How to increase collaboration through a community
Carol Sumner,IBM Senior Accelerated Value Leader
Recently I was asked to determine how one of the communities I help manage is doing, as far as user participation. In order to find out, I registered the community in IBM Connections Community Insights and began exploring the data. I was rather stunned at what I found.
This community was started in March of 2011 by a team within the IBM Software Group. I have to admit that at that time I was barely aware of its existence. However, in January of 2012, the organization decided to put a greater emphasis on collaboration and asked me to take the lead on helping to make that happen. A group of us undertook not only providing some basic education in the use of the tools, but also actively managing the community. The graph below shows unique contributors by quarter from 2011 to 2013.
The first graph below breaks out the statistics for forum entries in the community. I expected this to be a strong point for people in this community. We were used to using a Notes discussion database, and forums are quite similar to that. In spite of that, forum usage was pretty weak throughout 2011 (27 unique contributors). You can see below however, that in 2012, there were 90 unique contributors and we are well on our way to surpassing that number in 2013. What is really significant is that there are approximately 400 members of this community so we expect participation in the forums to approach or exceed 25% participation.
Even more encouraging however, is the blog usage, because this is really a new kind of collaboration for this group. The graph below shows an even more dramatic rise in participation. By the end of 2011 there were zero (yes that's right – zero) blog contributors. In 2012 we had 71 contributors and already in 2013 we have 98 unique contributors!
This kind of growth doesn't just happen. The big growth spurt coincides with the establishment of a community management effort. Here's a list of the things we did to encourage participation.
We started using the community as the hub for all organization meetings (tech talks, training, all hands calls).
We established a very popular forum called “Share One Thing.” This forum is a place for people to add one little tip they have to make work easier. It could be as simple as a link to resources, or a way configure software. Everyone has one or two small things they've discovered that makes their job easier. Sharing that helps everyone else and it establishes the idea that everyone has something they can share with their peers.
When forum entries or blogs were added the community management team either commented on them or encouraged a specific person (with the appropriate expertise) to go out and do so.
Managers in the organization began commenting on and adding to these areas of the community. This encouraged members of their teams to do likewise.
At the beginning of our weekly tech calls we have a “Welcome” slide that advertises new content in the community. While we are waiting for everyone to join the call and get into the web meeting we talk about some of the new content.
We send out a newsletter periodically that highlights the new content.
This community is still evolving. We, as an organization are still learning how to work more collaboratively. The key to the growth of this community is having a small team conscientiously make it the central hub for communications and casual sharing and combine that with a small amount of “advertising” for the content in the community.
**IBM Connections Community Insights is a tool developed by IBM research and is now available through IBM Software Services for Collaboration. Click here for more information.
Carol Sumner is an Accelerated Value Leader with IBM Collaboration Solutions who specializes in collaboration systems implementation and administration. Carol has recently added the role of social business champion within IBM, helping teams make the most of social media. What she enjoys most about her days is helping people solve problems (and playing golf). You can contact Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sumnercl1.
Carol is an IBM Redbooks thought leader