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When I was a kid, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Irene were larger than life to me.  I don't know if it was the lake house they owned that we used to visit during the summer that made me feel that way or not.  To be honest, it might simply have been the fact that everything they owned was red and black - my favorite colors.  I don't mean that they had a lot of red and black things... EVERYTHING they had was either red or black.  There were red and black rocks lining the driveway leading to the lake house and the dock was painted red and black.  The pool table in the basement had red felt on it and every plastic cup in the kitchen was red or black.  It was awesome.

I remember excitedly opening a gift from my Aunt Irene one Christmas in my teenage years.  I don't know what I was expecting to get, but I remember being completely puzzled when I opened it.  She had given me a large, plush blanket with a fierce tiger on it that was pawing at the air.  I just assumed that it was an accident and that she had meant to label it with someone else's name - she sensed my disappointment and frowned as she said, "Don't you like it?"  I replied that I did but that I was curious as to why she gave it to me.  She then told us all that she had been at a store and saw a long line leading around a corner.  She went over and got in the line without knowing what was at the end or what it was for.  When she got to the front, they were all waiting for the chance to purchase one of those blankets and, in her words, "If all those people were waiting that long for them, there had to be something at the end of the line that I had to give somebody!"

Besides the fact that this points out how ridiculously sweet my Aunt was by thinking of giving that blanket to someone instead of buying one for herself, I often think about this story as we define each Track-It! release and brainstorm about what's coming up in the future.  Following the crowd can be a good thing or a bad thing - it really depends on who is in it.  Blindly following the crowd has never been our thing here on the Track-It! team.  Track-It! has been around for over 20 years in a few different incarnations and part of the reason behind our longevity has been our innovation and commitment to challenging ourselves when it comes to technology choices and making our customers happy. 

If you're talking about the crowd as defined by our market space or our customers, then we definitely follow the crowd - at least to some degree.  This especially holds true with our customers.  We listen carefully and do our best to frame our releases so that they impact as many customers in a positive way whether you're talking about new features, smaller IOU types of things or fixing defects that affect our customer base.  We gather feedback from our entire customer base in one form or another and one way that's catching on in popularity and is yielding positive results is asking our beta customers about the future direction of Track-It! If you'd like to pitch in and help us by letting us know how you use Track-It! and what is important to you about where we go in the future, you can connect with us via the BMC Track-It! Community.

We are also always looking at the small to medium business market when determining how to implement Track-It! features.  Our customers in this market segment want solutions that get them up and running quickly with no hassle and no fuss.  We believe that we offer a fantastic solution for them with the Track-It! family of products and that's no accident - we focus on those high-level goals as we think about how Track-It! will evolve with each release. 

One area in which we definitely do not blindly follow the crowd, however, is technology.  We believe in careful research and in finding technologies that make sense for BMC and Track-It! - not reading about the hot new trend and jumping in line before we have a clear picture of what's at the end of that line - sorry, Aunt Irene.  That's not to say that we don't use the latest tools and technologies, because we do - we just have very concrete reasons for making the choices that we do.  In some cases lately, we've chosen directions that at the time might have seemed like they were going against the grain a little bit.  However, the rest of the software industry is now headed solidly in some of the directions that we chose to take.  We didn't jump in the back of a long line that we couldn't see the end of - instead we were near the front because we could see the benefits of those choices and knew that they were the right ones for us.  In the near future, I'll be able to talk about some of these choices and I'll definitely be blogging about them here.

In the end, I don't even believe my aunt was really following the crowd in a lot of cases - she always did what made her and her family happy.  She was a lot of fun to be around and I remember her so fondly.  I kind of like to think about the Track-It! team in that way, too - we work very hard here but my team and I have a lot of fun every day.  It's easy to think in those terms when you get to go to work and do what you love to do - and we love to write software that helps people.  It's also been a lot of fun as we've ventured more into social media.  I've enjoyed getting to share my thoughts on life and Track-It! with everyone and that's definitely made me happier.  I imagine that some people here are happy that I'm spending some time writing and not talking their ear off about Track-It!, too.

Got any stories about how you or your company resisted the urge to follow the crowd?  Or how about a time when following the crowd turned things around for your group?  How did that work out for you?  Post in the comments - we'd love to hear from you!

-- As always, you can reach me at benny_morrison@bmc.com or on twitter (@BennyMorrison) --