Minimum viable community

I was invited by James Cattell the other day to accompany him to a meeting to talk about what the best community software platforms are.

I think we rather disappointed the people we talked to, in that neither of us could recommend a particular system.

Instead we both advocated, in effect, a minimum viable community. Start with the simplest, lowest common denominator technology available. Something you know that everyone has access to, and they are used to using.

When people start bumping against the limitations of the technology, they might start suggesting new ways of doing things. This is the time to start thinking about what else could be done – when there is a user demand within your community.

The point is that picking a technology winner too early will put off some of your users – whether because they don’t like what you’ve chosen, or they aren’t comfortable with it, or because it doesn’t work for them.

Concentrate on getting members for your community and get them engaged, and when they start to want to do new things, let them guide you.

If you’re interested in building and managing online communities, you might like to sign up for my free upcoming webinar on the subject!

Be opinionated

To make things happen, it helps if you have opinions.

Apple are a great example of a company that has opinions. They express those opinions in their products, and like most opinions, some people don’t like them – but that’s fine.

For instance – lots of people moan about the lightning cable used to charge iPhones and iPads – why don’t Apple just use micro-USB like everyone else? The answer is because Apple is of the opinion that micro-USB isn’t good enough, hence the need to design their own.

Apple have made lots of similar decisions based on opinions – like whether the original iMac needed a floppy drive (nope) or if laptops need CD/DVD drives (nah).

GDS is equally opinionated. As an organisation, they have views on the way websites should work, and how they should be made. You might not agree with them, but there’s no doubting where they stand.

Opinions help in two ways. Firstly, they set you apart from the crowd (this can work in a good and a bad way, of course, depending on how appalling your opinions are). Secondly, they help you to move on.

Here’s a real world example. At the Department for Heath, I’m working on digital capability, as are lots of other people in lots of other organisations. Everyone has different views on what digital means, and what capability means.

Again, that’s fine. What we’ve done though is to have an opinion on what those things mean, and how they should be delivered. Quickly coming to this opinion has enabled us to move forward quickly, with the confidence that comes of having a good idea where we want to get to.

We’re not so opinionated, of course, that we can’t change direction if we need to. The joy of an agile approach is being able to respond to feedback and experience.

By taking a position though, and executing on it, we’ve been able to kick start our capability programme. Not everyone may agree, but then they probably never will.

So if you find yourself in a situation where a project is stalling, perhaps the thing to do is to have an opinion about it. After all, you have to start somewhere.

Need some help getting your digital approach right? Join me at my Achieving Digital Transformation workshop in December!

Achieving digital transformation workshop

This workshop will equip anyone involved in digital transformation and channel shift projects with the skills and tools they need to deliver fantastic results.

Book your place now!

The workshop will be led by the needs of those attending, focusing in on those areas of strategy, leadership, delivery and capability that have been identified as of key importance.

Things that will be covered include:

  • How to design and deliver an effective digital strategy for your organisation
  • How to design online services people actually want to use
  • How to manage technology projects in an agile fashion to reduce risk and increase user satisfaction
  • How to design capability programmes to provide people with the digital skills and confidence they need

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Who should attend this workshop?

  • People leading change programmes within their organisations
  • Folk who are working on digital capability programmes to improve their colleague’s confidence is using technology effectively
  • People delivering channel shift to encourage services users to switch to more efficient ways of delivery
  • Those wanting to understand better the role senior people can play in digital and transformation

Much of the background thinking that informs this workshop can be found in the 10 ‘Think Digital’ principles I developed, and which you can find out more about on my website.

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For a sneak peak, the video below is a recording of a webinar I gave in September 2014 discussing digital strategy, leadership and capability:

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