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Editor's note: In this Q & A, the first of a two-part series, ebizQ's Peter Schooff interviews analyst Rob Koplowitz about enterprise collaboration. In this excerpt from a longer podcast, the two discuss how to create online business communities that work. In Part II, they cover collaboration-related governance issues. Koplowitz, a vice president and principal analyst for Forrester Research, was among the keynote speakers at Forrester's 2011 Content & Collaboration and Business Process Forums in Boston.

PS: What types of communities are likely to add the most value?

RK: The communities that we're talking about here are internal communities. They're within the enterprise, or with trusted partners. The communities that are likely to be the most valuable are those that actually define business value.

[For instance,] in working with our clients, when we find stated business objectives related to a community, we're trying to sell more product. We're trying to increase the quality of our customer service. We're trying to drive better and more effective processes. As we define those processes very well and we define the business value very well, we find that those communities are not only valuable, but it becomes possible to measure the value.

PS: How do you recommend getting started with an online community?

RK: There are three major components.

-- No. 1: You really need to make sure that you have executive support. When you drive a social community, when you drive an internal social initiative, there is every possibility that things could change dramatically, that you might see the potential for transformational change. If you don't have support behind that, if you don't have executives that are ready for that, and these initiatives have no place to go, they just go off and die. The community will very quickly dry up.

-- No. 2: We talked in the first part about defining business value. There are people in your organization who have the best understanding of that value. If you think social [networking] can help you drive more business, you should have the right people in line from the sales organization who can actually determine the metrics, the value, [who can answer questions such as] "Are we actually winning more business? Are we able to respond to requests from customers more quickly, more effectively?"


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