Starting a Community

Companies have different approaches in who gets to start a community on their enterprise social network; some want to control who opens a community others want to put as few barriers as possible in the way of starting new communities. What’s your approach?

Let me know in the comments of any other options I haven’t thought of – or the background to the decision.


Your Enterprise Social Network: Who does what?

To fully embed an enterprise social network in a company you need certain roles fulfilled. I’ve described the roles seen as necessary by most companies which have implemented an ESN that I have spoken to. Whether these roles are full time, combined or combined with other work will depend on the size of your company and the purpose of your ESN and the individual communities.

What roles do you have designated in your company? (Scroll down for description of each role)

Ultimate responsibility for the Enterprise Social Network; sets strategy, secures budget, champions the use of an ESN with senior stakeholders.

Executive Sponsor
The executive either at board level or with strong access to the board room who can champion the development and use of an ESN, including the change processes it brings.

Platform Manager (technical releases)
Responsible for managing the development of new features, the launch of new releases, and solving technical issues with the IT department. This role sometimes sits in the IT department, but may also sit in communications.

Community Manager
Community managers are key to a successful ESN, they will not only manage the content and interaction within a community but will also align with a business purpose and seek to add value to the community. I have described the community manager role more fully in an earlier post.

Meta-Community Manager
This person takes a longer term, big picture, strategic view of the future of the enterprise social network. They will be integrating business strategy with the future of the ESN, championing its use with business, sharing best practices, supporting community managers, and collecting input for future developments.

User Support
Answering all the “how can I…?” questions that users come up with.

Technical Support
Finding solutions when stuff is broken.

Communications Manager
Communicating and promoting the enterprise social network, including awareness campaigns on launch, highlighting success stories in other communication channels and promoting its use.

Risk/ Compliance Officer
Responsible for working with community managers and the ESN owner to resolve any issues that may introduce risk to the company or represent a breach of company policy. This could be a technical aspect (eg; data storage) or a content issue (eg; an employee posts customer information).



This post is part of a chapter on risk from the book I am writing called “The ESN Playbook

Measuring your Enterprise Social Network

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 22.00.15 That’s not a gratuitous image of chocolate cake; that’s how you need to think about measuring your Enterprise Social Network.

There should be three layers in your measurement, and no single measurement tells you enough about the performance of the platform. You need to think beyond activity measurements to content value and business value.


Activity measurements are generally automated data collected from the enterprise social network, they may include;

  1. number of people signing up
  2. number of visits
  3. completed profiles
  4. posts/questions
  5. responses
  6. communities opened
  7. community activity

In general these measures are used to improve your enterprise social network; either the platform itself or your adoption programme. Here are a couple of examples;

If the signup rate to your brand new enterprise social network is really low; the most likely explanation is a lack of awareness that your enterprise social network exists. Remedial action might be adding information and links to the intranet home page, or using an off-line campaign.

Use the user activity measures to find early adopters who can act as ambassadors in their business or perhaps take on a community management rule. Look at the most flourishing communities to find patters to copy in other communities which have a similar purpose.

Activity measures are all good useful measures, but they’re not enough.

Perhaps your activity measure tell you that a community is wildy active, with new members every day and a lot of posts and comments. Great stuff you think. Then you look at the community, and find that it’s a community where colleagues can share photos of their pets. It’s not bad to have social communities on your enterprise social network, but you probably didn’t build it for kittens. This is where evaluating content value comes in.

Content Value

This can’t be automated, someone must look at conversations and communities and evaluate the value generated. They will look at whether the conversation involves finding expertise, answering questions, supporting a work process, generating new ideas or sharing knowledge. The more those behaviours are shown, the more value the community has.

Business Value

A further level of measurement is business value; to what extent to activities on the enterprise social network have an impact on your company’s bottom line. It could be cost savings, reduction in email, effective innovation or improvements in service. You can often quantify this improvement in euros, dollars or the currency of your choice.

For example one company used communities on their Enterprise Social Network as service channels, they managed to reduce the average time taken to answer internal service enquiries from 8 days to a few hours, the impact on customers was that their applications were approved (or at least decided on) faster. That’s got to be good for business.

Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that I haven’t mentioned ROI (Return on investment), some people believe that as we don’t ask for ROI on other work tools such as email we shouldn’t ask for it on this. I see their point. Others point to how difficult it is to calculate ROI for a platform, for me that’s the real issue. The benefits of an Enterprise social networks tend to be a lot of small wins in the initial phases (except in one case I’ve seen which had a strong intergration with the company’s CRM systems). So you’d need to calculate and then add together all those small wins, it becomes a rather vexatious exercise. I found that talking about supporting business processes in an Enterprise Social Network and providing examples and data demonstrating business value was strongly persuasive, possibly more effective than an assumption-ridden ROI calculation.

Image; Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake / Kimberley Vardeman / CC BY 2.0

This post is part of a chapter on risk from the book I am writing called “The ESN Playbook

Risks? What Risks?

When you work on a project to implement an Enterprise Social network you end up having discussions about all sorts of risks you hadn’t necessarily thought about on day one. I wrote about some of the discussions I’ve had in an earlier post “Risk and an ESN“. Now I’m working on a sort of checklist of things to think about when making your intranet social. The list in the poll below is what I’ve come up with so far – which ones have you had to find solutions for? anything you’d add?

Working Out Loud

WorkOutLoudCompanies, particularly large companies, are organised into departments, and departments are organised into teams. It would be a rare project where you did not need the expertise of someone outside your own team. Yet silos within companies persist. Collaboration tools are starting to break them down, but we need more than that, we need to change our working behaviour. Rather than working to a defined goal and sharing the output, we should share the work in progress and the process; we should work out loud.

Bryce Williams coined the term and defines two behaviours that combine to form “working out loud”

Working Out Loud   =   Observable Work   +   Narrating Your Work

Or to paraphrase; “show and tell”.

Promoters of the concept give a long list of benefits;

Wow, with all of that good stuff why aren’t we all working out loud? Because it’s hard. It goes against everything our education and training have taught us.

All through school we’re told to show our own work, to prove what we know, and the pressure to do this grows as we face the exams of high school and then, if we’re lucky, the pressured halls of a university with still more exams, dissertations and theses. Even courses that promise group work still reward individuals on outcome, rather than process; meaning that teams form along ability lines pretty quickly – free-loaders and stragglers are left to rot. School is predicated on individual achievement.

Work isn’t.

At work we rely on the co-operation and collaboration of others, we draw on the expertise of others and after a project is completed it can be hard to discern who was responsible for each detail. Most often it doesn’t matter who did what, in a good team the pride is shared.

The idea of working out loud fits our new reality of work, plus we have the tools to share our work, and collect feedback/input in an easy way. But the change in behaviour is still a challenge, both as individuals and as a company change.

Bryce Williams suggests some ways to think about use cases for working out loud. While I do think that systematic efforts to change people’s behaviour are needed the biggest way to stimulate this change is to model the behaviour you want to see in the company.

The behaviours I try to demonstrate to build up my own habits of working out loud are;

  • sharing updates on the ESN Playbook I’m writing as often as possible, and these are becoming more content related
  • drawing on the work of others and providing commentary (as in this post)
  • sharing work of others – and giving them credit
  • asking for input or feedback

There are more ideas for working out loud (as well as what not to do) in this great article from HBR. What will you do to build your working out loud habit?

Image; noisy/ muhdfaiz / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Social Now; The Business of Adoption

I spoke at the Social Now conference in Amsterdam this morning, sharing some of the preliminary results from my research into implementing Enterprise Social Networks, and some tips on getting past the challenges. Here’s the presentation.

The biggest challenges so far seem to be around getting executive commitment, management buy in, and legal/risk issues. Do you agree? Add your input to the ESN survey.

Risk and an ESN

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 13.51.45There are some genuine risk issues to consider when you set up an Enterprise Social Network, they fall into roughly four categories;

  • technology (if this is a business tool, what is availability required?)
  • legal
  • data
  • user behaviour

In the first phase of implementing our ESN we spent a lot of time discussing these, particularly the last one. I felt that too often we build something starting from a risk perspective – focusing on all the things that can go wrong. I really want us to start from a principle of trust, after all we wanted our people to trust each other in their online collaboration.

I kept these three principles in mind in all the discussions with the risk and legal professionals;

  • We trust our employees – most employees do the right thing, few make mistakes, and only a tiny tiny minority deliberately go against policy
  • We will demonstrate that trust
  • We will address real risk or legal issues

There were several “fear-based proposals” that came up for discussion during the implementation. I recall one proposal that someone should review all the images used by people in their profiles. My heart sank. I made a counter offer – as it was non-standard functionality it would need to be built and would cost x euro, I asked them to let me know when they had budget available. I never heard back. In the two years since launch thousands of people have chosen an image for their profile, most often an image of themselves. None have been problematic in any way.

In the end we went with the simplest terms and conditions we could when we introduced a collaboration platform at ING. We had really simple terms, in daily language and framed in the positive; “be nice”, for example, rather than “do not”.

For the most part people were “nice”, they posted mostly work-related content, were generous with their comments and mindful of the tone they were using. Even more remarkable, on the rare occasions when someone wasn’t “nice”, it was the community who addressed it directly and on screen. In at least one case the response reminded the poster that our business values include “respect”.

A reporting mechanism was also a requirement for us – so all users can report a post that they think is an issue – in 2 years, with over 50,000 users and over 25,000 posts we had just two posts reported, neither of which had lead to any real negative impact.

We’re not alone in this finding – other companies report similar outcomes.

It turns out that when people are posting under their own name, and where their colleagues and boss can see it, they post responsibly. You can trust them.

Image: Risk Factory / CC BY 2.0

This post is part of a chapter on risk from the book I am writing called “The ESN Playbook”

ESN Playbook 5; Structure.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 3.30.08 PMI’ve been working on chapter outlines for the ESN Playbook, there’s so much to say about this topic but I’ve developed a simple structure that is helping me stay on track, and not stray (too far) into those nice to have topics that can be so distracting – I want this to be useful.

So here’s a mindmap of the structure I’m working on, you can see the topic breakdown that I’m starting with. I’m trying to think of each endpoint of the mindmap as “three blog posts worth” just to keep me sane.

ESN Playbook MindMapThe ESN Playbook Survey is still live – I’d love to have your input.  You can reach it here, it’s about 20 questions and will probably take 20 – 25 minutes to answer.

You can read more in a previous ESN Playbook update for more detail. Once I’m happy with the chapter drafts I will publish them for input and comment, based on current progress that will be about mid-March.

If you’d like to be part of the research, suggest a resource or offer feedback you can contact me;

Lessons from Implementing an Enterprise Social Network

I went to Copenhagen to attend the IntraTeam event last week and talk about what we’d learnt implementing an enterprise social network at ING – that ESN was called Buzz. Here’s the presentation I gave – with some added speaker notes.

Implementing an Enterprise Social Network?

About 40-50% of companies have implemented an Enterprise Social Network. Are you one of them? If so please help me understand how you’re implementing it, what have been your challenges, what have been the successes.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 10.24.20

The survey will take about 15 minutes and if you have have any further questions please contact me on twitter (@changememe) or email (changememe AT outlook DOT com)