Side benefits to event planning
by Ron Lichty
One of the great side benefits of planning a panel for an event like the July 27 Architecting Community and Collaboration Solutions presentation is the opportunity to meet great minds, and I've met a few already.
Ten days ago, I met Tim Lundeen by phone. We were introduced by Harry Chesley, whom I invited to speak this month at SDForum's Software Architecture and Modeling SIG. Tim, who did Microsoft Works for the Mac back when integrated sets of home and small business applications were the rage, these days knows his way around the organizations and people implementing community and collaboration solutions, certainly in the Bay Area. His company, Web Crossing, is a supplier of community and collaboration solutions.
It was Tim who told me that Microsoft now mandates its product managers have support boards up and running before releasing new products, as a result of a study they ran showing customers 2.2 times more satisfied with the company and the products than when they provided telephone support alone. He told me about Edmund's, the auto buying service, and the ROI they're seeing from their community efforts. And we talked about my experience with Apple, and his with Cisco.
Nancy Frishberg introduced me by email to social architect Amy Jo Kim, who authored Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities. AJ says she's been focused on mobile game development for the past few years, so is not actively implementing community solutions with corporations. But she pointed me to...
Lee LeFever in Seattle. I sure wish we were doing this event there, because it would be a great excuse to tap Lee's mind, both from my own curiosity and for our audience's benefit. Lee, in his last experience as an employee, at Solucient, a health care industry data warehousing provider, had found himself helping hospitals figure out how reduce costs in their emergency rooms by sharing solutions with each other. He first implemented a Yahoo! Group, and when that achieved almost immediate success, moved them into a bunch of forums via Web Crossing.
Lee had found his passion. He’s a connector. He likes to facilitate networking, and to bring people information they weren’t aware of. "I'm from North Carolina: it's in my nature," he notes. He was soon "online community manager". "I couldn’t get over how excited, confident, and passionate I was about all that stuff," he says. He learned all he could there, then went independent, focusing on Social Design for the Web, what he thinks of as a new consulting specialty that he and a few other people are even now creating. Like my own company, Avenue A | Razorfish, he's not a technology-focused consultant, instead believing the key to making his consulting successful is understanding what clients really need.
Lee says companies have "a huge opportunity in opening their doors wider. Using message boards as one of primary support mechanisms can cut support costs in half," he says. "And a lot of the risks companies worry about are not born out."
Lee spent a year consulting at Boeing in knowledge management, one of the internal forms of this community/collaboration stuff, implementing online functionality to reconnect executives who had previously come together for leadership meetings only to return to the isolation of their home offices. He's been working on ShareYourStory.Org for the March of Dimes. He's developed message boards and blog elements for Geffen Records' fan sites. He's started to work with Microsoft around using blogs for IT professionals who use their enterprise solutions.
And he sent me URLs to some wonderful thinking he'd done on his blog about subjects like the difference between message boards and weblogs, and how to combine those two elements with wikis for organization, browsing and archiving.