By Jem Janik, Enterprise community manager, Alcatel-Lucent
Not so long ago, Engage, the Alcatel-Lucent employee social network and collaboration platform, celebrated its third birthday. With more than 25,000 members actively interacting each month, Engage has been a big enough success that it’s been the subject of external articles, and often those of us who helped launch it will go out and speak about what aspects contributed to that success. Hindsight is still 20/20 and what it takes to successfully launch an enterprise 2.0 community is fairly well-known now. Today I want to tell you what I suspect you really want to know about. As the enterprise community manager for Engage, after three years in, what are the top 5 things I wish we (and I mostly mean me) could do over?
#5 Define your analytics solution from the start
There is so much to do when you launch a community and initially growing it without complete chaos is quite a task. It doesn’t take too long to get to a point where you want to focus your continued efforts in growing company collaboration. Do people truly talk across regional boundaries or have we shifted siloed conversations to a new platform. Is there one organization that doesn’t interact with another? If you are lucky you’ll have someone in your community team well versed in the world of databases and SQL queries, but it takes time to figure out what backend analytics data actually means. Professional support can be expensive and it may be hard to justify later as it typically has the community manager as the only main customer. Figure out what you think you’ll want to know and how to get it early on. The sooner the better even if it doesn’t seem that critical at the time.
#4 Lobbies guide you to the right places
One piece of feedback that comes up more and more as we keep growing Engage is it’s hard to find stuff, or new people are not sure where to start. Something we’re doing now is defining some general topic areas of interest to be like “lobbies” into the platform and some common hashtags to go with them. I liken this to walking into a large medical or professional building for the first time. There are hundreds of offices, and you look to a sign in the lobby to get guided to the right place for you. We’re building that sign for members now, but again we missed the boat as the majority of the company has had their initial Engage experience.
#3 Clean up, clean up, clean up
Knowledge work and folksonomies are messy! The day we opened the doors to Engage I would have said we should keep everything ever created in Engage with an argument that it was a window into our collective knowledge so nothing should go. Well, 6000+ groups and 200,000+ pieces of content later, I’ve changed my mind. As previously mentioned, with too much “stuff” the system can be overwhelming to new members and it makes it harder to get what you’re looking for. Do we need that help document about a tool we no longer have? NO! Do we need that group that had 1 document and 2 discussions in the last two years? NO! Should we only have one group about a given topic instead of 4? YES! Last fall, Engage defined a cleanup process for groups not used for a long time. We also formed a volunteer cleaning army who are extra eyes on the hunt for “stuff” that should be updated, merged, or deleted. It’s better late than never, but in line with what’s becoming a theme I wish these efforts had started earlier.
#2 Communications & local community management
One of the most important aspects of my job is to make sure people who should be talking to each other are actually doing it. Connecting people to the other people they should know, the groups they should join, a piece of content that shouldn’t be missed. I have worked both inside and outside of communications teams, and they are the best informed people in your company. They know when something big is coming, how it impacts employees, how it fits with strategy, who else knows more, etc. Having communications professionals who are power users can help scale up community management because they are already so well connected. They also need to have the platform skills to pay attention without suffering email overload, how to grab someone’s attention, etc. I wish I’d had figured this out much earlier. If I had I would have groomed more communications colleagues into advocates and power members right at the start.
#1 Grooming advocates vs. natural advocates
I’ve just alluded to this above already. The very best advocates are those who naturally embrace your platform and automatically start to see new ways to work within it. Those advocates seem to come out of the woodwork naturally since some of them are early adopters. Not surprisingly, our best advocates today are those same people who were willing to come kick the tires when the community was completely empty. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a global spread of those natural advocates. I did ask around when we first launched for other people who might be good candidates, but didn’t push too hard as there were so many other things to get ready. That was a mistake. If I could get a redo I would have formally asked for people to be assigned where there were gaps and groomed them into an advocate. Today as we find new advocates to fill the gaps, people are hesitant as the initial set has three years of practice are ahead of the curve power members; it definitely would have been easier earlier on.
As fairly early adopters to corporate scale enterprise collaboration, there hasn’t been a roadmap to follow as we’ve grown Engage, which is part of the fun! It’s clear a lot of issues are more easily tackled the earlier you identify and begin to correct them, and I’ve identified the main five I wish I could redo. In the spirit of collaboration, I hope someone else learns from my mistakes!