Projects are like startups: they need active communities

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Tara Hunt posted her BayCHI presentation notes, and she touches just a bit on why startup companies (heck, any companies) need to focus on building active user communities and listening closely to them.

The community phenomenon is something that everyday project planners need to recognize and acknowledge. Internal IT projects benefit by building this kind of an excited user base. Project managers who try to push bloated, overwrought projects down the throats of their users will … well, it won’t be pretty. The end result is a “successful” project deployment with a tiny amount of users.

Instead, take the approach Tara encourages startup companies to take. Listen closely to your perceived user base, and tailor the project to their needs as the project moves along. Respond quickly to their requests, and adapt your plan. Your own early adopters will make your project more successful, get the word out faster, and turn your project into a vital part of their everyday routine.

Plus, the more you make your users feel valuable and the more they feel appreciated, there’s a better chance they’ll tolerate your mistakes along the way.

I like encouraging people to think of their projects as little businesses. They need to show a positive ROI so that the business understands where the money’s going, what the tangible return is, and maybe best of all, they need to see your excited customer community. This is where internal projects are a bit different than standalone businesses: an internal project with a big fan base can “lose money” for years as long as the execs understand how much it’s contributing to the success of their customers.

IT project managers – treat your projects like startup companies. Read marketing tips from these Silicom Valley veterans, and apply their startup techniques to your own projects. It’s all about building your business – or your project – into something successful.

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