Lifecycle Of An Enterprise Social Community (So Far)

Consider these lessons we've learned in the first four years of building an internal enterprise community.
Cross-Functional Team Groups: Increased Social Awareness

Stories similar to the volcanic ash crisis allowed senior management to have credibility when they started new communities that were focused on cross-functional and cross-divisional collaboration. Now that it was more obvious to everyone that we had much in common and great ideas to share, people were more comfortable engaging in the larger corporate conversation. They recognized they had value in the larger community, and that they also stood to gain by sharing and asking for recommendations. Teams working around the globe started to share information about product development, SEO, Web analytics, sales practices, event management. Many people came to understand that there were other teams working on the same kinds of projects. Working together, they could pool learning and resources and come to better conclusions than working alone; or get recommendations on a good speaker or development contractor or supplier.

Posting Open Questions and Answering Status Updates: Reaching The Final Frontier

Near the beginning of this journey, there was a space created for people to ask questions of the larger community. People used it very sporadically with relatively mixed results. Sometimes people would get answers quickly, but more often than not, it took a little longer than desired, and the number of answers wasn't that large. As our community moved through the phases described above, the activity in this area grew, and the answers got better, more varied, and more timely.

People now realize that even if they don't know the answers, they can post and draw attention from someone who might know the answer. People in the United Kingdom post an answer in their morning and have it answered by people in China in their evening, or later that day as people in the United States start to reach their desks. People who would never had been included on an email request of the same nature now have the opportunity to contribute. These conversations have driven up membership in work interest groups. Employees find themselves saying, "Yes, we do that, too! Come on over here where you can find more on this subject."

Not The End Of The Story

Although I said "final frontier," the journey isn't over. As new people come into the organization, they go through some of these same phases. Existing employees who were reluctant at the start get pulled in and find ways to contribute. Active community members push the envelope with creative new ideas. And the software also continues to evolve, pulling us in new directions and giving us better tools to make it all work. I find it especially interesting how much closer I now feel to people whom I've never met, simply because of the extra information I can easily see about them--not only on their profile pages, but also because of what and where they contribute. I am more aware of experts who can help me if I run into a problem, and better able to connect coworkers with experts to help them out as well. I wonder where we'll be after another four years?

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