Ning in 2011: Transparent Evolution

Fresh into the second quarter of 2010, we were faced with news about the change in the Ning business model. It hasn’t been even a year since this news… yet I felt compelled to write about the way Ning looks moving forward.

This morning, I got an email from Ning titled What’s in Store for 2011, with information about features on Ning that have been rolled out in the past few months and plans for coming quarter or two. And something dawned on me: Ning is really laying out their product roadmap for users (and competitors) to see. In the words of their Chief Product Officer:

There are several reasons why companies don’t do this: It might reveal too much to the competition. It might force commitments and limit flexibility. It may feel like a burden. Plus, don’t customers like to be surprised when they sign in and spot a shiny, new feature? Under-promise and over-deliver, right?

There are several ways to look at it. But there’s one extremely good reason a company like ours should publish a product roadmap: Quite simply, it will make our customers happy. Making customers happy is a core part of our business.

Know what? I loved that they did it! It helps US (network creators) plan for the future, knowing what will and won’t be available and when (at least in the coming six months). As for competitors, they seem to be moving forward not minding as much that competitors may know what will they be doing or when. As long as Ning delivers on their promise (roll out functional features according to their product map), the moment features become announced on the Product Map, they are being put in the open, so… I don’t think they are losing that much competitive edge by opening up their six-month product map to the world.

Another thing they are doing very well is to help people develop the best networks they possibly can, through an assortment of Best Practices and a Getting Started guide combined with Troubleshooting Guides and a public Known Issues page.

All these elements speak to me of transparency and, combined with the features one can learn about through the roadmap, also tell me of evolution! 2011 promises to be a very exciting year for anyone using Ning or considering to do so.

Do you have any thoughts or comments on Ning in 2011 and beyond?

2 thoughts on “Ning in 2011: Transparent Evolution

  1. Manny – I agree with you that opening up their road map is smart. As they get feedback on it, they can change direction without spending unnecessary development costs.

  2. It’s definitely a risk to be transparent with development plans. There’s a delicate balance between “Knowing what you gotta do and doing it” and “Reacting nimbly to new demands & opportunities.” Exposing your roadmap makes you a bit less nimble, but instills trust–so long as, as John says, changes are also communicated to folks.

    It’s no longer about shilling out updates of your product to customers; it’s about establishing a social network around a common goal made possible through your product. It’s risky, but it’s right.

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