A Strong Customer Community Is Critical When Optimizing Innovation

A Strong Customer Community Is Critical When Optimizing Innovation

Having a strong customer community for feedback and ideation is critical when optimizing innovation. It supports product strategy while removing blinders to product deficiencies and allowing a democratic approach to product solutions. Last month we hosted THWACKcamp™ 2018, where we were able to connect with our user community through our most highly-attended online learning event of the year. We had over 8,000 registered guests representing 83 countries from around the world. Through these events and regular interactions with our THWACK® online community, we’re uniquely positioned to gather valuable and practical insight into our products while identifying pressing short- and long-term product needs for our users. THWACKcamp exemplifies what happens when you capture the perfect marriage between a strong user base and data – creating a platform where conversations can lead to innovation, optimization, and overall better product.

Leveraging data to build an accurate picture of customer needs and challenges is a vital asset. A focus on customer data puts organizations on a track to market success. But those “all in” on product excellence go even further to establish sustainable differentiation and market leadership. Not only are they effective in listening to customers, but they turn those customers into active participants in the product design and development process to create fantastic products people love to use.

A strong community becomes a convergence point for frequent and intense customer engagement across the product lifecycle. The product team can conduct pain point research, test early mockups of concepts, recruit users for beta testing, and identify and solve technical issues. Building this kind of community isn’t easy and can’t be rushed. Doing so requires the organization to sustain a commitment to openness and transparency, which allows customers to build a deep understanding of the organization and its capabilities, and in turn leads to trust and confidence that providing constructive feedback in the community will be worth the time investment.

For instance, the top favorite THWACKcamp 2018 session was Monitoring Like a Network Engineer When You’re a SysAdmin. Conversely, in 2017, we hosted a session where we showed network engineers how to monitor like SysAdmins. IT organizations are increasingly being tasked to do more with less and the demand to have a workforce that owns versatile skillsets to meet the demands of the digital transformation.[1] Although this assessment might be viewed as groundbreaking by some, we’ve been thinking about this for years and have built products aimed at supporting this workforce demand. Our users are at the front line of IT activity. We understand that our users will have to resolve a wide range of issues that demand they go beyond and do what isn’t in their job description. As digital transformation drives an uptick in this trend, so does the demand to better navigate hybrid IT infrastructures. Because of THWACK, we get it. We test and build products that support our users with monitoring various environments and more. This could only be done successfully because we’re able to deeply understand our user’s needs and what the business demands of the IT pro. THWACK makes this possible.

Building strong user communities enlists customers in product creation and technology optimization. Communities aren’t merely user forums where people seek help with problems or seek advice on how to install, configure, or use products. A community is a space where customers help each other and share ideas on how to get the most possible value out of their product investments. By opening a space for this kind of collaboration and conversation, organizations can spark creative solutions that wouldn’t have surfaced otherwise. In this way, the community becomes a powerful social platform for multiplying insights and bringing a “crowdsourcing” effect to product development.

We build products that appeal to our customer immediate needs and address budgetary and strategic goals for the CIO/CTO. Our commitment to solving users’ problems as simply and affordably as possible, while ignoring the race to check the most boxes in a feature comparison chart that typically leads to complicated and overpriced products. That’s not who we are, and the SolarWinds community knows that – and trusts us because of that.

[1] Gartner. The Secret to Digital Transformations Is Analog: Why a Digitally Dexterous Workforce Is the Key. Published 25 January 2018 – ID G00345891.


A former university professor, Denny is a passionate advocate for optimizing technologies to solve critical customer problems, leveraging empirical, data-driven approaches.  His thoughtful leadership and disciplined methodologies have guided product management, product marketing, and User Experience (UX) teams to develop creative product strategies that ignited rapid business growth and made customers’ lives easier.   In his current role as Senior Vice President of Product Marketing at SolarWinds, Denny leads a global organization responsible for customer research, engagement, and product positioning.  While helping identify new customer needs and opportunities, his team works to educate and inform the market on how SolarWinds IT management software simplifies the process of running complex systems and applications with high availability and reliability.   In addition to SolarWinds, Denny held executive leadership roles at leading IT management and security firms, including BMC and AlienVault.  Denny holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Rice University and a B.S. from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.