Launching a Developer Champion Program
I remember receiving a call in 2016 from Mário (then product manager) asking me if I would like to ‘change the world.’
I said yes without knowing the details — not one to back down from a challenge.
So I joined him in Product Management and started a small team called “Ignite” — this is because our mission is to ‘ignite’ the community of developers. A few weeks later, Carla joined us, and we began working on a new vision and strategy. This was the beginning of our new team: Developer Relations.
Vision, Mission and Strategic Pillars
Small team, big ambitions!
Our vision: turn every developer into an OutSystems advocate.
Our mission: create an available and capable technical workforce to remove a critical adoption barrier for OutSystems customers and prospects.
- Available = # of developers
- Capable = OutSystems Expertise
We have identified four distinct pillars: Excite, Educate, Nurture and Expand.
Our strategy was to grow and nurture a community of successful OutSystems professionals into advocates and leverage their enthusiasm to influence their peers.
Some of the tactics proposed were:
- Sponsor and speak at Developer events
- Create referral program
- Improve Developer Onboarding
- Create a Developer Enablement Program
- Achieve consistency publishing Educational Content (how to’s)
- Launch a Developer Newsletter
- Start offline events
- Create Community SWAG
- Create a Community Maskot
- Launch a Developer Champion Program
Selling the “why”
Back then, it was pretty obvious to us that the only way to make it work was to have an extended team to scale our efforts. These were the goals:
- Create awareness through content and events.
- Scale educational content creation
- Improve the efficiency of Q&A on forums
- Nurture local communities through offline events
- Get feedback and improve the product.
Regarding awareness, the most efficient way to spread the word among developers is by having their peers talking about our product. This is why one of our goals was to generate content for enablement (how-tos) and for inspiration as well (developer stories/testimonials).
While we wanted to find ways of helping the community, we also wanted to give more voice to the developers — the end-users of our product.
“The Champions” would represent our end users. So it was only fair that we gave them a direct line of communication with our R&D team. This would enable continuous feedback so we could improve the product on a daily basis and allow us to use them as beta testers.
At a certain point, our program was ready, but we still needed approval from the higher-ups. So we showed our management the slide below, and that’s all we needed to get the much-needed sponsorship for the program:
We put together opportunities, solutions, and an action plan that demonstrated how this activity would benefit the company. It also helped that we aligned the program’s goals with the company’s very specific goals. After everything was said and done, we successfully proved to all stakeholders that the program would be a win-win for everyone.
Launching the Program
Once we got the ball rolling, our vision and strategy for the program became instantly clear: leveraging excitement and hype around our product, giving back to the community in terms of building new skills, and building a stellar reputation.
But where should we even start?
Stopping at “ideation” and taking the steps to execution proved to be challenging, but at one point, we felt we just had to do it. So we selected our most active contributors in the community and awarded them with our coveted MVP (Most Valuable Professional) title.
This was our to-do list:
- Create personalized SWAG
- Setup a dedicated real-time communication tool (with Slack)
- Plan our Award Ceremony
And that’s all it took to make this program a success!
Granted we didn’t have everything that we needed — MVP Pages, Badges, a seamless Application/Nomination process, etc. But going public with the award accelerated the process and made a huge impact on getting stuff done.
The Award Ceremony took place during Developers Morning — a community event that took place together with our annual conference.
Picking the low-hanging fruit
We needed to make sure the first step on our journey was successful. Going public was an important milestone, but we wanted to make sure we were able to show value early in the process.
Almost all of the goals described above would take time to bring value, except one — Improve the efficiency of Q&A on Forums. So, instead of tackling everything at once, we decided to focus on this one because we knew this would be the goal that would bring us tangible results in the shortest amount of time.
Before we launched the program, we had mainly OutSystems employees replying on forums. The AVG response time was 72 hours — I still have a spreadsheet with my colleagues’ names and areas of expertise that I used to use on a daily basis to poke people, for them to go there and reply to the community on specific topics.
After we launch the program, these numbers went down drastically, and today we have an AVG response time of 2 hours, without relying on internal teams anymore.
BTW, response time and % of solutions are still the metrics that I use to hook people while engaging in conversations about the program because they are the most tangible metrics and easy to understand.
Members of a Developer Champion Program go by many names: superusers, ambassadors, external advocates, MVPs, etc.
At the end of the day, these programs are about recognizing contributions from Community Members and getting them excited for further growth aimed at the individual level as well as the community at large.
A successful program should clearly demonstrate its value to both the community and the organization. It can have several benefits, including:
- Scaling Community/DevRel team efforts
- Community support and engagement
- Crowdsourcing expertise to improve product outcomes
- Content creation
- Product/API feedback
A Developer Champion Program should be an integral part of your community roadmap. If used effectively, these superusers will become the backbone of your Developer Community. In the long run, they’ll reduce costs and help you achieve new milestones.
Recommended reading and resources about this topic:
FeverBee’s Super User Program Planning Template (if you are interested in launching a Developer Champion program, start by this)