Social productivity is all about getting stuff done through visibility, influence and  engaging those people that you do not normally work with everyday. As work is introduced, stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and experiences can chime in to provide valuable insight and move the work efficiently along. These could be people you know within the company, people retained by your company, customers, or partners working outside of your company. Connecting people within your firewall has a host of challenges. Connecting people outside your firewall to those inside of it can be downright daunting. But, what if you could unlock the bottleneck and connect the external community activity in intelligent ways to the same activity inside of the enterprise? When I can reach out to engage with customers to make important product decisions I need relevant customer comments to find their way to me without me looking for them.  It would be great if "approved" thinking from the inside the company could be exposed to customers who might find it interesting or helpful.  When these things happen that's when I realize the benefits of social productivity.

 

The epiphany here is that traditional Communities (like forums) fall short because they are basically dependent on people in the enterprise getting onto the external community to participate. The sad reality is that in most companies' communities are "owned" by one person in one department--sometimes they even have a specified title like "Community Manager". In most companies that means one of two things: 1) There is a community manager trying to beg people in the company to get involved in the community, or 2) Enterprising employees who see the value have to get into the community just like a customer and then sift through everything to find out what is going on. It's a lot of overhead and a lot of work with only a little value if you're casually engaged.

 

With this on my mind I stumbled across a blog post that John Eckman of Open Parenthesis did about a month ago on Josh Bernoff's keynote from the Forrester Consumer Forum. John raises some interesting points about buzz & technology being short lived and the imperative to solve real problems, but the part that caught my eye were his objectives regarding

the Community aspect of the equation.

 

I "added some value" to (shamelessly modified) his thoughts by swapping some categories and adding some of my own. I saw the external community engagements relating to the internal functions like this:

 

 

The value proposition for connecting external community within the enterprise

John provided examples, which are:

Function

Engagement

Value Example

Marketing

Talking

Adidas drives 4 million impressions with their soccer page on MySpace and it cost them $100K.

Sales

Energizing

How eBags energized their sales with rating and reviews. Empowering customers and turning them into evangelists to recruit other customers and catalyze sales.

Support

Supporting

Dell has a user who has posted and helped 20,452 times since 1999. The only thing I think is cooler is connecting this straight into the official support org.

Services

Embracing

I thought his example here was better for "Satisfying". In my mind, Services plays a leadership role in enabling our customers to embrace the solution. They are solution leaders, and help fit square pegs into round holes.

Product Mgmt

Listening

Gives the example of Salesforce.com and the idea of working with customers to create and prioritize features/products. I use this example all the time in speaking with people.

Development

Satisfying

I think giving Development direct access to see what customers are talking about and the problems they are having is the best way to create a great product. Let's face it no one understands how the products really work better than development, and there are no better people to create something that truly satisfies customer's needs.

 

These categories aren't new or revolutionary, but I think they represent a the kind of framework we're using to connect Clearspaceand CSX. It starts painting a story of the whole company being integrated with its customers and partners, not just the "community manager". In the short term these connections may be light, but I can see it maturing into something really powerful that speaks to the true value of Social Productivity. Within each of these functions there are really 3 meaningful forms of interaction in the short term:

  • See content from the outside

  • Share content from the inside

  • Engage the right people in the community for feedback

 

If you believe like we do that when we succeed in connecting internal and external communities on a common information exchange platform then we can realize social productivity, then watch for the next two posts in this series:

  • Tactics for connecting outside communities with internal functions

  • Organizational strategies for growing communities that support your goals