Category: communities

15 critical success factors for ESN success


I recently contributed a piece to the latest Ark-group KM report, “Collaborative Knowledge Networks.”  In it I identify what I’ve found to be the most common critical success factors (CSFs) for active and valuable enterprise social networks (ESNs).  This is derived from my experience, conversations with others in this space, and is also informed by my doctoral research on CSFs for KM.  In this framework of CSFs for an ESN, I classify the 15 CSFs into five factor groups:

1) Factors related to the ESN initiative

  • Link to corporate/business strategy
  • Measurement
  • Training & Education
  • ESN Champions

2) Factors related to the organization

  • Top management/leadership support
  • Organizational culture
  • Technology infrastructure

3) Factors related to the ESN manager

  • Change management skills
  • Commitment
  • Relevant past experience

4) Factors related to the ESN team

  • Full-time/dedicated staff
  • Commitment

5) Factors related to the external environment

  • Competition
  • Markets
  • Technology

Check out the full article (linked below) for more information on the framework and definitions for each CSF identified.  I also highly recommend the full report, which contains fantastic information for anyone working in the ESN/community space.

Community Success Factors

On October 16th I co-presented to the Systems Integration Knowledge Management (SIKM) Leaders community on the subject of Community Leadership.  For my part of the topic, I focused on the community success factors/community health report that we had developed for the Deloitte consulting communities program.  The 2nd part of this deck speaks to that, as well as some of the recommendations we make to communities looking to improve their health.

Welcoming community members

When creating enterprise communities, it’s important to welcome each new community member that joins. Generally, it’s important to share with them information about what they can expect from the community, how they can interact with other members, the resources available to them, and what (if any) action items you’d like to request that they take immediately (e.g., set up email alerts, introduce themselves to the community).

The method that this message is delivered will vary, given differences in technology and resources. While it would be ideal to get to know each community member individually with a welcome conversation (rather than message), that often isn’t as feasible internally as it is in external communities (given time restrictions for both parties). So, most enterprise communities tend to rely on an automated message after a member joins, or manually copying/pasting a welcome message template and sending this to each new member. This is fine; however, what often happens is that community managers get bogged down with the other details and demands of managing their community, so this message (often drafted when the community was first developed) gets stale.

To keep your welcome message fresh, consider:

 1) Keep it short, keep it simple

Nothing will make your members hit delete on your welcome message quicker than a wall of text – especially if it even has a whiff of being outdated.

 2) Update quarterly, include key dates

Try updating your message quarterly, and even including a brief message about recent community successes or upcoming community events/plans for the current quarter. Members want to know how your community will be relevant to them now. Tell them.

3) Action items, less is more

When asking your new member to do something additional after joining, be considerate of their time. Focus on asking for only what is most important to you, and let them know why you’re asking them to take an additional step. If you want them to sign up for email alerts to your collaborative tools, tell them what benefit that will give them. If you’re asking them to take a survey to collect demographic information on your members, explain how you’ll use that information and what’s in it for them.

4) Personal follow-up

Especially if your welcome message is generated from a generic community mailbox (or worse yet, a no-reply email), consider sending each new member a quick, personal follow-up. Even if it is just a one sentence, “thanks for joining, look around and let me know if I can help” email, that makes a world of difference between your member being onboarded to your community vs. being welcomed to it.

Photo via Flickr

Collaborative circles

Chris Anderson (TED Curator) has a great article at Wired on Crowd Accelerated Innovation.  His focus is on the importance of video sharing on the internet, which is a great point, but I also really enjoyed his insights into communities and what makes them work (don’t miss the great graphic on collaborative circles as well).

A crowd is simply a community, any group of people with a shared interest. It can be narrow (unicycling, Greek archaeology) or broad (science, world peace), small (my village) or large (humanity). The community needs to contain at least a few people capable of innovation. But not everyone in the community need be. There are plenty of other necessary roles:

– The trend-spotter, who finds a promising innovation early.
– The evangelist, who passionately makes the case for idea X or person Y.
– The superspreader, who broadcasts innovations to a larger group.
– The skeptic, who keeps the conversation honest.
– General participants, who show up, comment honestly, and learn.
A couple of other great points:
Light. All members of the community need to be visible; each needs to be aware of what others, particularly the most talented members, are up to. If the community is the university alumni association, the fact that one member has the world’s most breathtaking idea matters not if it never makes it into the annual newsletter.
Desire. Active learning is hard work. And in most cases, what drives all that work, whether we will admit it or not, is the prospect of recognition for what we’ve done.
It’s a great article and includes a lot of other really important takeaways about communities.