>From Steve Ingram, in England, some notes on the complexities of
Why I posted this: Remember bulletin boards and sysops? Remember the
difference between that semi-civilized world, and the chaos of Alt
Usenet groups? I see an increasing tendency to think that software can
do it all. It ain't so. Communities still need people adept at directing
development, people, and information flow. And those people may not be
able to do their work if the software is finished and frozen too early.
"Anyway for what it's worth I’ve dreamed up these guidelines for the B2B
sector in general.
· Communities are about people and their participation. Involve
customer members in the development process.
· Take time to ensure the recruitment process identifies and selects
the right people. Be specific on what is required and be confident that
the people recruited can deliver. The problems that delay cause at
launch will be far outweighed by incorrect recruitment in the long term.
· Work on a partnering style approach, not contractual. Don’t rely on
specifications for these restrict flexibility and openness. In a true
partnership all parties share the responsibility.
Customer Focus & Participation Issues
· Research the intended market carefully. Specifically look at the
cultural aspects of the intended target audience. Be confident that
there is a need and desire to want to participate in the venture that is
· Ensure there is a compelling reason why members should spend time and
effort on line within the community. The specific value added
proposition and purpose should be clearly defined on the site and the
specific benefits should be actively promoted to encourage trial,
participation and usage.
· Community building should be viewed as a cost to the business and
part of a long-term strategic plan to form beneficial online
relationships with customers. Sufficient finance needs to be available
to support the infrastructure of the community and maintain the momentum
toward gaining a critical mass of members. Adequate provision needs to
be made for promotional activity. Lack of awareness in the early stages,
post launch, will leave the site with limited activity resulting in a
negative spiral of reducing participation as members become
disillusioned with the overall perception of the community.
· Commercial activity is generally accepted within the B2B environment
and will probably be required to ensure the site is sustainable. However
members will demand competitor choice and the sales area will need to be
unbiased and open in this respect. Failure to comply will result in a
loss of trust and members. Companies will therefore need to consider
carefully whether they are able to support such a venture.
Back Office & Administrative Processes
· Launch the site with the minimum functionality and processes that you
can get away with. Prioritise a phased development schedule that evolves
and benefits from the feedback of members; ensure that the development
team remain totally flexible until the true business requirement is
· Identify and define the specific measurement objectives and purpose
of the site; not only from the community perspective but also the
financial sponsors, ensure you have the sponsors agreement and support.
Agree the ‘key performance indicators’ at an early stage, and install
technological and subjective measures that can clearly demonstrate
· Install as much technology as possible to automate the measurement
process, but ensure that the maximum functionality is utilised from the
software, this will require ‘IT’ programming and input from the
Technology Requirements & Issues
· Plan to develop the project in a series of phased manageable sections
of work, agree the time period and prioritise the workload accordingly.
Launch with the minimum that you can get away with to enable customer
feedback prior to the start of phase two developments.
· Allow sufficient time for thorough testing and re-programming, if in
doubt do not allow ‘deadlines’ to adversely influence reasoned
judgement, failure to perform and breeches of security are far more
· Clearly define the data management strategy and objectives at the
start of the project. Expected outputs need to be made clear so as to
enable and facilitate the design of the programming in order to deliver
the required information post launch.
· Build a web-enabled database, taking snapshots to analyse and report
upon. This will simplify the datacapture process and reduce the resource
requirement as members update their own details. This transparency of
information ensures that members are not anonymous, anonymity works
against the spirit of community.
· Determine whether it is critical to be found in the search engines;
if it is, ensure that the site is designed to be attractive to the
search engines, and that the key search information can be regularly
updated by the organiser’s team.
· Resist the temptation to provide common functionality based on what
is available elsewhere; it will be difficult to fill or provide enough
content to give the impression of an active community. A community built
upon a valid proposition will become self-generating; by focusing on the
specific needs of the community it will naturally highlight the
functionality that is required as it grows.
· Ensure that adequate provision is made during the planning process
for the inclusion of some form of two way communication platform for
members, but do not launch a visual on-line service until you are
confident that it will be utilised. Focus initially on the content that
draws members to ensure a sufficient number exist and want to be active
before attempting to get them to communicate with each other."
Nicholas Carroll Email: email@example.com Alternate: firstname.lastname@example.org ______________________________________________________
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