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Harness builds deeper, more trusted relationships with community insights from Common Room
Nov 8th, 2022

Harness builds deeper, more trusted relationships with community insights from Common Room

Harness is the software industry’s first AI-driven software delivery platform. It’s a single integrated pipeline that can be leveraged for CI (continuous integration), CD (continuous delivery & gitops), chaos engineering, feature flags, cloud cost management, service reliability management, security testing orchestration, and more. Users enjoy faster deployments with DevOps and engineering teams saving significant time on their software delivery process.

With free and open source software (FOSS) offerings of its own, Harness understands the important role communities play in supporting open source projects and the organizations that build them. The company invites developers to collaborate around new ideas and features with its engineering and product teams in the Harness community.

Since its 2020 and 2022 acquisitions of the companies behind CI/CD platform Drone CI and LitmusChaos, Harness has experienced an uptick in the number of members joining its community. Conversations usually take place on Slack (over 2000 subscribers) and Discourse (an online forum where problems are reported), but can also be found on Stack Overflow, GitHub, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Meetup, and LinkedIn.

Hundreds of new members join the Harness community each week, ranging from students to tenured employees at large enterprises. Tending to them is the Harness community team, including Dave Nielsen, Senior Director of Community Relations, and Marie Antons, Technical Community Manager, as well as the community engineering team. Their shared goal is to make the Harness community a space where members are heard and free to ask any question—whether it be a novice ask or a deep technical question—about Drone, LitmusChaos, the Harness platform or anything related to modern software delivery.

For Dave, Marie, and the team, creating a vibrant and supportive community is also a path for developers to learn more about Harness’ solutions. In this way, it’s an important source for both paid conversions as well as retaining customers: “Community is the very beginning of our product-led growth funnel.”

The Challenge

The Harness community team knows that it’s impossible to truly support and grow the community without the proper insights and metrics to inform decision-making. And when it came to gathering and analyzing data, unfortunately, the community tool that Harness was using previously didn’t provide the breadth of data, level of granularity, or actionable insights they needed to make data-driven decisions. “We don’t know how much of an impact we’re having on our community if we don’t have the data behind it,” said Marie.

A lack of data wasn’t the only problem the Harness team faced. A lot of effort was going into ensuring a great experience for community members, but this meant a lot of manual labor that took away from time the team could spend on other, strategic activities that would benefit the community.

For example, welcoming each new member with personal messages was a manual process that was becoming increasingly laborious and time consuming with the steady stream of new users. Marie programmed a Slackbot to help alleviate the burden, but found the impersonal approach wasn’t getting the results she wanted.

Additionally, the community engineering team wanted to ensure all questions asked in the community were answered in a timely manner, but this required a near-continuous exercise of jumping between and searching the different Harness community channels to find and address all questions.

Harness needed a solution that would help the team tackle these important manual efforts, while also providing the data and insights that would set them up to better serve their community and the business.

The Solution

Common Room is an intelligent community growth platform that helped Harness overcome these challenges in managing and growing its community. The insights and data made available by the platform have also provided Harness with a stronger foundation to continue building a community program that deeply understands its members, engages them in a responsive and human way, and can effectively report on its work and communicate business impact.

“Common Room gives us the ability to better see and segment our community to ensure we meet members where they are, support them with the specific resources they need, and elevate the voices of the experts who want to share their knowledge. By nurturing an active and giving community, we best empower our members to be successful and strengthen our ability to grow as a company.” — Dave Nielsen, Senior Director of Community Relations

Building meaningful relationships without the manual toil

Marie replaced her Slack bot with the welcome message workflow from Common Room. When a new member joins the community, they get a timezone-appropriate welcome that comes directly from Marie or one of her colleagues. In addition to being more personable because it’s coming from a person rather than a bot, the new workflow eliminates potential confusion or friction on who the member can reach out to if they have an immediate question, can’t figure out where to post, or otherwise need help.

Harness onboarding journey Workflow

Additionally, Marie has set up a check-in message that automatically follows up with new members two weeks after they’ve joined. Sometimes, a person will enter the Harness community to get a specific question answered, but then they’ll disappear after they’ve gotten a response. The automated check-in message increases community engagement by following up with a personal note from Marie about the community and asking about their participation so far, including how the team could improve their experience. The check-in message can also be configured to only reach out to members who have been inactive in the community for a set amount of time.

These messages help users understand there’s a human on the other side of their screen who they can turn to for questions and support, and have been key in boosting member retention. Marie has observed that members are coming back and participating more in the community since they know that the Harness team is there to respond to them.

“It’s hard to build a relationship with a bot. Workflows from Common Room saves the team time and helps our new members get what they need from our community. With Common Room, we can welcome and orient new joiners and check in on inactive members automatically, all with messages coming directly from our Harness team. With Workflows, we’ve seen increased member engagement and better community retention.” — Marie Antons, Technical Community Manager at Harness

Prioritizing responsiveness to build trust

The team at Harness knows that failing to answer member questions in a timely manner (or at all) can damage brand trust. They prioritize prompt answers to community questions, and with the help of responsiveness charts from Common Room, Harness’ dedicated community engineers can quickly find which members they need to contact and on what channel. The platform helps them stay up to date on responses and track their response time, which is critical in ensuring that people feel supported and confident in the community and Harness.

Harness community responsiveness
Harness uses Common Room’s pre-built community responsiveness reporting for a dashboard that automatically serves up where questions need to be answered across community channels and response rate. If a community engineer sees an unanswered question, they can quickly click in to see the question, then navigate directly to the community channel to address it.

The team can also see who from Harness has answered which questions or align the right resources to get the community member a response. For a channel like GitHub, one of Harness’ most active, the community engineers can easily monitor for Issues and flag for the appropriate member from the engineering team when there’s a thread that needs to be addressed.

Common Room’s reporting also lets the Harness team see when other community members are jumping in to help their peers out or creating educational content that can be further amplified. Knowing who in your community is most active in helping others solve problems is extremely valuable information that can provide a shortlist for potential ambassadorship, rewards, or other community programs.

Bringing community, organization, and member data together

Before Common Room, the team spent a lot of time trying to understand who was in the Harness community. They had to individually navigate and search across their previous tool, Slack, LinkedIn, Salesforce, and other channels to get the full picture of each community member.

Common Room brought all of that information together to serve as the single source of truth for everything related to the Harness community, so the team is able to find all the information they need in one place. The process of understanding someone’s role, organization, customer status, and all the ways they’ve engaged across the community has been streamlined to a single, auto-populated member page in Common Room.

These insights help the Harness community team better understand each member so they can answer questions with more context, show the value of the community, and help them along in their journey of building stronger software delivery pipelines.

Harness organizations view

Common Room also provides a view by organization, which quickly shows things like how many members from an organization are in the community, the activity of the members from that company, and member growth over a customizable period of time as well as key insights about the organization, like size, revenue, industry, and more. Common Room had superior enrichment compared to Harness’ previous tool, identifying twice as many organizations within the Harness community through the platform's ability to more effectively and intelligently bring member and organization information together.

These details on organizations give Harness visibility into when a company is engaged with both the sales team and in the community. The community team can share insights with sales, so they can jointly nurture the relationship through activities like answering product questions or sharing relevant resources that help members feel more seen and supported in the community.

Additionally, the community team can alert the sales team to important indicators for an organization, like when new members join from a company within Harness’ ideal customer profile or if there’s an uptick in community engagement across an organization. These indicators can let the sales team know that it’s the right time to initiate a conversation on how the company could benefit from a hosted solution.

“Common Room has allowed us to better see all the organizations who are in our community. We can definitively show member engagement from larger companies in our core markets—it’s not just hobbyists, the Harness community is a place where enterprises look for support and to assess risk before making a purchase decision. These insights allow us to connect the dots between community and business impact, and make conversations around investing in community much easier.” — Marie Antons, Technical Community Manager at Harness

Community feedback and reporting drives strategy

Community is a company-wide priority at Harness. Company leaders are keen to understand the health of the community and its impact on the business. Common Room provides this data through out-of-the-box reporting and customization that allows the community team to find and surface the data points that matter most.

The community team has crafted customized reports that they share weekly to keep the broader organization up-to-speed on key health metrics like active members, membership growth, community responsiveness, and sentiment.

The reporting and insights provided by Common Room also help guide Harness’ community activities and strategy. For instance, the team can use Common Room to understand the regions and cities where community members are located, which informs where Harness hosts both virtual and in-person meetups. They can also gauge the success of these events and other community activities by measuring what’s driving the most engagement and conversation. These observations bring data to future community programming and confidence that these initiatives and activities will have an impact.

Beyond metrics, Common Room helps surface valuable product feedback. The community is often the first place where Harness hears if something isn’t working. Regular reporting ensures these issues are quickly spotted, surfaced, and addressed. Common Room has reduced the time it takes to find these issues raised in the community, so they can be addressed before impacting more customers. This tightened product feedback loop is critical for Harness’ product-led growth motion.

“Providing the best modern software delivery platform on the market requires a complete commitment to innovation and improvement—both of which are powered by community. Common Room is the platform that enables our team to be all-in on the Harness community, so we can deeply support our members and build the best products.” — Dave Nielsen, Senior Director, Community Relations

What’s Next

Common Room has provided Harness with capabilities and insights that allow them to better know and engage with their community members and show the impact of the program.

Looking forward, Dave and team plan to further enrich customer success and sales conversations with insights from the community. Through bringing event attendance and product data into Common Room and marrying it with the insights from community channels, the team also has exciting plans for more in-depth user journey mapping. This mapping will show how members move through the community as they deepen their use of Harness’ product set. It will better enable the team to support members based on where they are in their journey of building stronger software delivery pipelines and what they need from the Harness community at their particular stage.