Is Bruce Bochy a Community Manager?
As an avid baseball fan, I love to go root on my beloved SF Giants (and a World Series victory last year was just an awesome gift to go along with my new baby daughter!) One of the things you hear at a major league ballpark is vendors hawking programs or in-stadium magazines with line up cards: 'Get your program, program here, can't tell the players without a program!' All of this got me thinking about the different roles in successful tech development communities.
These kinds of communities, not unlike your baseball line up of 'lead off hitter,' 'cleanup hitter,' etc., have important players as well. So, with that in mind, I'd like to build out a 'Technology Development Community Lineup,' complete with players, their respective roles and a brief 'scouting report' on each of them. So, let's play ball!
Leading off - Product Visionary: This person's role, like a leadoff hitter, is to get on base with an idea or a vision of how to do things better, build an awesome product, etc. They sometimes strike out while doing this, but they function best when they can 'get on base' with a compelling idea or business case.
Batting second: Technical Architect: This individual is a solid contributor who has the technical chops to move the product visionary's idea along by hitting the ball through the infield (with the occasional 'home run').
Hitting third: Product Manager: This can be a thankless job, because the PM does a lot of the dirty work on schedule, keeping everything humming along and setting the table for the cleanup hitter...
Our cleanup hitter: Engineer/developer: As a former engineer myself, having this person hit cleanup shouldn't be a surprise. This person has to produce runs (product/code) on a consistent basis, or they will be relegated to the scrap heap pretty quickly. This is where the rubber meets the road in tech dev communities - without a solid cleanup hitter (or hitters), it's hard to build successful communities in this space.
Next up: QA/Testers: These are unsung heroes that often fill the same role in the middle of the lineup. They are the 'utility infielders' that aren't exciting, but their work is critical to keeping a tech dev community strong and producing a great product.
Rounding out the lineup we have:
Users: Despite batting in the lower half of the order, don't discount these individuals, as they provide the impetus needed to field a successful product, and their contributions help you move the product direction forward. They are critical members of your collaborative team and community.
Batting last we have: Detractors - yes, they exist in every community, but they have a role to play (albeit at the end of the lineup). They can provide a productive counterpoint to make sure that decisions are evaluated in terms of what is going to drive the community forward. However, these, and all of the lineup needs to be 'managed' (maybe 'guided' is a better word) by... [wait for it]....
Community Managers - Good community managers build a strong lineup and then provide the right amount of leadership throughout the season (of product development). While they may make some tactical day-to-day decisions, they also need to be aware of the overall morale and 'vibe' of the community. Indeed, some of the most valuable things a community manager does may not be related to tactics at all - putting two groups of users together with appropriate product managers/visionaries, removing roadblocks for the cleanup hitters to get their jobs done, or bolstering the confidence of the utility players (QA) to contribute.
Not all of us can win a World Series like Giants manager Bruce Bochy did last year, but we can certainly think critically in not only putting together our 'community lineup,' but in how we guide and lead our players to deliver great technology.