Where have all the community managers gone?
January 15, 2009 1 Comment
Jay Lyman points out a trend that I’ve noticed as well (not just in terms of headcount, but in general resource allocation). From the post:
However, as we have seen open source vendors trimming headcount just like many other companies in search of controlling costs and weathering the storm during recent months, community managers seem to be on the line among the layoffs. It’s not surprising to see these positions — which bridge commercial and community open source and tie vendors to their developers and users — thriving when times are good and companies are willing to invest in community, but suffering in difficult times, when the community may seem a less critical investment. This can be particularly true as vendors look at their sources of revenue and consider cuts wherever they can outside of that.
However, as we covered in an interesting discussion of the value of community on our last CAOS podcast, there is opportunity in sustaining an open source community in difficult times, even though it may be less of a revenue producer and more of an investment given users, developers and other community members are even less likely to be paying. Don’t get me wrong, there continue to be key people serving as community managers, and I invite them to chime in on whether or not they’re seeing colleagues on the block. Still, we’ve seen more than a few community-centered positions among the layoffs from open source vendors.
In the end, open source vendors that are willing and able to continue building, strengthening and investing in their communities — and we do see vendors catering to community users and even monetizing them via per-incident support, documentation and other services — are the ones who will benefit most when things begin turning around.
It’s the last paragraph that I’d like to underscore and reiterate. Let your community atrophy at your own peril. When things turn around, and at some point they certainly will, the companies who continue to foster and grow their communities will be in a much better position to benefit. It’s easy to forget this when the going gets tough, but as with most things you shouldn’t lose focus on mid and long term success even when short term issues change the game.