Not to worry, I’m not going to launch into Journey’s power ballad….
It appears that the negative coverage is now increasing on my old friends in Windows Phone. I joined the BlackBerry team just over a year ago, and in that time one skill I’ve “exercised” is to read the recent coverage of BlackBerry, process that information and to simply continue executing on the path we’d already charted. This is something that a good Evangelist needs to do, believe in your own technology. In the face of such constant, negative and well, sometimes actually quite amusing coverage, how do you keep the team moving forward?
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t control.
It’s easy to get caught up and react to negativity. So, early last year we learned that we had to carry our message out to developers ourselves. This lead us to launch our now infamous 44 city BlackBerry Jam World Tour. We could control our own messaging only if we could deliver it directly to developers without someone else’s spin or agenda. We counted on this core of developers to carry our unfiltered message out to their community. It seemed like a good idea and really was the best option available. So we did, simple as that.
Another example was fighting the “vaporware” problem. Being a former Microsoft Technical Evangelist, having to manage an Ecosystem to a new set of target dates was something I, er, was used to doing? Anyways, we couldn’t control the speculation about “if BlackBerry 10 would ever ship” but what we decided to do is let developers experience it first hand. We launched the biggest seeding program of it’s type in the industry. Developers could monitor our progress build to build, SDK release to SDK release and see that BlackBerry 10 was real.
When you’re facing a situation like we’ve faced at BlackBerry, set realistic expectations with your team and management & know it always takes longer than you think for your message to carry. But the most important thing is to actively go out into the Ecosystem, tell your story and watch something great happen.
In my Evangelism role I speak with developers and start ups all day, but when the start up is being run by an old friend, I listen carefully. I’ve had the unique opportunity to observe my friends thoughts over a few years about developing a product or service based on his unique expertise and background over lunch or coffee. During this time his thoughts evolved from a series of observations, to an idea, and now into a product that’s currently in development with a bunch of eager customers he and the team have already lined up. What I’ve learned from him is another lesson of the power of focus.
Starting originally with observations of classic IT operational problems in big data centers, my friend and his partners iterated through a bunch of product ideas, beginning with using streaming media and voice communications to monitor IT operations staff. While doing this they came to a realization that they’d identified a powerful insight that’s driving their product’s core value: most problems they’d encountered are time based with location information and “who did what” being key data items. Exactly the kind of information that a mobile phone can provide.
Turning a classic IT problem inside out, rather than using traditional data gathering methods, they use the smartphone as the device that captures and encodes this information for their customers, turning what was a previously error prone and “after the fact” data collection problem into a real-time event creation captured using “point phone at thing (location, document, etc.), push button on UI, done”. It’s a brilliant application of using the smartphone in a novel way. By generalizing their observations after talking with a myriad of potential customers, they’ve actually moved to a different initial target market than IT operations.
He’s also applied some Evangelism principals we’ve discussed: like talking to customers early (evangelize early), he’s iterated rapidly on the core ideas (agile), he’s built a lean team (hire to your profile) and now he’s broadening the feedback loop (lunches with dudes like me…).
Looks like a success in progress, because the team is building an innovative product with a laser focus on maximizing via their core value.