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EMC's Susan Zellmann-Rohrer on Building the Business Case for Communities

Posted by Bill Lee on October 15, 2008 at 03:58 PM

Notes from our afternoon session at the Communities Exchange Summit. Susan started with a simple framework. Communities must be "Purposed, Engineered, Mined"


Susan is a deep thinker, and cites some heavy hitters for her foundational arguments.

-- You need to address a critical  question: if you let community customers participate in the innovation process,  will it result in profitable products? (Eric Hipple, Democratizing Innovation - provides useful guidance in addressing this. His book is free and downloadable.)

-- If the network is the computer,  the supercomputer is the community. (check out IIC on Harvard,edu. When increasingly siloed scientists get exposed to ideas/ methodologies in other disciplines -- amazing things can happen)

-- Size matters: you need to address whether the community will be large or small, open or private (gated). Each has its place and purpose. 

Questions to ask,  and answer when building the business case:

- What specific business initiatives will this community support?

- What business decisions will this community inform? 

- What hypotheses can this community can test?

- With what business processes will this community be aligned?


Consult with your customers. Use surveys. Find out what they  want to know about, discuss, learn. Who do they want to engage with? What vendors do you use.


Decide on the reports you want to provide to stakeholders. Figure out ways to "pulse" - that is, provide short informative updates,  using perhaps a weekly summary, a few key quotes,  RSS or email. Be creative

Provide a quarterly  review that provides summaries of key activities.

Be an "insight broker." Be a bit of a concierge to executives into the minds  of executives - such  as when  one is planning  a speech to customers. Offer to go to the community to find out what they  want to hear about. 

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