It’s that time of year. Time to reflect about what has happened in the past year and where things are headed next.
It's an exciting time for TheCR team - as we end the year we are welcoming two new team members, soon to be three, one of whom is a VP of Sales. That takes us from 7 employees to 10 - a pretty big leap for a small organization. For many reasons, this signals that both TheCR and the community industry is growing up. I watched my five-year-old head off to elementary school this fall and it feels like we’re on the precipice of a similar milestone with TheCR.
At TheCR and more broadly, we are no longer figuring things out or incubating ideas. We know how to run communities effectively and the market is ready to get things done. Here are some of my observations about what we can expect.
The Community Landscape in 2016
We know from our research that 70% of community budgets are approved by VP- or C-level executives. The community opportunity is now strategic, rather than a tactical mechanism of execution. That visibility is awesome - but I also believe the window to act upon it is limited. Community program owners have to reward that strategic interest with new revenue, effectiveness or innovation. If community programs cannot demonstrate value in terms the business cares about, executive attention will wander.
The time to scale community programs is here and it’s a huge opportunity for those of us in the space.
However, as communities go mainstream and more dollars are allocated to community initiatives, more players get involved. There is chum in the water and sharks big and small want a piece of it. The community market is attracting a lot of different players with solutions and services to sell. That’s a good thing - many of these players have a lot to offer and organizations will need them to scale. However, many of them don’t really understand the space - and that is a risk.
This happens in every market - it’s not unique to the community industry - and it can be a treacherous time. The CRM market went through a bumpy growth path as organizations and the vendors that served them made mis-steps, fought for attention and figured out what worked. The better the choices organizations make the more the community market will thrive. If organizations fumble about without clear direction and thoughtful approaches, achieving some hits but a lot of misses, the community market will suffer.
How fast will the community market develop? That will depend on a few things. Whether:
CIOs and their teams develop a sophisticated understanding of what software, infrastructure and integrations are needed to really succeed. (Hint: having a social stream is not sufficient. If social does not integrate with other communication, collaboration, content management, analytics, CRM and HR systems it will limit its potential value). The value of community architects is growing as this sophistication grows - people who can design the ecosystem in ways that maximizes value and minimizes confusion for individuals as they navigate it.
- Business owners understand how to manage these networks and communities effectively. We believe networked leadership and community management is the future of all management - we are not alone. Far too few people in leadership and management positions understand how to adapt their approach to take advantage of these new environments.
- Leaders use top-down organizational change methodologies that don’t inspire and reward behavior change at the individual level. The Future of Work is self-directed and the only way to adapt an organization to that future is to change how individuals operate within it.
- Community budgets grow. Community teams need reinforcement in order to scale and meet the needs of their organizations. Depending on each community team’s skill set any of the following are open to external guidance: strategy, planning, vendor evaluation, systems deployment and integration, training (for executives, managers, community team members/specialists and employees), playbook development, analytics and reporting, community architecture/UX, community management and moderation, advocacy program development and executive coaching. Community teams are in a unique position to help the individuals - including executives - within their organization change and are key to changing how organizations operate.
At The Community Roundtable, we obviously have a self-interest in seeing the market succeed because we help our members and clients address some of these issues. However, I also have a personal passion in seeing this approach succeed.
By evolving our organizations to adaptive networks, individuals have a great degree of choice in how they work and with whom. Communities provide individuals with both support and challenges, in a way that enables their potential. This is my passion - to help individuals define work on their terms, in a way that fulfills them and makes them happy. A networked approach to organizations is the way to deliver on that potential.
Here’s to an exciting 2016!