a swag store we've built. This way users can spend their points without having their leaderboard standings affected. We've also integrated with a fulfillment vendor so orders are automatically fulfilled whenever a user submits them. We've built functionality to bulk-award points, prizes, and digital items. An example of a digital item would be a user being able to purchase a voucher to participate in a certification exam for one of our products.
Our Product Managers love to mobilize the community to test betas of new product releases. We've integrated with our Customer Portal so we can validate licenses and allow users with active software licenses to download beta versions of software. They are also allowed into a special permissions area in which they can post/comment/ask questions/provide feedback about the beta.
We've built a product forum for our core SolarWinds products. This is a space in which users can easily find resources and ask product-specific questions without feeling like they're in a plain old forum-based experience.
We host THWACKcamp, the SolarWinds version of a tech conference. THWACK hosts 5000+ live streamers and chatters as they participate in two full days of hour-long sessions on the state of the IT industry. This uses our live chat integration (below) and is gamified to award enrollment and participation. THWACKcamp 2018 registration has only been open for a week and we already have 1100 registrants.
Missions & Gamification
New questions unlock daily, bringing users back for participation. Points are awarded for correct answers. Users with all correct answers each week are entered into an award drawing. At the end of each month, another grand prize drawing is completed for users who managed 100%.
Live Chat Webcasts
We host a monthly live webseries called "SolarWinds Lab", along with an annual virtual conference called THWACKcamp, which hosts 5000+ simultaneous attendees and chatters.
Integration w/SolarWinds Products
Product-specific feeds are brought in, along with the ability to upload/download content and templates to/from the community directly to/from the products.
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I like to think SolarWinds has a pretty solid corporate sense of humor, especially surrounding that little four-letter word: GDPR. From the placard on the door of my boss's office reading "GDPR Readiness Valedictorian" to the various satirical Game of Thrones "GDPR is Coming" knockoff stickers you can find in various cubes, it's hard to miss the ominous feeling.
Don't feel dread, get read...y. Get ready. GDPR doesn't have to be painful, but it's also safe to say it can't be a one-size-fits-all solution. What you need to do is get yourself a plan. Plans solve problems, prevent breakdowns in communication, and (most importantly) cover you, your community, and your company's **bleep** in the scenario that you do eventually come across a request to be forgotten, or a request for data portability.
Oh, yeah, those. If you're catching up on the Geedz (pronounced "jeedz" - it's something only I call GDPR, but feel free to help it catch on), the General Data Protection Regulation entitles European Union citizens to certain rights with their data. Of which, thinks like the right to be forgotten and the right to data portability are covered.
Now, in the words of any good Texan, "I ain't got no legal expertise, so y'all will want to consult yer company legal teams on this."
To me, there are a couple of steps you can go through to make this easier than starting from scratch:
Meet with your company's legal team. They're busy people, but they'll appreciate you being proactive about this. As with all laws, GDPR is up to interpretation. Some companies will opt to read the law in its strictest form, some may be a little lax. Your legal team will be able to give you guidance as to how your company will comply.
Complete a discovery and write everything down. What systems are you using? What private information do those systems capture and store?
Educate yourself on how Lithium is helping us prepare in their ongoing development of the Lithium JX product. Here's a thread with some details.
Make a plan. Given how your company wants to comply with GDPR, what systems you're using, and what information those systems have, how are you going to comply with the various facets of GDPR? If you want an example of a plan, I posted mine here for you.
I guess you can party, at this point.
I know this isn't migration-related, but I hate seeing y'all suffer. Welcome to 'compliance'!
Ben Garves THWACK Community SolarWinds
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I know this is going to be your least-favorite answer, but... I feel like communities are so personalized, UAT ends up being a process you have to build specifically for your community. What I do is take a snapshot of my webmap, write out basic acceptance criteria, and test a ratio of parent and child pages, by page type, until I have a personal level of comfort with deploying the work. Yes, it sounds miserable. Yes, it is miserable. Yes, it's something that makes my old SaaS Project Manager self get the willies, and no, it's not even remotely the way I'd run it on a more conventional system. The reason I recommend unconventional is because communities aren't conventional. They're huge, they're disparate, and they're under-staffed. It'll be nobody's favorite task, but a webmap may be your best bet.
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There comes a time in every man/woman/undefined's life when we succumb to the masochists who fill the desks in our accounting departments and set our annual budgets. I'm using the term "masochist" with adoration. These people sign my paychecks.
#TheGreatMigration is no exception. SolarWinds has always been incredibly generous in ensuring we have enough budget to continually grow and develop our THWACK community. Not all companies are as generous - either they struggle with the concept of a community investment having significant ROI, or they believe a community is a one-time cost during setup, takes only meager moderation efforts, and can self-sustain itself until the end of time.
Even in our current state of abundance, we have to make some tough quarterly decisions on just what should be prioritized in our development budget.
What's more valuable? Allowing a user to open a support case from the community, or driving one of our biggest community engagement initiatives of the year? What's more critical? Solving a bug affecting blog posts, or doing A/B testing to determine if a new feature is worth spending money on?
Here's one place I've failed: I set a goal every six months to do the work necessary to modernize THWACK into a mobile-first experience. Is it critical? No. Is it valuable? Yes. Does my boss want it? Yes. Does my boss's boss want it? Super yes.
Have I delivered it? ...no.
Well then, how do I ever go about prioritizing the budget it takes to migrate my community? It's not easy. You have to say 'no' to things. In the same way you pinch pennies your professional life in order to live it up in retirement, it's a time and effort investment that will pay off. We watched Jive and Lithium go head-to-head for years in the external community space. When all the chips were down and it came time to show cards, Jive sold out, and Lithium doubled-down. It's only a matter of time before the Lithium platform grows exponentially out of the tier it currently shares with the JiveX-turned-Lithium JX product.
It's always going to have it's pain points, but I'd rather be at the bleeding edge of technology than be the community that couldn't catch up. So I make the cuts. I say "no" to feature requests. I do the work.
Who else out there is struggling to build a budget for their switch? What kind of cool features are losing out to your migrations? What kind of cool features are taking priority over a migration? I'm excited to hear what you think!
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