Building enterprise communities
I just ran across slides presented by Vanessa Dimauro at Podcamp Boston 2009 on “How to Build and Enterprise Community.” My organization has devoted a lot of time and effort investigating enterprise communities, and like many others, we’re still figuring out the details.
Launching a community is hard enough; launching a successful B2B community is harder; creating a coherent strategy for B2B communities in a huge company is even harder. What one business group needs is not the same as another group, so there’s the monumental task of compiling and prioritizing everyone’s requirements. You’ve got the vendor selection to worry about. Once the vendor is selected (after who knows how long, since large enterprises are notoriously slow), there’s inevitably some reprioritization and shuffling of resources prior to launch. Depending on where you work, your IT department will either be an ally or a saboteur throughout all of this.
I wish we had Dimauro’s presentation when we started, though! It won’t help you wrangle IT or negotiate corporate politics and pitfalls, but it will make your business case much stronger with a better chance of surviving the process. Of particular note, be sure you go over slides 16 (risk factors and mitigation strategies), slide 17 (sample metrics), slide 19 (governance structure), and slide 20 (methodology). Arming yourself by addressing those issues will help answer much of the executive resistance to communities (and any other marketing project, for that matter).
When I got to slide 22 I wanted to stand up and cheer about Dimauro’s answer to “what characteristics do businesses have to have to benefit from developing an online community”:
- Community must accelerate a business process or solve a business problem,
- Must directly reflect the needs and goals of the member,
- Must offer thought leadership or a POV,
- Have an active customer base of a sizable nature, it’s to some degree a numbers game
- Openness to dialogue and commitment to change.
That should be her opening slide: if you can check off these 5 criteria, you’re ready to start your planning. I might tweak #3 to be “Must offer a tangible or compelling benefit to the member.” I’d argue you don’t always need thought leadership or strong POV if your primary objective is support, for instance.
All in all, a fine presentation and one I will definitely share with my colleagues.