Commentary: The Software Community

Growing a Web business today, or any business with a digital presence for that matter, requires software.

The solutions most frequently used (and regularly recommended by 'Net professionals), however, are those providing more than just a way to complete a task. The true software stars in the digital galaxy are those that provide a community around their products and are able to act as a catalyst to business growth for both startup and established enterprises.

Too often Web workers are drawn toward certain solutions because of the cost or support, and fail to consider their long-term strategy. What will happen when they open multiple stores or begin an international expansion? What will happen when new design and development trends emerge or new marketing practices are required? More often than not, businesses outgrow their platforms or experience digital growing pains that could have been avoided with a little more forethought and sound strategy, a little more due diligence in the research phase and a whole lot more continuity planning.

Today's most successful 'Net enterprises (or offline enterprises with a need or demand for a strong digital presence) are those that understand how the Web can work to further their mission and long-term objectives. A brochure-style website with location and phone is simply no longer enough; now businesses need a way to store information about their audience of prospects and customers (like a customer relationship management system), a means to communicate seamlessly and across channels with existing and prospective buyers wherever they are on the Web (or in-store), and have the systems and processes in place to understand the activity generated - from visits and conversions to impressions and engagements.

One of the best examples of this today is that of Magento, and at the recent Imagine conference held by eBay Enterprise (see image), this focus on building community and fostering a collaborative ecosystem was clearly on display. From the front-end to the back-end, the marketing arm to the technical team, eBay Enterprise partners showcased how they fit into the community and the benefits that their participation provided Internet retailers leveraging that incredibly powerful system (and community).

The most sophisticated software companies are those that act as more than just makers and developers, but are those that serve as stewards of their communities, acting upon the open nature of the Web to create products and experiences that help their customers grow. It's no longer enough to build once and move on. If the aim is to dominate a market segment, software makers must collaborate and participate in the success of their ecosystem, as well as that of their broader community. Having a vested interest in the success of users, clients and partners is the fast track to doing so.