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Larry Carvalho

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Community-Enabled Solutions Are the Future

Tapping into the community can deliver real value to customers

Solutions from legacy IT vendors face increasing challenges from start-ups. These legacy solutions, while technologically advanced, fall behind when customers evaluate features/function. For example, Amazon built a very successful cloud solution with experience from a large community of start-ups and beat IBM to win the CIA's multi-year cloud deal.

Several legacy IT vendors are seeing revenue drop as a result of increased losses to start-ups under current market conditions. While analyzing an uptick of such wins, I noticed a trend that the commonalities between winning solutions included strong community support. In this context, community is a collection of start-ups, partners and/or consumers. Below are some solutions enabled by strong community support that I believe are challenging legacy vendors' solutions.

Mobile Mapping and Waze: With advances in mobile adoption, it is hard for any of us to drive to a new location without the help of a mapping application. However, the benefit of just getting directions is no longer sufficient. Users expect real time traffic updates so they can modify their route appropriately. Waze provides directions but is also a social application through which other Wazers contribute real time information on traffic jams, hazard warnings and even police sightings. Waze took plain technology and combined it with a social aspect to make it invaluable to users. Feedback from the community made the app even better resulting in the Google purchase of this company for a price reportedly close to a billion dollars.

Google already had a mature solution but was prompted by the community support of Waze to make the purchase.

Text mining, Watson and CancerLinQ: When IBM's Watson solution beat two champions at Jeopardy in 2011, there was excitement that technology could answer perplexing questions using text mining. The industry waited to see commercial applications of the technology to real world applications and IBM recently announced several industry applications including healthcare, customer service and finance. While I thought this was becoming the de-facto leader, I recently came across an interesting solution called CancerLinQ built by a community of oncologists, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The success of data analytics solutions depends on the volume, velocity and variety of data. Contribution to the CancerLinQ database from millions of patients through a community of oncologists could drive its success.

The IBM Watson solution, while technologically sophisticated, has just a select few large institutions using it. It will be interesting to watch which one of these solutions will gain wider adoption and subsequent success.

There are several solutions that deserve mention for trying to harness communities for success:

  • SAP HANA: SAP is taking unique steps in building a catalog of solutions through a community of partners, including ISVs and developers. If growth of this catalog picks up, SAP customers will be able to derive value from a wide selection of HANA solutions.
  • Microsoft 365: After the Microsoft Build conference, every attendee received a free one-year trial of this product. With the average profile of attendees being very technically adept, gaining feedback and adoption from even half of the attendees would be a big market win for Microsoft 365.
  • Adobe Creative Suite: One of the year's most bold and ambitious moves to cloud computing was made by Adobe when it discontinued most packaged products while launching Adobe Creative Suite delivered via the cloud as a subscription. If Adobe can exploit user feedback to rapidly improve the product, they stand to gain a significant lead over any potential challenge.

A community can help mature solutions faster than most R&D investments. Building technologically sophisticated solutions in a lab is no longer enough. Communities are helping start-ups build better functionality in a fraction of the time compared to the past. Once momentum builds with start-up solutions, widespread adoption and subsequent success usually follows. Legacy IT vendors need to take note of this trend, and make community involvement part of their solution strategy.

This post was first published on Robustcloud.com. Republished with permission.

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Larry Carvalho runs Robust Cloud LLC, an advisory services company helping various ecosystem players develop a strategy to take advantage of cloud computing. As the 2010-12 Instructor of Cloud Expo's popular Cloud Computing Bootcamp, he has already led the bootcamp in New York, Silicon Valley, and Prague, receiving strong positive feedback from attendees about the value gained at these events. Carvalho has facilitated all-day sessions at customer locations to set a clear roadmap and gain consensus among attendees on strategy and product direction. He has participated in multiple discussion panels focused on cloud computing trends at information technology events, and he has delivered all-day cloud computing training to customers in conjunction with CloudCamps. To date, his role has taken him to clients in three continents.