Your Community Strategy: "Checkin’ the Box" or Business Transformation?

July 1, 2007 at 7:06 pm 2 comments



First steps first, how am I defining Business transformation?  Wikipedia defines business transformation as:

“an executive management initiative that attempts to align People, Process and Technology initiatives  with the company’s business strategy and vision to support and help innovate new business strategies.”

This definition works reasonably well for me, though I would add that the impact of business transformations are typically measured in cost savings, revenue growth and/or customer satisfaction (ie business results…not just completed activities or initiatives). 

So, the question at hand was…”Checkin’ the box?”      þ …or business transformation?

þ Blog Policy

þ Discussion Forums

þ Product feedback/suggestion system

þ RSS feeds

o Brand monitoring

o Influencer program

o Viral marketing campaign (as if it is that easy…)

o Product Wiki and/or podcasting

Well, I think the answer in most cases is “checkin’ the box.”  In fairness, it’s a reasonable and even responsible place to start as community can manifest itself in very different ways across industries and between companies – starting small just makes good sense and can be helpful in determining next steps (and I’m not claiming any higher starting point as part of the work we’ve done).  Hot topics at conferences are around ROI and organization alignment (where should the community team sit) – both indicators that the pressure is mounting to defend the business value of web 2.0.  As you probe for the business case, you are still likely to find yourself in a conversation about the technologies rather than top level business challenges.  There is a sense of “me too,” and even an obligation to do “something” to be a part of the buzz around transparency.  As you look at web 2.0 projects in organizations, they are still largely in pilot form and or sit within their own silos.  Depending on the size of the organization, you may have multiple projects underway with limited to no relationship between them.  In fact, it is interesting (at least to me) that when you attend conferences in this space, it is not immediately obvious the functional responsibilities of everyone else in the room…you are as likely to have someone from a product development role as a marketing role as a support role in the same sessions. 

Here’s a simple test for checking the box: 

  • Could you pick up your web 2.0 project/initiative and re-plant it in another group/division in your company (with the same resources) and continue along largely unaffected? (Hint, a yes answer to this is not good.) 
  • Is Finance attending the meeting or did your project get funded without a finance scrub? (Hint, no finance presence feels good, but isn’t in the long run.)
  • Is the funding for this incremental or a mix shift from other priorities? (more on this in moment)
  • Is success measured in project status or scorecard metrics?

It’s not that any of these things are inherently bad, but adding community/interactivity to your online properties isn’t the goal.  Odds are, you are not in the community business.  Now’s a good time for a refresher on that previous post regarding community ROI and its division into the following 3 categories:  Support, Sales & Marketing, and Product & program development. 

Odds are, you are not investing in web 2.0 to do something your company doesn’t do already.  You do market research, you do marketing/PR, you do recruiting, you respond to support and how to questions, you do customer service, you gather feedback, you develop content, etc.  I assume your web 2.0 projects are designed to do one of these things – aren’t they?  These are all functions in support of either growing revenue, lowering costs and/or increasing customer satisfaction. This takes us back to the question of whether the funding for this is incremental or mix shift?  It’s a critical question (I think).  It’s likely you have to sink some cost up front to get this up and running, but the question should be:  When will this project result in reducing spend in other areas designed to deliver against the same objectives.     

So, now that we are all checking the box, how are we articulating and integrating our Web 2.0 projects as part of core business functions designed to “align people, process and technology with business strategy to drive innovation resulting in lower operating costs, increased revenue opportunity, improved customer satisfaction or all three?”

For me, this started with re-positioning what business I’m in.  As a repeat from that earlier ROI post, it was a recognition that I’m not in the community business, I’m in the answers (online) and product feedback business – web 2.0 provides new, high value venues in which to deliver these fundamental business results, but web 2.0 isn’t a goal in and of itself.


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