This semester Abbey Research is delighted to have Maria Soyka join our staff as an intern. Maria is a Sociology major at the College of New Jersey, looking at how sociology can be applied in the "real world" outside academia. This week she wrote a blog on her recent experience at the Product Management and Innovation Conference in Philadelphia.
This past Monday I attended a Product Management and Innovation conference at the Sheraton in Philadelphia. I heard Hope Blaythorne of Red Hat speak on Collaborative Experience Design and Customer Experience in an Open Culture. She captured my attention when she spoke about how communities contribute to open source software models financially then benefit from direct support as customers to Red Hat using the same software. The company culture thrives on a meritocracy where the best idea wins. The CEO even wrote a book called Open Organization which speaks to the value of meritocracy and the value of a company that is not run from the top down.
One of Red Hat’s innovative business approaches is a model where customers become community members. Red Hat gives away all their software for free but customers pay for dedicated support. They have an award winning customer portal for guidance with a Red Hat subscription. Blaythorne claimed that, 90% of Fortune 500 companies use Red Hat, where the other 10% might also but they do not pay for the subscription. The success of Red Hat proves the customer service model works if you are part of that community.
Participation from the customer improves the functionality of the software through strategic customer engagement. The community is involved with the software and contributes to its improvements continuously. Red Hat strategically notes issues that arise in software through their customer experience so that any problems are tracked and sent to the engineers. This process creates a more thorough and thoughtful customer experience.
Blaythorne argued that this method is one of the ways in which Red Hat is creating a better world through software. Listening to this speech left me with several key questions:
Is it possible this model can be applied beyond the tech world?
Can the ramifications of this sort of customer experience community celebrating meritocracy go beyond Red Hat?
What other organizations or businesses could this model be applied to?
How can positive company culture impact the success of your business?