Previously, I talked about what steps I think IBM could take in order to foster an external WebSphere Community with the goal that one day it would become self-sufficient. In that first post, I outlined what I thought were the benefits for IBM to make it happen.
In these next series of posts, I’m going to give my thoughts on concrete items that I believe IBM could implement to grow the community. There’s a lot of talk about the possible future, dynamic communities, social networks etc. They all sound great until you realize that it will take a long time for them to grow. I’m going to try to keep my focus on practical solutions that are implementable today and could generate immediate returns on investment.
My first solution is for IBM to hold a weekly conference call for the practitioners in the field. The idea being that we are in need a place to hold an interactive conversation. Currently, the only tools available are search engines, forums or the Problem Reporting process. None of these can give me direction in a timely fashion. The call would be formatted primarily as a Question and Answer with questions ranging the gamut from beginner to advanced. Like any mechanism, there’s no requirement placed on IBM to give definite resolutions. Even so, there is a ton of value in dialogue that is as simple as “Have you ever seen this before?” “Nope, Sorry”. I can then use that information to judge that I really am in a unique PMR situation and not just missing the obvious. If I get a resolution, thats a major success. My customer is happy with both myself and IBM for getting the problem solved quickly and efficiently. IBM saved a PMR and potential angry customer escalation situation. Win-Win.
IBM needs to begin to understand that articles, info centers and education courses are insufficient to properly skilling the external community. Those formats of information delivery are only good when I am in the exact same scenario. If I stray from the ‘best practice’ due to a business requirement, I have to lean on my personal social network which does not include IBM. Again, IBM has all the information. When they aren’t involved, it makes my problem resolution extremely difficult.
Conference calls are very non-web 2.0 but they are also very effective if moderated well and transcribed. The long term goal is not to require IBM to moderate these calls forever but eventually rotate the job around the community that has been built. But as it stands right now, we need IBM to provide that spark that will enable us to succeed.
Providing a few resources in a call once a week would be a nice step in the right direction.