Francois Gossieaux led a workshop and panel on measuring progress and success in business communities. The presentation part of the session was derived from the preliminary results of the 2008 Tribalization of Business Study. Tribalism? Well, yes, because we are social creatures. And because we are social creatures, participating in online communities taps into our need to connect. Online communities also work because people want to help and be helped. I saw this first at Digital Equipment Corporation in the mid- to late 1980s. Our community tool, VAXNOTES, was designed for business (getting help with technical problems), but also adopted for social purposes (cats, dogs, ballroom dancing, dining in Geneva). Nancy White did a fabulous job on Tuesday of the conference mapping the history of communities. (Be sure to browse to parts 2 and 3.)
So what’s different now? Francois and panelists Mark Yolton (SAP Community Network), Ed Moran (Director of Product Innovation at Deloitte) and Rachel Makool (Sr. Director of Community Development, eBay) described an industry landscape in which it is imperative for companies to have a community strategy — for connecting customers, partners, users. The research found a diverse array of usage scenarios, business objectives, and strategic goals, which were elaborated by the panel members:
- At SAP, customer service has saved $10M in support costs by using a community-based model
- eBay’s work with communities has shown that sellers who participate in communities get higher ratings from buyers
These are two ways that companies can measure the success of the investment in creating online communities. The survey also delves into “what gets measured” and there is the usual distinction between qualitative data (web analytics and business measures) and qualitative data (“which community features contribute the most to effectiveness”). I liked the distinction of looking at transaction metrics vs. engagement metrics.
It is inevitable that as more companies adopt community strategies, for whatever reason, the nature of work inside the company will change. Employees will be more tapped into customers and more likely to be reaching outside the boundaries of the organization. Because business is business, it is also inevitable that there will be a push for good metrics and measures. This study (which is ongoing) is surfacing many of the important issues and opportunities for how companies will build and use communities. The good news is that what the study has found (and what many attendees at C2.0 are demonstrating) is that communities can be built with predictable success. We have been working in online communities long enough to understand the pitfalls and the success factors. Being in communities will be a way of life at work.
The better (or perhaps best) news — and the parting message from this workshop is that once communities have been introduced into an organization, they are transformational (“game-changing”). They have a huge impact on the organization and offer new job roles and responsibilities, closer relationships, greater transparency, and a better work environment.