I am pleased to be back for my sixth Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. Here is a link to a summary of last year’s notes. This is another of my notes from this year. There will be more to follow. I attended Catherine Shinner’s session - Building an Online Community from Strategy, Planning, and Launch to Effective Engagement and Adoption. Catherine is a Partner with me at the Merced Group. Here is the session description:
“Building and supporting community is a powerful way to build leadership relationships, connect with customers to improve service and accelerate innovation or transform internal organizational productivity. Yet sometimes organizations grab a packaged-off-the-shelf community offering and launch a site and find that it is not gaining the engagement and adoption that was hoped for. If you’re thinking of building an online community or have started on the path, but are not sure you have all the elements in place, this session will provide you with a roadmap to community strategy, planning, launch and early stage adoption, and engagement practices.
The session will guide you through a community strategy process that is aligned with the business strategy, identifying and surveying stakeholders, accurately assessing and clarifying the unmet needs of the community stakeholders to drive the user experience, content and programming plans. Using a case example of an online community for education leaders, the session speaker will outline considerations for staffing and resourcing a community, engaging constituencies through social media, marketing and communications efforts for adoption engagement, analytics and Key Performance Indicator development to assess health of the community.”
Catherine pointed out the changes in the conference that reflect changes in the importance of online communities. In 2007 there was only one session on communities and now it is a major theme. She began with why communities matter from a strategic perspective. She showed some research that shows the change in relative asset base of S&P companies shifted from tangible assets to intangible assets. In 1982 38% of assets were intangible. In 1999 84% of assets were intangible and I am sure it is higher now. This is a major transformation. However, companies still relate to their workforce as though it was 1950 and focus on top down management build on running a company based on tangible assets. Now the value in companies lies in the ability to connect people to optimize their intangible assets but this is largely untapped. Communities are a major way to do this.
Now we have the networked enterprise, using McKinsey term. They found quantified margins gains in companies that were networked. There are many quantified benefits. There are many quantified benefits. First 77% said the tools increased the speed of access to knowledge, 60% said they reduced communication coats, 52% said they increased speed of access to internal experts, 44% found a reduction in travel costs, and 40% found increased employee satisfaction. For more detail see - Enterprise 2.0 Finds Its Pay Day – McKinsey and How social technologies are extending the organization.
In last few years some companies have embraced external facing communities to extend their relationships with their partners and customers. She gave an example of a 21-year-old neighbor who learns everything to work on his car through an online community. Also, companies that use communities inside the enterprise can benefit. Companies often focus on solely on major efforts. Communities can help pick up the smaller, more incremental improvements to complement the major efforts. Communities can be a low cost way to improve your business results on an ongoing basis.
Next she went over some community principles. First you need to bring your stakeholders into lifecycle of a community. Communities have a unique set of dynamics: These include: Participation, Collective Transparency, Independence, Persistence, and Emergence.
Catherine quoted Philip Evans and Bob Wolf in the Harvard Busienss Review article, Collaboration Rules, “where trust is the currency, reputation is the source of power.”
Catherine offered a research-based community lifecycle: inception, establishment, growth, and maturity. Each stage has considerations for growth stewardship and growth. You need active community management and executive leadership at each stage.
In stage one you need to engage and education your stakeholders: identify strategic business alignment: plan for inception & establishment; determine critical success factors and KPIs for early phases; and lay groundwork & infrastructure for growth and maturity phases
A key first step is to identify your business strategy and create alignment with community. Internal and external facing communities have different sets of goals. For example external; communities often look at customer engagement and revenue and internal communities look at productivity increases.
She next offered a community business model. Then she provided a sample community architecture. The main sections include: Community Management; Content and Events Programming; Social Media, Marketing, Communications; Platform UX, Analytics; Operations, and Governance.
Community management is a key component and this is a new breed of business management. This role remains vital throughout the four life cycles. Another role is expert curation. When you are creating a community you need to bring relevant content to offer value to the members to provide value and give them something to discuss and expand on.
The crucial success factors include: effective education of stakeholders, active executive sponsorship, proper resources for the entire lifecycle, metrics relevant to your business purpose, comprehensive governance, technology, and user experience needs to be attuned to your audience.
In stage two – establishment, you need to cultivate and facilitate along a spectrum of engagement, the active contributors, the passive contributors, and lurkers. You need to establish recognition to encourage volunteer engagement. There needs to be a regular cadence of events, programs, and communications. You need to refine resource requirements for growth. You need internal and eternal; advocacy, partnerships in place, and active cycle of engagement, analytics aligned with business purpose, and benchmarking along with active listening.
She next offered a cycle of engagement where content is feed into the community; it is refreshed through conversations; social media is used for additional relevant content discovery, and the cycle is repeated.
Then Catherine covered the growth stage. Now the community needs to have a shared sense of ownership. There needs to volunteer programs and empowered leaders, and the UX and analytic evolves with sophistication of community engagement.