Collaboration and social tools have been widely deployed across organisations, but results have been patchy at best. Many organisations end up with pockets of significant use, but not the widespread adoption that was hoped for.
This is not the result of poor technology or a lack of business demand. Instead, it reflects the reality that significant support and change management is required to obtain collaboration success.
One ingredient in all successful approaches is the formalising of community manager roles within the business. A small number of individuals can make a big difference in overcoming challenges and magnifying benefits.
This article explores the practical role of community managers, and where they fit within organisations.
What do community managers do?
Community managers play a variety of roles, both formal and informal. These include:
- Supporting community leaders and participants, helping them make the most of the collaboration tools.
- Facilitating discussions within groups, modelling good behaviour and guiding interactions.
- Training and educating new participants in using collaboration tools effectively.
- Connecting people with relevant groups, and making connections across groups.
- Promoting the value of collaboration, and sharing the successes and benefits that have already surfaced.
- Supporting the overall governance of collaboration spaces, including writing guidelines and participating in future planning.
This is nicely summarised in an infographic created by ANZ Bank as part of their textbook approach to ESN adoption and change management:
Establishing community managers
While some natural leaders will emerge in collaboration spaces, this shouldn’t be left to chance. Organisations should instead take an ordered approach to establishing community managers at an early stage, and then allow the roles to evolve over time.
Steps required include:
- Establish well-defined governance for collaboration and social tools right from the outset, and include community management in that.
- Identify how many community managers will initially be needed, and where they would sit within the organisation.
- Formalise the role of community managers, by describing their purpose, responsibilities and ongoing activities.
- Provide robust training for community managers, via a mix of online resources and face-to-face support.
- Create a community for community managers, offering a space for peer support and problem-solving.
- Include community managers in future planning and decision-making about collaboration and social tools.
But how many do we need?
The need for (and value of) community managers will scale according to the intensity of collaboration within the organisation.
For small organisations, or situations where collaboration is restricted to a few business areas, a single part-time community manager may be all that’s required. This work could, for example, be included as part of an internal communicator’s job role.
As collaboration grows further, additional community managers will be needed. These will typically sit within local business areas, responsible for facilitating interactions within their area of the organisation. Again, this work would typically be included in (or added to) existing job roles.
When collaboration becomes strategically important, community management must be fully formalised. This should include at least one full-time community manager, plus a network of more informal community managers within business areas.
If collaboration is core business for an organisation, then multiple community managers may need to be put in place. This is often aligned with a knowledge management strategy that positions collaboration as a core element.
Start with a little help
The need for community management should not be seen as a barrier that prevents the deployment of collaboration and social tools. Instead, start with just a few informal community managers who are given the support and skills to succeed.
As the benefits of collaboration become apparent, strengthen the role (and number) of community managers. This will accelerate the growth of collaboration within the organisation, as well as further multiplying the impact. Then onwards and upwards!