Some helpful tips to get you started on the right foot.
The deployment of any successful online community solution requires a lot of thought, planning and due diligence. I think it goes without saying that any community deployment must also adhere to existing corporate governance policies and practices and rolled out in a formalized, controlled and secure manner. This may require changes in existing business models, behaviours and even corporate culture.
Here are some helpful tips to help you get started. Note, these are not meant to be an exhaustive list.
- Pilot Project-start with a small project or team and then grow from there. Make sure that you identify a known business problem with a high probability for success to show quick time-to-value and learn for your experiences.
- Bottom Up-empower your employees and make them part of the decision making process - as your employees will ultimately be the key contributors to your community and business social networks.
- Measurement-identify key measures of success including risks right from the start.
- Outreach-create and implement outreach and awareness campaigns to stimulate usage and excitement. This should include both internal and external campaigns whenever possible. Promote your community on social sites like Facebook, Digg and/or Linked-In. Don't forget to find your champions to act as evangelists and think about possible incentive programs for your community members.
- Branding-make sure your community is highlighting and promoting your organizational brand. This is a mistake many community owners make - not branding thier communities.
- Community Platform-determine your business needs and budget before making a technology or software decision. Ask yourself - Do you need a point solution such as a wiki or blog or a fully integrated community suite? Is this a departmental solution or enterprise wide? Internal or external facing?
- Security-what are your security needs? Determine the levels of security that are required from the outset including data storage, transmission, accessibility, auditing and extensibility. As a general rule, the more security required will most likely increase the cost of the solution and may affect deployment times and overall performance.
- Extensibility-are you looking for a stand a lone solution or a community that will be integrated with other 3rd party applications? What level of integration is required - simple mashups or full API integration? What applicaitons do need to integrate with - desktop applications, email, enterprise applicaitons, LDAP and/or mobile devices? Are there any data migrations required?
- Administration-who has control over the configuration, administration and ensure that controls for configuration, measurement and monitoring of information and collaboration.
- On Demand-are you planning on an on-premise or "in the cloud" solution (on-demand or SaaS)? To help you make the decision, think about - Do you have the appropriate resources (staffing, expertise, software, hardware, support etc.) in-house to deploy and support the on-premise solution? Where is the SaaS solution hosted - is it in a SAS70 compliant data centre? Is it reliable i.e. 99.5% uptime?
- Generational Gap-identify, recognize and plan for the differences between how different generations utilize and consume information within your workforce. What is the generation mix in your organization? What are the tools they use on a daily basis?
- Management- are your managers enablers or gatekeepers? Are they champions? Are they willing to give up some control?
- Change Management-changing behavior is difficult; plan on finding champions to promote the network; implement incentive programs; code of conduct and best practices.
- Feedback Loops-create easy to use feedback tools in your network such as polls, blogs and rating that can provide critical insight into future investments and deployments.