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Next-generation communities—Part 2 Getting value from the latest community tools and features

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Activity feeds

Social tools amplify the pace of updates in communities and, without some means of cohesion, it’s easy to get lost in the flow of incoming information. Many organizations use activity feeds to aggregate community content and improve the user experience. Employees can personalize their feeds so that they filter only the updates and conversations that are most relevant to them.

For example, at professional services firm Accenture, community feeds are enabled by an internally built “Stream” platform that provides microblogging and Q&A features. Employees use their personalized streams to funnel content and conversations from every community they follow in real time. The feeds provide an efficient access point for all community updates including newly published documents, multimedia content and blog posts.

A financial services organization that participated in the study anonymously also uses activity feeds to facilitate community access and interaction. In addition to member questions and comments, the feeds include alerts regarding community activities such as upcoming events and new content. Community members can go to their individual communities to see community-specific feeds. They can also access a custom newsfeed via the intranet that aggregates recent activity from all their communities as well as topics and updates that may be relevant to them. According to the organization’s KM team, the activity feeds are ideal for fast-moving, informal dialogue and exchanges.

Creating content collaboratively

Tools for co-authoring content promote collaboration and help communities work faster. Wikis are a popular co-authoring tool used by several organizations in APQC’s research. For example, agrochemical company Syngenta uses a wiki as a central repository for community knowledge assets. All wiki submissions are peer-reviewed within the organization’s communities to validate the content. Community leaders reach out to members to ensure that valuable lessons and stories are submitted as assets. Syngenta’s wiki includes a case study repository that is member-populated, searchable and editable by all users. Community members share wiki content via blogs.

Energy management company Schneider Electric also uses a wiki for collaboration and knowledge sharing. The KM team founded the wiki to provide a go-to resource for accurate definitions of business terms and acronyms. Before the organization had a wiki, definitions were scattered across unconnected glossaries and employees might find several different definitions for the same term. Now, community leaders work with subject matter experts to provide one accurate definition for each term and update as needed using the wiki platform. Schneider Electric’s wiki is fully integrated with its communities. Community homepages link to the wiki. The KM team also uses the wiki platform to review and approve charters for new communities as well as the annual objectives for existing communities. Because those charters and objectives are stored in the wiki, they can be easily accessed and updated by communities.

But wikis aren’t the only game in town when it comes to co-authoring content. Cloud-based platforms like Zoho Docs, Google Docs, and Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint Online make it easy for community members to collaborate on documents from any device—and they usually integrate well with social tools. KM teams may need to work with IT partners to establish permissions and workflows to ensure that the systems are effective for community members. Organizations also should establish clear guidelines to ensure that sensitive information is not inadvertently exposed.

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