Along with our Project Stratus initiative (see our Scaling Agile to the Strategic Level blog series), Rally Idea Manager is a big piece of Rally’s goal to extend agility outside of development and into the enterprise.

Traditional ways in which product management collects user input – customer visits, enhancement request forms, homegrown systems, and commercial product management tools – tend to fall apart as development goes Agile.  Agile teams are hungry for user input as their frequent delivery schedule calls for fast feedback loops to continuously influence development.  Agile teams know it’s important to build things right, but making sure they build the right things requires product managers to engage quickly with customers around the world.

Product managers have another challenge in our competitive world — they can’t just take feature requests at face value. True product innovation comes from understanding the WHY behind feature requests. Rally Idea Manager is a social site specifically designed for actively engaging users in frequent conversations and getting to the WHY.

Rally Idea Manager was released a year ago to help product managers effectively prioritize their product backlogs by increasing the understanding of users’ needs. Powered by our partner Brightidea, the leader in ideation and innovation systems, Rally Idea Manager is honed for product marketers and product managers working with Agile teams.

That launch was a result of Rally’s own Agile product management experience. When I started at Rally in the summer 2007, we had just launched Agile Commons with a “Feature Requests” hive to discuss product ideas. Three years later (last October) we adopted Rally Idea Manager, and branded our site “Rally Ideas.” With Rally Ideas, we have been learning how to effectively leverage a user community to drive innovation in our products and to account for user input into our brutal prioritization process.

This month, to celebrate the first anniversary of the Rally Idea Manager launch, we released a bunch of added value for product managers to keep their user community vibrant, including things like:

  • A user reputation system and leaderboard: to monitor and incentivize user participation in the community
  • Customizable idea tabs: for users to easily locate their favorite ideas and for product managers to highlight special features in this week’s discussions
  • Improved search: to minimize the creation of duplicate ideas
  • Rally integration enhancements: to link new ideas to existing Rally stories and update idea statuses based on any Rally story states
  • Better idea status change notifications: to keep users informed of specific status changes
  • A “idea interest report by company” report: to better understand the specific needs of a given customer

The below demo highlights some of the new additions. To learn more, read the Product Blog from Rally’s site owner, who is blazing new trails with our own deployment of Rally Idea Manager (Rally Ideas), so we can improve the offering for you to engage with your own end-users.

And because launching a user community site is new to many organizations, we decided to consolidate our 4 years (and counting) of learning into a 2-day workshop where you can learn how to set up your very own Rally Idea Manager site. The workshop covers how to setup your site (frankly, that’s the easy part), how to market your site, who to involve in your organization and how to keep your site vibrant so user input keeps flowing into product backlogs. Interested? Contact rim@rallydev.com for more information.

Catherine Connor is a Product Marketing Director and product owner for Rally Idea Manager. She loves Colorado summers (which finally arrived this year), for all the camping, hiking, biking and sailing opportunities!

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