Looking for use cases? Communities!

Dr. Eric Schott explains the relevance of communities and shows which success potentials lie in their use.

The crucial question for the implementation of technological or organizational solutions for social collaboration is as follows: What are the (business) relevant application scenarios (use cases)?

The "Mitarbeiterportale 2015" (Employee Portals 2015) conference, which just ended, highlighted a surprisingly clear trend: almost all of the experts and consultants in attendance agreed that the promotion of and support for communities create a key value for the companies. Discussions during the conference also revealed another aspect: many companies are already planning very concrete implementation projects. Communities already exist at about half of the companies, but most of them do not have the ability to draw on technological or organizationally advanced solutions. The other half of the companies are still in the initial stage, with the intention of creating communities.

 What are communities?

Communities refer to rather loose groups of employees and experts who work on the same issues or objectives, but often come from very different company divisions and locations. The more traditional forms are homogeneous communities, for example communities through which human resource developers from different countries can exchange information, or marketing staff from different company divisions communicate with each other. In this respect, heterogeneous communities consisting of members performing very different roles and from many different departments offer even more (innovation) potential.

Success examples of communities

Imagine that development engineers, controllers, product managers, sales staff and production experts meet up on a platform and use it to share, supplement or flesh out their ideas on a new drive technology (as is the case at one of our automotive customers). This rather unstructured and informal environment significantly shortened the time required to turn technical ideas into market-ready and profitable product components.

Another example: at a large logistics customer, CS is managing the implementation of the digital transformation, the most important strategic initiative in the company. In that case, employees face a particular challenge when it comes to collaboration due to the amount of complexity, degree of innovation and considerable time pressures. In addition to agile program management, which was defined by CS, the company is now relying on a new form of collaboration - a special community for the program. The objective of the community is to ensure that the analysis of new customer data, new technological opportunities, new billing models etc. can be spread more quickly and processed across multiple departments. This community adds an internal platform for the collaborative development of new ideas / a collaborative extension of the business model to existing project structures.

Implementation model for communities

Social collaboration combines technological solutions with organizational solutions in such a way that human collaboration in companies is significantly improved. This only works with targeted preparation. In that context, support for communities involves the following concrete steps:

Who are the persons, experts and target groups in the wider sense? Who must be included and connected?

  • What are today's needs and communication
  • What must be strengthened and expanded? What is added?
  • What technological components can be used for that purpose?
  • Can existing solutions be used as social networks, or are Cloud-based solutions a better option?
  • Which software components are used for the start-up phase, and what will be added later on? Here too we recommend a strictly iterative approach: For example, the process can be started with initial expert profiles (profile pages). Once these are accepted, a rating and discussion forum for new ideas can be added. An activity stream etc. can be set up once a certain volume has been reached with regard to the relevant issues.
  • Who can be designated as Community Manager? This person, who has overall responsibility, is required to keep the exchange flowing and actively integrate (new) members.
  • Does the exchange of information really work? There are several instruments available for measuring use - for example, good combinations are the anonymous analysis of the number and scope of active members and the activity stream, supplemented with regular user surveys.