I wrote about general approaches and challenges in launching a "thought leadership" blog, especially if it's supposed to assert some leadership position for your organization.
I promised an example of how this might work in the real world. So let’s take as an example this story "6 Months Later, a Report Card on Vista" that spawned comments a few days back
Re-reporting this story is not part of the thought leader program. So let's try and "think in value terms" and plug in other approaches:
Research. Pick some sampling of programs (top productivity apps, top games, whatever). Do some benchmarks. How many of them perform worse on Vista? How much worse? How many don't run at all? Which Best Buy customers choose which Vista SKUs? Why? How many people can name a Vista feature? How many know what Vista Media Center is? Some of this territory has been covered, but you get the idea. You do the legwork, pick a newish topic, and now you've gone out in front and created some value.
News. Work your contacts at Microsoft (hit LinkedIn if you don't think you have any, you probably do) to find someone who'll talk to you -- on the record or anonymously -- about this Vista adoption issue. What's the feeling inside Microsoft? Is there a SP1 or a Vista '08 coming? What will it include? Will it help or hurt? What are the big regrets about Vista that everyone voices at free-beer-Fridays? What kind of mitigation strategies are being discussed?
Be controversial: e.g., Microsoft worked hard on anti-piracy for Vista. Should they have made it easier for, say, college students to "steal" licenses and run the OS? Could that help viral adoption (assuming that Vista gained a lot of traction and it triggered a lot of legit purchased copies)? Write it up (with suitable anonymization of sources if absolutely necessary). For extra credit, see if you can find voices at Apple or voices from a Web-2.0-who-cares-about-a-client-OS-anymore-as-long-as-it-has-a-browser company. Write that up too.
Opinions/Predictions. How many of the Vista installs will be Business? How many Ultimate? Look at the (questionable) success of XP Media Center. Cross reference with XBox numbers to guesstimate how many people could possible run Vista media center in the living room. Ok, what does this say about building software for Vista MC?
Hmmmm... but "company opinions"? Always shaky ground. For the sake of argument, suppose your firm builds Vista Media Center applications. And let's suppose the above procedure leads you to the position that Vista Media Center is not going to be a big deal.
Is this a problem for the firm? Sure, you could go to clients interested in Vista Media Center work and say "Hey, forget you and your contract, what's the point?" ... but you could just as easily say "Hey, did you know that with an additional 30% investment in development, you could target all .Net 3.0 machines, not just Media Center? See, we’ve published this white paper that runs the numbers, and your customer base would be 7x bigger if you take our recommended approach. Which, incidentally, we’ve been pitching at industry events, so lots of other companies will be doing it anyway. Waddya think?"
Product. Suppose we are fairly certain (let's say) that Vista adoption rates will restrict the ROI and market size for new Vista Sidebar Gadgets. Bummer, 'cause your company also like to build those. But guess what? Maybe you think Sidebar is so cool that you hunker down and sketch out a Sidebar that installs on XP. "Here's the free download on our website, and you can bundle it with you own widgets if you want. Compatibility to Vista not good enough? Here's the source, help us fix it." Instant bigger pie for everyone. Value.
This might not be the best example, but it floated through my inbox and I sketched out these scenarios. And yes, ok, Jakob, these articles will probably not be the kind you dash right off. Not that you can't have some of those too.