I’ve been posting quite a bit on communities lately, mostly on creation and structure.
At the moment we are still piloting and have come across various types of communities.
Business Unit Teams wanting to use a community space instead of email, see more.
Special Interest Groups ie. people across the firm that have a like interest
eg. there are numerous teams where a techie does a little development, like writing scripts or web design. Some of these guys know of each other, so forming a “software development” type community is going to create a space where these guys can exchange know-how, and help each other out. They no longer have to be unsupported in their tinkering, a community enables them to use the talent pool of the organisation. There is no need for the organisation to create a team, as these guys work in their respective business units, but if they can cluster as part of their own accord, they are making their job easier, and the company is more productive, optimal or seizing the opportunity to utilise everyone’s talent behind their business unit.
It’s amazing what offering the right tools enable…now we have the tools to use that are designed for how we act and think.
Sometimes we wonder why we haven’t got more of these types of communities, and in a company of nearly 10,000, I think it’s because of the discovery obstacle.
We look forward to one day getting an enterprise social network, as this will enable these types of people to discover each other, from which they can then form a community.
Event holders may want to use a community space for a big conference.
The alternative is to use an existing community for the conference conversation and materials, and to also highlight content made in other communities related to the conference.
Fix a process or Fix a problem type communities are task based, usually only last until the fix is done (but can always be resurrected, to take off where you left off), and can be within a team or across teams.
If you have a task and four other people from various business units are involved, you can either create a little space in your community and give them just permissions to this space, or create a new one.
Creating a new space seems the better option, as the community name reflects their task, and all participants feel they have their own home, rather than some feeling like guests.
This type of community is going to be far and few between if there is a Top-Down creation process. People need to get together, kick off a meeting to get on top of this task. They don’t want to fill out a community request form, and then wait for the bottleneck to eventually spit out a community, and then have to spend time setting up…this takes all to long and is cumbersome, they will sooner email everyone and the task will be done by email.
This really needs a Bottom-Up community creation approach.
I have a task, I click “create a community”, set-up, invite members, and we are done in half an hour. They possess the power to do all of this on their own, and if successful, they will do it for the next task, and members of the task will do it for their tasks…see where this is going, the ultimate viral effect.
I’m thinking for communities to self propel, you need:
- bottom-up creation
- simple design (hardly no training, only quick reference guides and a FAQ)
- a few guides on community theory and practice (facilitating, structure and tips)
- promote task types of communities on the homepage, and (don’t promote business unit type communities)
Fix a process or problem tasks are done all the time, and with a cross section of people, so promoting these types of communities are going to expose this tool the quickest way.
Special Interest communities are also similar as they involve a cross section of people, yet these people have an obstacle of finding each other. Whereas Task communities have more of an idea of people involved, so it may be more of an idea at first to promote Task communities as there are potentially lots of them, and they are a good way to expose your tool to lots of different parts of the organisation.
As mentioned earlier, people on a task will go back to their respective teams, and for the next task they may use communities with a new cross section of people, and then one day those people will do the same…and soon enough the whole organisation will of heard of communities.
Then we can start promoting the Special Interest communities as the dominant type of communities.
Pilot groups are similar to Task communities in that you have a cross-section of members (people in various business units), and you don’t really have to discover these people like a Special Interest community, you as the pilot lead just pick a handful of people and ask them if they would like to be involved. Another similarity is that these communities are also numerous in big companies…so for these reasons they are also a good type of community to promote and they provide exposure to lots of different people in the organisation.
If you want to speed up your process of community adoption in your organisation try to track down teams that are introducing new products, and in doing so want to run a pilot.
But again, my experience is the pilot leads couldn’t be bothered to request a community, they want to just click a button to do it themselves, otherwise they will just use email.
It’s amazing what a button will do, and the fact that you are empowered to click it.
At the moment our communities are Top-Down request form method, but we know this is slowing adoption and use. But because of the Web 1.0 design of our communities, they are not simple for the average user to set-up. If we did allow them to create their own, we would have too many support calls to deal with. We hope to change to a Bottom-Up approach when future releases have more of a Web 2.0 design.
From the lessons we are learning, and the choice of enterprise web 2.0 vendors, I recommend kicking off with a Bottom-Up approach. But facilitation is key, and so are community theory and practice guides.
We also hope to see a future release where communities or groups are part of a social network, just like Facebook and it’s Facebook Groups.
[ADDED 14/01/09 : A community for an office location is also a great idea for exposure as all workers in an office will have to visit the community to refer to documents/wiki such as induction, floor plan, safety info, kitchen info, etc…they can also take part in general office forums and leave comments on a communication blog. This cross-section of people that visit the office community, would be in various teams and groups and perhaps influence them to use online communities]