There are countless free and inexpensive options if someone is looking for a Q&A solution for their teams. Heck, the founder of AnswerHub is the same person who developed OSQA (open source Q&A). Why did he revisit the solution and turn it into a paid solution then? The answer isn’t just that he wanted to make money (although that’s always nice).
The long and short of it is that Q&A may be the initial cause for people to seek a solution, but it’s not enough to keep developer teams engaged, meaning they’ll slip back into old habits of emails, instant messages, and in-person visits to get their questions answered. We saw a high level of initial engagement and then a steep drop off which led to unimpressed community managers and ultimately the same need arose, it just wasn’t the need that people thought they had.
What people really need when they ask for a Q&A solution is a developer engagement strategy that can increase the speed of project completion, decrease support costs, and creation of a place for knowledge to be shared. When we presented this idea to who would eventually be some of our first clients, they were skeptical. Who wouldn’t be, though? We just decided to take away a “free” solution and ask them to start paying for something they didn’t know they needed. What they discovered though was that when they made Q&A into a developer community, they saw increases in productivity resulting in project completion on time or ahead of schedule. They saw their senior developers reduce the amount of time they spent answering the same questions weekly leading to more focused leadership. And they saw a community form around their product where people were sharing more than just their knowledge, developers started suggesting ideas for the product.
They brought in their product leaders at this point and started to map out what the community wanted. Then they mapped it to their current product plan and figured out where they could win fast and what projects the community really cared about. It fundamentally changed how their product team worked. Their developers were happy too because the company started releasing updates fitting the exact needs of the community. The kicker is that many of our clients have since hired people directly from their communities. What better place to find the next superstar of your team than in the community they participate in that’s focused on your products?
At this point, our new customers understood the value of a developer community, and how Q&A (even though it was supposedly their need) was a secondary issue. What could your developer community do if they had a dedicated place online to collaborate? What if your Q&A solution was more than just Q&A?