Accounting and finance software
88% of 2,000 questions have an accepted answer
“Our community gives our developers back their free time for doing other things.”
Datev’s knowledge sharing challenge was not uncommon. The German accounting and finance software provider relies on more than a thousand software developers to innovate and keep its existing products and services running smoothly.
While small group meet-ups helped the developers share knowledge, it wasn’t enough. And public forums weren’t an option. “We have business secrets. We can’t paste code to Stack Overflow,” explains Andreas Fischer who describes himself as the developer community gardener.
Datev chose AnswerHub for its developer collaboration tool and is pleased with the results. “It gives our developers back their free time for doing other things since they aren’t answering phone calls or emails,’’ Fischer says. The community has worked so well that there is a plan to roll it out to the support team to allow them to better serve customers. Datev currently has 2,000 seats on AnswerHub.
Knowledge Sharing When Your Solution is Proprietary
Datev provides software solutions to tax consultants, lawyers, auditors, small and medium-sized enterprises, and municipalities in Germany and a handful of European countries. Data security and protection are critical needs.
Initially, Fischer moderated in-person groups to help developers get to know each other and share solutions to common problems. “But that doesn’t scale,’’ he explains. They tried using an internal SharePoint site, “but it kept getting out of date.”
Fischer knew the value of public forums, but for security reasons, Datev can’t let its developers use them. So developers reached out by email and phone. “It was difficult to find information and sometimes the people responsible for a framework would just come under fire because they were getting asked the same questions over and over,’’ Fischer says.
Datev needed a solution that met its security criteria. Only two contenders could meet the requirement and AnswerHub ended up offering the best value for the cost.
Any hurdles to convincing management to take the plunge? “They immediately saw the value as we explained that developers don’t have to keep answering the same question over and over.’’ It helped that the company was transitioning from running software on-premise on a mainframe to offering online solutions. They understood a community helps with training for these changes.
Encouraging Devs to Use the Community
As work got underway to start the community, Fischer and his associates worked with developers to seed the community with frequently asked questions and answers. “They would post the questions they’d been asked and answer them.’’
He then sent out an email to 600 developers who had participated in in-person community meetings.
“We just told people we have the community, and they said, ‘I’ve been waiting for that for years.’’’
Once the community was launched, there was a bit of hesitancy about posting questions “People were shy about asking questions that let others know they didn’t know something.” But there was also plenty of enthusiasm.
After the Rollout
The community gained popularity as developers discovered how fast they could get answers. Answers to new questions are typically posted within an hour and existing Q&As are searchable. In a little more than two years, there have been 2,000 questions and 7,500 answers. Developers can upvote and downvote answers. More than half of Datev’s developers are registered users.
Datev configures its settings so the person posting the question can accept an answer once it has solved the problem for them. Only 12% of existing questions have no accepted answer, but as Fischer notes, not every user remembers to accept an answer.
To encourage users to answer questions and vote on answers, Datev uses AnswerHub’s built-in gamification to award badges such as “Civic Duty” (upvoting on quality answers) and “Good Question” for posting a question that gets a lot of upvotes.
One of the most important aspects of the AnswerHub community is difficult to measure, but Fischer says it is noticeable: breaking down silos between departments. “The company has undergone a culture change, and I can see that the community has helped remove the barriers.”