When disruptive innovation occurs it is human nature to call it something familiar -- think “horseless carriage” or “talking pictures” -- until the point of reference seems more out of date than familiar. That may be the case with “virtual helpdesk.” Users do come to the cumulusIQ platform for help. But is it “help” when a product designer reaches out to social networks for new ideas -- a model more generally recognized as open collaboration? And is it only “help” when an SAP business user wants to enable a new workflow than the one originally envisioned by SAP developers?
Yes, the questions we get are indeed for help -- such as to fix a technical glitch or learn how to use a particular product feature. But often the question is really about how to do something new and innovative -- even if just a little. In those case the virtual helpdesk becomes an ideal platform on which to conduct incremental innovation in an open collaborative way.
What got me thinking about this is an excellent article by Anrea Gabor titled, “The Promise (and Perils) of Open Collaboration” (Strategy+Business, Autumn, 2009, Booz & Co.). The article cites “seven key strategies that pioneers of open collaboration have used to succeed….” One of these, “cultivates continuous improvements,” speaks to incremental innovation as inherent to both open collaboration and sustainable competitive advantage. It produces products that are of higher quality, are better suited to what the user needs now, and carries lower risk of failure.
This is another reason why our model is different from a remote helpdesk run by a consulting or SI firm. Like them, we can handle the traditional fix-it question. But we also support collaboration -- and incremental innovation -- that is open to anyone.