Avi Goldberg recently publish Ideas for Jive | You can't always get what you want...., which got me thinking about our own process (as well as going to the web to this check out ).


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Good products usually start with an idea that is simple but makes people’s lives better in some way.  Early on, one or a few people work to make that vision a reality.  In a software startupenvironment, early employees and clients talk frequently. It is relatively easy to chart a course and decide how much effort should go into potentially groundbreaking new functionality, incremental feature improvement, and fixing bugs.  If a project is good (and lucky) the number of new ideas and competing priorities both increase as the project gains critical mass. Individual sparks come from many sources and often take more than one strike to ignite. As time goes on, dedicated product people are needed to gather these sparks together and coax them into a blaze.

 

At Instructure, user input has always been an important part of how we determine our priorities.  Being open and listening to the people who use our products is a big part of our culture. Millions of people around the world now use Canvas, and the ideas that come from our customers are as important now as they ever have been.

 

These ideas come in from multiple channels but one major conduit is the feature idea forum in the Canvas Community. Every month around 750 ideas are submitted and evaluated by thousands of Canvas users from around the world. Without the forum and crowdsourcing help from community members we couldn’t possibly hope to thoroughly evaluate and prioritize all of the ideas that come in.

 

Screenshot 2016-03-04 14.22.01.pngThe process at its core is fairly simple. Anyone in the world with a Canvas account can suggest an idea.  All new ideas are put up for vote, with one new cohort opening each month. Anyone can add one vote up or down on each idea.  If an idea gains a net 100 votes within three months, it moves on in the process.  Any idea that doesn’t get 100 votes is archived (although users are free to re-submit an idea for another run).  As soon as an idea reaches the 100 vote threshold it is formally assigned to a product person who will research it, determine how much work it would require and how it fits with other goals.  About five percent of the ideas originally submitted make it through to this stage, allowing our product managers to focus on the ideas with the most community support.  Taken collectively, all the ideas submitted, along with the comments, questions and use cases added by other users constitutes a body of reference knowledge that helps us to understand the diverse needs of Canvas users when prioritizing upcoming work and future projects.

 

Getting 100 votes does not guarantee that an idea will be developed, but forum ideas are one of several key sources of input for our Product team (remember the sparks coming from many sources?).  No process is perfect. We’re constantly re-evaluating the model.  But this process is open to everyone, including you. We invite you to come help make Canvas better.