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This guest post by Tammy Young Heck of EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young) explains the six dimensions the company uses to measure the success of online employee communities.

Guest author: Tammy Young Heck, EY

Tammy L. Young Heck, Ph.D. (@ymmat) is the Lead, Social Enterprise Adoption, Innovation, & Research for Global Markets, EY Knowledge.

Tammy Young Heck - EYActively involved in online communities and social media for over a decade, Tammy Young Heck is helping craft EY’s social collaboration experience through her work leading enterprise social adoption, innovation and research. Her experience with the social web and background in clinical psychology provide a unique perspective on the complexities and potential of the digital workplace, as well as the social change management necessary for organizations to evolve and adapt to working out loud.

The challenge of measuring collaboration…

…the story behind EY’s global enterprise social network launch and how it overcame daunting measurement challenges

A year ago, EY launched a new global social collaboration platform. With 200,000 employees in member firms in over 150 countries around the world, connecting EY people and supporting just-in-time collaboration is key to enabling globally dispersed, high-performing teams.

As part of a much larger roll-out and implementation plan, we invested in extensive training for community managers and coaching for key leaders, as well as establishing a network of approximately 70 global verified groups. These groups would be actively managed, sponsored by leadership and provide the type of interaction and rich sharing found in vibrant online communities.

We wanted to keep a pulse on the status of our global network and provide regular performance reporting to our stakeholders to demonstrate and quantify the business value of community and collaboration. The trouble was nothing existed to meet the need.

Communities are notoriously tough to measure. It isn’t an issue of finding data points; it’s making sense of the vast universe of data that is the real challenge. You need to highlight the most impactful information, while not overwhelming the recipient with too many data points.

How do you help leaders and community managers visualize growth and maturity? How can you emphasize quality over quantity? How can you capture those social collaboration behaviors that drive value and cultural change across your organization? These questions are difficult to answer but essential to showcase business value to the organization.

We knew that not all of our communities were created equal, so we focused on those key differences. The Community Roundtable Maturity Model served as valuable inspiration and helped point us in the right direction. We identified six dimensions that varied broadly between purpose-driven, thriving communities and the others that fell elsewhere on the community spectrum. The six dimensions were:

  1. Clarity of purpose

    Does the group serve and express a clearly defined and unique purpose? We found that successful groups included three specific items when presenting their communities through their description of the group, supporting resources, imagery and other means.

    • Definition: What is it? What purpose does it serve? Who is the intended audience?
    • Value proposition: Why does this group matter to you and to the organization?
    • Call-to-action and accountability: What are you expected to do in the group?

    For these groups, the community managers paid attention to the “store front” of their community; potential members understood the context and the potential benefits. The barrier to entry was much lower and engagement was much higher.

  2. Leadership engagement

    Are there identified leaders “sponsoring” the group? Are they visibly involved and modeling desired behaviors? An engaged leader can transform a community. Their participation is a direct statement about the value of membership. If the leader prioritizes participation, the members will too. We ask communities to visibly list associated leaders and we share the leader’s activity as part of our reporting for each community.

  3. Community management

    Are there trained, visible community managers maintaining the community and modeling appropriate, expected behavior? Are questions by group members promptly answered or redirected? Community managers are the duct tape for their groups; they hold the communities together even when leaders may be skeptical or hesitant.

  4. Diversity of participation

    How broad is member involvement? Thriving communities may start with just a few people but they won’t survive that way for long. Communities need an engaged membership. If groups are outperforming the Internet 1% rule, they’re headed in the right direction – 1% contribute; 9% respond; and 90% watch from the sidelines. For a collaborative, innovative economy to work, you need to tap more fully into the diversity and breadth of your members.

  5. Quality of conversation

    Is the group interacting or merely an echo chamber? Posts from a wide range of members are meaningless if no one responds. Interaction is what drives community value, such as near-instant feedback for leaders; expertise discovery; innovation; collaboration; resource and knowledge sharing, etc.

  6. Business value

    Is the group generating tangible value as a result of member interaction? Business value differs from community to community. The most basic question to ask is: “Are people getting answers to their questions and finding the resources, information and people they need?”

    A brief response to an inquiry may save days or even weeks of effort and research. Never underestimate the value of simply answering a question. Secondarily, we ask communities to define value themselves. When a community member finds value in a discussion, we ask them to tag the conversation as a “#win.” Our team follows up on each “win” to find potentially high-impact successes where communities have been instrumental in driving revenue or cost savings for EY. With over 3,000 success stories in the last year, we’ve seen more than $5 million USD in revenue generated from tracked discussions.

Scorecards delivered to global communities

Using these six dimensions, we developed a scorecard that helps groups (and stakeholders) understand the differences between communities that are successful and those that may be struggling. On a regular basis, communities receive the scorecard highlighting related data points in an easy-to-understand context, tracking the group’s overall maturity and highlighting opportunities for growth.

The dimensions and scorecards help make sense of the community landscape; they provide our team with useful information about how groups are doing and help us prioritize targeted intervention when communities are in need. The dimensions also give us a common language as we discuss aspects of communities and coach our people on how to make the most of social collaboration in their day-to-day work.

Each data point and every success story provides opportunities for us to learn and adapt, as well as to educate our users and stakeholders on building a more social and responsive organization. As we increase our understanding of how EY people benefit from community collaboration, we’re able to more easily translate the “What’s in it for me?” message for our people.

More on the topic, including a webinar video

EY is a member of the DWG Member Forum. Tammy and colleagues presented on the above topic on Digital Workplace Live during the September, 2014 episode.

A video of the webinar is available to Subscribers of Digital Workplace Live and to full DWG member companies. Learn more about DWG membership.


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