Last week I had the good fortune to conduct a one-day seminar on Enterprise 2.0 for the Finance Industry in Zurich. I attended Somesso 09 as an instructor with Dion Hinchcliffe’s Web 2.0 University. Somesso is an Enterprise 2.0 / business social media firm based in Switzerland. They host information-packed conferences directed at specific verticals. Whereas this conference focused on finance, Somesso brought in a range of highly relevant trend setters and trusted names in the industry.
While I went armed with a well-stocked arsenal of slides describing every nuance of E20, my primary goal was to ensure attendees - a healthy mix of curious novices and experienced practitioners - left not only with a clear understanding of techniques and technologies, but also having had the opportunity to learn from the collected wisdom in the room.
The first half of the seminar focused on covering the nuts and bolts of E20 as quickly as possible. To be sure this is a challenge, given that E20 can be employed in nearly every aspect of a business to include business intelligence, customer support, production, advertising...the list goes on.
With the groundwork firmly established, the afternoon shifted towards conversation and workshopping. I was blessed to have people like Marilyn Pratt (SAP’s community evangelist), Anu Elmer (Swiss Re’s internal community manager) and David Terrar (CEO of Wordframe) in the group. Having them share their experience and expertise with the room meant that exploration could then be handled by means of a lively discussion – rather than by merely having just another question and answer exchange.
Through the course of the afternoon the conversation centered around two main issues: rewards and hosting communities.
Rewards: The group expressed interest in how to attract participation to internal or external E2 communities. Why would people participate? Why would they help manage?
We discussed how most communities are gameable systems, and the construction of the community (its rules, attributions, and rewards) would guide how people used the system. In most active communities "super-users" often appear, helping to manage the community and (as it often works out) provide much of the content. Business management software provider SAP refers to these individuals as "ambassadors." Superusers tend to share copious amounts of information, proving to be invaluable resources subsequently gaining prestige and expanding their network. The larger one's network, the more opportunities result.
Hosting Communities: During our discussions, the power of communities for business became clear. When other organizations recognized Swiss Re and SAP's success in hosting their own communities, they wanted to host them too. This led to a lengthy discussion about the financial and opportunity costs of hosting a community, the staff it would necessitate, and the finesse that becomes indispensable when managing an open community.
Most interesting was seeing the realization that an organization didn’t necessarily need to "own" the community to derive value from it. From a marketing standpoint, the company's natural inclination was to "own" the community, to make it an extension of its brand. However, as our discussion of community progressed, some came to the realization that they may actually be better served working with existing communities elsewhere rather than trying to host their own. Some communities were already active elsewhere, and some felt that their customers were more comfortable being in an environment not specifically focused on their money.
Somesso hosted a lovely event at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue. The location overlooking Lake Zurich and the Alps was perfect for eliciting contemplation and provoking thoughtful conversation. My thanks to Arjen Stryker and Judith Koch for bringing me in to work with such fantastic people.