For generations, an individual’s community has been the cornerstone of healthy exchange of ideas, knowledge and a source of support. Astute technology companies have relied upon online technical and non-technical communities to help other users with product or service features, highlight glitches, raise red flags, sight early warnings, discuss performance issues, etc. The importance of communities as a platform for collaboration cannot be emphasized enough as businesses increasingly rely on collective participation. But could it be possible that there are ways in which communities can be made to contribute more to the success of a product, service, brand or company than we currently believe? We try to find answers for that in this paper.
Communities: A Catalyst for Business Growth
Large technology companies with multiple products and services rely on the wisdom of their developers, architects, domain experts, quality leads, testers, product and program managers in the online community platforms they set up within the enterprise. Here, the community posts questions, exchanges information and offers advice, expertise, tips and best practices. Today’s advanced online platforms allow participants to express themselves more easily and freely. Participants can ”share” the posts of other colleagues, ”like” them or vote them up/down based on usefulness, accuracy and relevance and also take part in the online conversations.
External communities go a step further, involving a second level of participants. These could be in the form of technology and business partners, direct customers and vendors. Together, this larger community can become the catalyst for gathering more perspectives and collaborate to rapidly solve problems. As the store of ideas, problems and solutions grow, the platform evolves into an institutional knowledge base.
In theory this looks perfect. Many enterprises are pleased by the gains. But it is essential to see precisely how these communities impact business. If there is a way to measure the impact of community conversations and collaboration, the logical upshot is: what are the interventions that can improve the business outcomes? There are two clear ways in which community activity can be measured from a business perspective (See Figure 1: Value-driven Community Analytics):
Are communities impacting revenue and business?
- Are the important customers engaged in communities?
- Are the communities an effective ideation ground? Are ideas leveraged?
Level 0 Support
- Are customers using communities as a primary support mechanism?
- Are communities an early warning system for problems/customer dissatisfaction