1 AALTO UNIVERSITY School of Science and Technology Faculty of Information and Natural Sciences Degree Programme of Computer Science and Engineering Noora Korppi-Tommola Establishing a basis for a company online community: A case study Masters Thesis Espoo, August 6 th, 2010 Supervisor: Professor Petri Vuorimaa Instructor: Päivi Puntila M.Sc. (Econ.), M.A.
2 Aalto University School of Science and Technology Faculty of Information and Natural Sciences Degree programme of Computer Science and Engineering ABSTRACT OF THE MASTER S THESIS Author: Noora Korppi-Tommola Title: Establishing a basis for a company online community: a case study Number of pages: Date: 6 August 2010 Language: English Professorship: Contents production Code: T-111 Supervisor: Professor Petri Vuorimaa Instructor: Päivi Puntila, M.Sc. (Econ.), M.A. Abstract: The objective of this Master s Thesis was to find the required next steps to make the case company s online community meet the needs of its users and owners. The study was motivated by the hardship of case company s online community development and earlier literature on building online communities barely acknowledging the company perspective. The case study consisted of assessing different community development-related needs and ultimate challenges. Research material covered literature and earlier companyspecific research results. In addition to those, needs and challenges were asked from employees via online survey and by interviewing managers. The main purpose of the case company s online community proved to be to create value for its users and owners. During the study, the company environment was discovered to set specific requirements for online community building: a clear strategic purpose, new policies and roles, and management s commitment. These requirements also proved to create the challenges for the case company s online community development. Moreover, the biggest challenge was discovered to be lack of information about the subject. The study resulted in guidelines that suggest the next actions that the case company should take to continue their online community building. These guidelines have also been presented as a generalized process, which other companies may utilize when establishing online communities for customers. Both guidelines and the most important result of this study can be summarized into the following sentence: Building a company online community requires strategic user-centered design and support from the organization and technology. Keywords: company online community, establishing company online community
3 Aalto-yliopisto Teknillinen korkeakoulu Informaatio- ja luonnontieteiden tiedekunta Tietotekniikan tutkinto-ohjelma DIPLOMITYÖN TIIVISTELMÄ Tekijä: Noora Korppi-Tommola Työn nimi: Yrityksen ylläpitämän verkkoyhteisön perustaminen: tapaustutkimus Sivumäärä: Päiväys: Julkaisukieli: Englanti Professuuri: Sisällöntuotanto Professuurikoodi: T-111 Työn valvoja: Professori Petri Vuorimaa Työn ohjaaja: KTM, TaM Päivi Puntila Tiivistelmä: Tämän diplomityön tavoitteena oli tutkia, kuinka kohdeyrityksen tulee jatkaa asiakkaillensa suunnatun verkkoyhteisön rakentamista, jotta yhteisö vastaisi sille asetettuja tavoitteita. Tutkimuksen motiivina oli kohdeyrityksen verkkoyhteisön kehityksen vaikeus ja se, ettei verkkoyhteisön kehitystä koskevassa kirjallisuudessa ole aiemmin juuri otettu huomioon yritysnäkökulmaa. Työ koostui erilaisten yhteisöön liittyvien tarpeiden ja kehityksen perimmäisten haasteiden kartoituksesta. Lähdemateriaalina käytettiin kirjallisuutta sekä aiempia yrityskohtaisia tutkimuksia. Lisäksi tarpeita ja haasteita tutkittiin yrityksen työntekijöille suunnatulla verkkokyselyllä sekä haastattelemalla johtajia. Kohdeyrityksen ylläpitämän verkkoyhteisön tärkeimmäksi tavoitteeksi nousi arvon tuottaminen sen käyttäjille ja omistajille. Tutkimuksessa huomattiin yritysympäristön asettavan verkkoyhteisön rakentamiselle omat vaatimuksensa: selkeän strategisen tavoitteen, uudet menettelytavat ja roolit sekä johdon sitoutumisen. Kyseiset vaatimukset osoittautuivat myös haasteiksi yrityksen verkkoyhteisön kehitykselle. Niiden lisäksi suurimmaksi haasteeksi osoittautui aiheeseen liittyvän tiedon puute. Tutkimuksen tuloksena kohdeyritykselle laadittiin ohjeet seuraavista toimenpiteistä verkkoyhteisön rakentamiseksi. Ohjeet on myös esitetty yleistettynä prosessina, jota muut yritykset voivat hyödyntää lähtökohtana verkkoyhteisön perustamisen suunnittelussa ja toteutuksessa. Sekä ohjeet että tutkimuksen tärkein tulos voidaan tiivistää seuraavaan virkkeeseen: Yrityksen ylläpitämän verkkoyhteisön perustaminen vaatii strategista käyttäjäkeskeistä suunnittelua sekä tukea organisaatiolta ja teknologialta. Asiasanat: yrityksen ylläpitämä verkkoyhteisö, yrityksen verkkoyhteisön perustaminen
4 FOREWORD I started my empirical studies on online communities already ten years ago. At that time I spent hours in a chat room called Punaisen lepakon linna (Castle of Red Bat), submerged myself in its imaginary world and storytelling role-playing games as a lovable half-elf, half-phoenix wizard character. Soon I was involved in founding the Eridanus clan for my online friends a community that still breathes today. It was a lucky flip of coin that set a chain of events into motion. In the autumn 2007, the coin chose the topic of my Bachelor s Thesis: Yhteisöllisyyden syntyminen verkkopalveluissa (Emergence of online communities). As a consequence, my studies on online communities were expanded to the field of online community literature. Furthermore, it was probably thanks to the topic of my bachelor s thesis that I was recruited to work at my case company Tekla. Almost a year later, I was delighted to receive an opportunity to write my Master s Thesis about the company s online community. During the last year of conducting and documenting my research, it has been fascinating to notice how my childhood games have developed into an interesting research topic, which even combines the mishmash of all my studies into a one logical entity. My biggest motivation, however, has been the interest that people around me have expressed towards my work. Thus, I thank everyone who has been involved with my thesis, especially certain wonderful ladies at Tekla and the people with the PROFCOM project. I wish to thank my instructor Päivi Puntila for learning beside me and being always so encouraging. I am thankful to Marjo Lehtinen for reminding me to question why and practically being my second instructor. I value a lot the support I received from both of you. Thanks to Professor Petri Vuorimaa for supervising my work and to Virve Juhola and Carmen Boudreau-Kiviaho for proof-reading. Thank you Tiia for acting as my mirror. Finally, I express my gratitude to Professor Pasi Pekkanen who persistently educated me to become a researcher. I am still amazed by your endless interest and eagerness to continuously revise my work. I am deeply thankful for all your numerous and constructive ideas and corrections, listening to my concerns and spurring. Without you this thesis would not have be good as it is (although I maybe could have finished earlier). I owe you some. Espoo, August 2010 Noora Korppi-Tommola
5 CONTENTS 1 Introduction Background Objectives and research questions Research process Theoretical background Definitions and distinctions Community and sense of community Online community Company online community Social media Online communities and social media Online community building processes and principles Human-centered design process for interactive systems Online community building guidelines Refined online community development model Guidelines for introducing social media to business use Online community -related requirements Requirement categories Online community prerequisites Challenges of online community development General challenges in online community building Challenges with company online communities Challenges for companies adopting social media Summary of literature review The Case Environment of the study Tekla Corporation Building and Construction business area organization Introduction to Tekla Structures Extranet Overview of the Extranet community development User study for old Extranet Case study about Extranet community development Summary of case study findings Tekla specific guidelines... 35
6 4 Methodology Research strategy: case study Sources and methods for data collection Online survey Interview Strategies and methods for data analysis Data analysis strategies Affinity diagram Root cause analysis Preliminary analysis of challenges Categorizing earlier interview results Root cause identification for presumed challenges Results of preliminary analysis Online survey for company people Targets of the survey Conducting online survey Planning the questions Promotion of the survey Conclusions of survey results Variance of awareness and attitude Social media enthusiasts Other communities Benefits Summary of online survey results Key person interviews Interview preparations Interviews in practice Summary of interview results Analysis of all findings Needs and goals for community Business goals Customers needs Perceived challenges Further analysis of challenges Discussion on challenges Special features of company online communities Organizational requirements... 70
7 9 Conclusions and discussion Proposals for solutions Suggested process for establishing a company online community Identify and define users and their needs Inform and involve people Define purposes and set measurements Internal organization Further development ideas Answers to research questions What are the needs concerning Tekla s online community? What are Tekla s challenges concerning online community building? How to continue building Tekla s Extranet community? Evaluation and applicability of results Contributions and suggestions for further research References Appendix 1: Preliminary listing of challenges Appendix 2A: Online survey questions Appendix 2B: Online survey results Appendix 3A: Interview questions Appendix 3B: Report of interview results Appendix 4: Comparison of identified user needs Appendix 5: Perceived challenges from interviews Appendix 6: Draft of required roles and tasks
8 List of figures Figure 1. Case description... 2 Figure 2. Case study research process... 3 Figure 3. Conditions of online community: people, common need, sense of community, and one or many platforms that enable interaction... 7 Figure 4. Social media involves user generated content, social interaction, and new web technologies... 9 Figure 5. Online communities and social media share common features, but social media do not always evolve the sense of community Figure 6. The design activities of human-centered design process for interactive systems (ISO, 1999) Figure 7. A refined online community development model (Eskelinen 2009a) Figure 8. Process and activities in introducing social media at work (Otala & Pöysti, 2008) Figure 9. Levels and types of requirements in software engineering (Kauppinen, 2008) Figure 10. Challenges in community building according to company officials (Gossieaux, et al., 2008) Figure 11. Overview of firm-hosted online community research needs (Jantunen, et al., 2008) Figure 12. Contents of Tekla Structures Extranet Figure 13. Example of challenge categories and notes in hierarchical order Figure 14. Various Post-it notes distinguish multiple sources of evidence Figure 15. Common characteristics of problems compared to a weed Figure 16. Problems at different levels and the consequences of their elimination (Wilson, et al., 1993) Figure 17. Affinity diagram at its early stages Figure 18. Causal factor chart of the core challenges in Extranet community development Figure 19. A piece of news about the online survey on the Extranet Figure 20. Rough distribution of different user groups. A: Heavy users; B: Social media savvies; C: Accidental users; D: Ignorants Figure 21. Business goals of company and community connected together Figure 22. Customers needs concerning the Extranet Figure 23. Cause-effect diagram of challenges in community building (OC = Online community) Figure 24. Suggested process for establishing a company online community Figure 25. Guideline for Extranet feature development Figure 26. Construction of company online community s needs and requirements... 84
9 List of tables Table 1. Six social aspects that are vital for online communities and their contribution to a sense of community (SoC) and sense of virtual community (SoVC) Table 2. Presumed challenges and their expected severity Table 3. Online survey goals and their relations to challenges Table 4. Benefits of social media to Tekla or to daily work Table 5. Interview goals and their relations to challenges Table 6. Positions of interviewees and interviewing languages Table 7. Proposed solutions in connection to challenges and organizational requirements... 73
10 1 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background The number of online communities and interest towards them increased significantly in the mid 1990s. Since then, websites have allowed even more interaction between site visitors, and the popularity of communities has risen exponentially. (Ridings & Gefen, 2004.) Online communities have started to gain popularity also in business use (Mittilä & Mäntymäki, 2003). Some companies have successfully adopted maintaining an online community as their business model. Meanwhile, some of the companies whose core competence lies somewhere else endeavor building their own online communities besides offering their products and services through other more traditional channels. For the time being, the lifespans of this kind of bricks-and-mortar companies online communities have remained quite short. Therefore, related research and generally approved guidance is yet in its infancy. There are some general guidelines for developing online communities available, but their applicability in company use is yet unknown. The target company of this study, Finland-based software provider Tekla, has attempted to establish a customer online community for a few years. Their Extranet, the web platform for the community, was recently renewed, and action plans included online community development. Regardless of the new platform and plans, an active Extranet community has not seemed to really take off to this day. When the research began in the autumn 2009, the community development was on hold due to lack of resources. The company had just received guidelines for online community development that describe the situation of the community as follows: In Tekla s case, as the community project is on its early stages, it is recommendable to first establish a common ground among persons involved with the community building process by constituting a set of concrete actions before going any further on technical planning. (Eskelinen, 2009b) The time was favorable for examining what was meant by a set of concrete actions and how the community building should be continued. I had worked 15 months at Tekla before the beginning of research. My tasks had consisted mostly of Extranet requirements specification and content production coordinating. I had been undergoing the troubles during the project and thus decided to study the case more in depth in order to find solutions.
11 2 1.2 Objectives and research questions Finding the required next steps to make Tekla s Extranet community meet the needs of its users and owners is the ultimate motivation behind this study. Thus, the main research question is: - How to continue building Tekla s Extranet community? (RQ1) Answers are pursued by conducting an analysis on different community-related needs and by identifying the challenges that hamper community development work. Additional questions for this research are: - What are the needs concerning Tekla s online community? (RQ2) - What are Tekla s challenges concerning online community building? (RQ3) The research frame is illustrated in Figure 1, which offers a high-level description of the case. This image depicts how the current situation, needs, challenges and solutions are related to each other. There is a gap between the current and desired situation. The desired situation is regarded to consist of all community related needs. The difficulties in fulfilling those needs are considered as the challenges. Identifying the challenges reveals where solutions are required, which is the main interest of this study. Figure 1. Case description Assessment of all stakeholders needs is a task that is bigger than the limits of this Master s Thesis. Therefore, gathering the needs is primarily focused on the company.
12 3 1.3 Research process Figure 2 presents the overall picture of the research process. The case study begins with a data collection phase, which consists of collecting written material from literature and earlier research concerning the case company. Also, a preliminary analysis of findings is made to show directions for the second data collection. This second data collection is an empirical research focused solely on company s employees and managers. The last part of the study is an analysis that combines and arranges all the gathered data to answer the research questions. Figure 2. Case study research process The structure of this work follows the above-mentioned phases: I - Data collection: The reviewed literature was mainly on the field of online communities. The focus of literature review was chosen to support the research questions. Thus, the areas of interest are online community building guidelines, prerequisites and challenges. The results of literature review are presented in Chapter 2. Earlier research consisted of two studies concentrating on the case company s online community development. One of these focused on user needs and the other outlined guidelines for development and also current challenges. Their results are summarized in Chapter 3. II - Data analysis: The collected data was analyzed before moving on with the research. The analysis concentrated plainly on the challenges of the company s online community
13 4 development. The methods for analysis were affinity diagram and root cause analysis, which are represented in more detail in Chapter 4. The analysis itself is described step by step in Chapter 5. III Data collection: The second data collection phase concentrated on gathering the views and experiences of employees and managers. The selected data collection methods were online survey and interviews, which are described on a general level in Chapter 4. The survey goals, progress and results are documented in Chapter 6. The corresponding aspects of the interviews are reported in Chapter 7. IV Data analysis: The final analysis combined all previously found evidences in order to answer the research questions. Needs, challenges and suggested solutions are organized and separated with the help of an affinity diagram, electronic spreadsheets, and mind map drawings. The analysis of the results is presented in Chapter 8. Finally, proposals for solutions are presented in Chapter 9, which also includes evaluation of the results.
14 5 2 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND Company online communities are a relatively new and challenging research area due to their multi-disciplinary nature. Theoretical background for this study mostly consists of literature on online communities and a few other closely related topics, which include social media, user-centered design, and requirements management in software engineering. This chapter has four sections. The first section introduces the field of the study by definitions and distinctions surrounding online communities. The other three sections continue on the subject relating to the research questions. Online community building processes and principles offer the theoretical starting point for the main research question (RQ1), which is about establishing a basis for a company online community. Prerequisites for an online community are discussed based on the literature. Community prerequisites form one part of the needs for a community. Thus, they partly answer the research question with regards to the needs of the case company s community (RQ2). In the same context, different categories of requirements are presented, as the categories are used later in sorting and analyzing results. Challenges in online community building and maintenance are reviewed from different perspectives. This establishes a baseline for finding answers to the research question that concerns the challenges of the case company s online community building efforts (RQ3). All findings are summarized at the end of the chapter. 2.1 Definitions and distinctions The primary concepts that frame company online communities are relatively new and manifold, and they therefore lack unambiguous definitions. This section presents how the concepts are used in this research. Company online communities are given their own distinctive definition besides online communities in general. In addition, the concept of social media is introduced and the similarities and discrepancies between it and online communities are discussed. There are two fundamental definitions that are needed to begin with: community and sense of community are thus introduced first.
15 Community and sense of community The concept of community has been argued by sociologists over the centuries. Different dictionary definitions imply that a community is a group of people who have something in common, for example a local living area or target of interest. Sense of community is a concept that is crucial in the field of community research, and it is thus described next in more detail. In 1986 McMillan and Chavis published their definition for the sense of community. According to them, sense of community envelopes four elements: - Feeling of belonging and identifying with the other members of the community - Feeling that members matter and have influence on one another and the group - Fulfillment of needs, e.g. by receiving and giving support - Shared emotional connection: relationships, common history, the spirit of community This definition is nowadays widely recognized, and it can be applied to studies concerning either location or interest-based communities Online community If the definition of community has been controversial, so has the definition of online communities (Korppi-Tommola, 2007). Views on the existence of online communities represent three different schools. Some (e.g. Williams & Cothrel, 2000) hold a broad view and see that online communities emerge whenever people with similar interests interact with each other via the Internet. On the contrary, another school (e.g. Weinreich, 1997) denies that communities or sense of community can exist at all in the virtual world. A third group of researchers (e.g. Rheingold, 1993; Jones, 1997; Preece, 2000; Blanchard & Markus, 2004) believes that online communities exist when specific conditions are met. This research holds a similar view on online communities. The definition used in this work condenses the vital conditions for online communities: An online community is a group of people who share a common need, engage in repetitive interaction online with each other, and feel the sense of community within the group. This definition leaves room for the new forms of online communities. Earlier it was seen that the communities require one specific platform, a virtual arena, which allows people to communicate and acts as a base for the community (e.g. Jones, 1997). Nowadays when there are various communication channels and networking sites online, the sense of community can
16 7 alternatively be experienced while bumping into familiar persons in different virtual environments (Baym, 2007). Figure 3. Conditions of online community: people, common need, sense of community, and one or many platforms that enable interaction Figure 3 illustrates the situation from the viewpoint of this case. Although there are many different sites where Tekla is present, this study focuses only on the firm-hosted Extranet site and the community within its boundaries Company online community In 1996 Armstrong and Hagel stated that companies are slowly starting to exploit the community-building capabilities of the Internet. Lately, the situation has changed at a rapid pace, but the research area is still relatively new. Antikainen (2007, p.22) reports that the literature considering this research area [company online communities] is incoherent, lacking some central assumptions and fixed definitions. The terminology referring to company online communities is diverse and used confusingly, without making a distinction between the communities that aim at direct commercial purposes and those that do not (Mittilä & Mäntymäki, 2004; Antikainen, 2007). Concepts found in the literature include, for example, commercial virtual community (Hagel & Armstrong, 1997), business-oriented online community (Cothrel, 2000), and firm-hosted online community (Jantunen, et al., 2008). Regardless of name, company online communities share two common characteristics that separate them from non-company online communities: they are maintained by companies (Antikainen, 2007) and they typically seek profit for the company, either directly or indirectly and either in short or longer term (Mittilä & Mäntymäki, 2003).
17 8 In this research, all online communities that fit the aforementioned definition of online communities and are maintained by companies are seen as company online communities Social media The term social media gained publicity around 2005 (Lietsala & Sirkkunen, 2008). Ever since, the buzz around the term has been continuous. In spite of that, it does not yet have a commonly accepted definition (Erkkola, 2008; Lietsala & Sirkkunen, 2008). Different sources stress different aspects of social media. Some writers use social media as a synonym for online applications that enable interaction and sharing of content (Lietsala & Sirkkunen, 2008). Mayfield (2008) sees social media as a group of online media that share all or some of the following characteristics: participation, openness, conversation, community and connectedness. Lietsala and Sirkkunen (2008) emphasize the meaning of user-generated content and its social use. Erkkola (2008) devoted his research to fully clarifying the concept. He concludes that social media is a structural process that is bound by the technology. In the process, individuals and groups build shared meanings through contents, communities and internet technologies in related use situations. He also sees social media as a post-industrial phenomenon that affects society, economics and culture because of its new structure in production and distribution. (Erkkola, 2008, p.83). Erkkola s (2008) research material includes the English Wikipedia definition of social media to be referred to the most. In September 2009, the definition read as follows: Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. (Wikipedia, 2009) This research acknowledges all the preceding definitions, but leans mostly on the Wikipedia (2009) definition. The reason for choosing this definition is that it brings out the characteristics of social media in the sense that they can be compared with online communities. In the context of this research, social media are understood both as channels and content, which is mainly user-generated, evokes social interaction, and is built on agile internet technologies. Figure 4 presents the building blocks of social media from the viewpoint of this study.
18 9 Figure 4. Social media involves user generated content, social interaction, and new web technologies As social interaction and online technology are the pillar stones of online communities, they are described in more detail later in Chapter Online community prerequisites. The following chapter discusses further similarities and discrepancies of social media and online communities Online communities and social media The significance of communities has been emphasized in association with social media. This section describes relations between the two concepts in the literature and also how the concepts fit together in this study. Kangas, et al., (2007) claim that social media are actually based on communities in addition to content and technology. The communities act efficiently on structuring and sharing interesting content on social media services. In social media, an already existing community may produce the content, or the community may form around individuals who produce content on the same online service. However, the content may be consumed by the people who do not belong to the community. (Kangas, et al., 2007.) Otala and Pöysti (2008, p.19), who studied social media in a corporate setting, assert that social medium always creates a community. According to them, a community is comprised of people who collaborate in a shared virtual work space, regardless of their physical location. These people are united by common interest instead of organization structure. (Otala and Pöysti, 2008). Some, for example Mayfield (2008), assume more careful consideration and determine that in all cases communities are not necessarily a by-product of social media. Nevertheless, it appeared typical, not just for all the studies mentioned in this chapter but also for many
19 10 others, that the sense of community is not mentioned when discussing communities in the context of social media. One exception to this is an insight by Lietsala and Sirkkunen (2008, p.24). They iterate that on social media sites, a feature that occurs often, but not obligatorily, is an opinion that it feels like a community. Figure 5. Online communities and social media share common features, but social media do not always evolve the sense of community Figure 5 presents how online communities and social media are connected to each other. An online community is a group of people whereas social media refer to a channel and its content. Users of social media form an online community when they share a common need and sense of community. In that case, the common need is usually a shared interest towards the content of a social medium. First online communities already emerged a few decades ago through simple text-based conversation tools, such as discussion forums and lists. However, social media as a term has quite a strong connection to new kinds of web technologies, which also enable other various forms of interaction. Hence social media are not regarded as a precondition for the existence of an online community. As a conclusion, online communities and social media may exist together or side by side, regardless of one another. However, as they definitely share many common features, their
20 11 simultaneous existence both benefits and supports each other. A distinctive mark between them is the sense of community among their users. 2.2 Online community building processes and principles This section presents different processes and some good practices regarding the building and development of online communities. First, the human-centered design process for interactive systems (ISO, 1999) is introduced. It offers a good high-level framework for developing online communities, as they are computer-based, highly interactive and user-centric entities. After that, a few older guidelines concerning online community development by Preece (2000) and Kim (2000) are presented. Newer approaches on online community building by Reed (2009a, b) and Eskelinen (2009a) are also introduced and discussed. All presented guidelines recognize online communities to be bound to one place, for example a website. Besides Eskelinen s (2009a) work, the literature does not seem to contain clear guidelines on constructing company online communities, merely just dos and don ts. Instead, one detailed process for introducing social media in business use was found. It is presented at the end of this chapter, as nowadays many online communities utilize on social media tools and practices Human-centered design process for interactive systems The ISO standard provides guidance for user-centered design (UCD). The standard focuses on the design activities throughout the life cycle of computer-based interactive systems. It holds a management and planning point of view, and thus does not include specific techniques or methods for activities. Human-centered design activities form an iterative process that has four stages: 1) understand and specify the context of use, 2) specify the user and organizational requirements, 3) produce design solutions, and 4) evaluate designs against requirements. The design process is illustrated in Figure 6. (ISO, 1999).
21 12 Figure 6. The design activities of human-centered design process for interactive systems (ISO, 1999) In addition to iteration of design solutions, the standard addresses three design principles that characterize the overall user-centered process. The first principle is active involvement of users and a clear understanding of user and task requirements. The second principle is an appropriate allocation of functions between users and technology. The third principle is multidisciplinary design. (ISO, 1999.) Online community building guidelines Preece s (2000) community-centered development (CCD) process for creating successful online communities is based on the ideas of user-centered design. Both models appreciate users and usability of the system, but Preece adds an important aspect to the design: planning the social interaction, the sociability of the community. Online communities are different from other software just because of their social nature, and they keep evolving after the publication by their users activities and social needs. Therefore, a community requires constant caring through an iterative process that also involves community members in design. The process consists of five different phases:
22 13 1) Assessing community needs and analyzing user tasks - Identify the users and the purpose of the community. 2) Selecting technology and planning sociability - Software is tailored or built to provide usability for the intended community. The policies and social structures are planned in parallel. 3) Designing, implementing and testing prototypes - Focus on features supporting the needs of the community. This stage can involve many small iterations of design-and-test. 4) Refining and tuning sociability and usability - Larger scale sociability and usability tests, fine-tuning. 5) Welcoming and nurturing the community - Seeding the community with interesting members and content before publicizing it. Later welcoming and supporting new members. The key question at this stage is what will entice people to keep coming back? Preece also suggests that usability and sociability of the community should be evaluated continuously during different stages. The results of evaluations can be used in further development of the community or as summative reports for company management. (Preece, 2000.) Another set of online community design guidelines that emphasizes their social nature is written by Kim (2000). Her nine timeless design strategies are applicable for all kinds of online communities. The strategies are: 1) define and articulate your purpose, 2) build flexible, extensible gathering places, 3) create meaningful and evolving member profiles, 4) design for a range of roles, 5) develop a strong leadership program, 6) encourage appropriate etiquette, 7) promote cyclic events, 8) integrate the rituals of community life, and 9) facilitate member-run subgroups. (Kim, 2000.) Kim also recognizes three immutable laws that are fundamental design principles of online community building. The first of them is to design the community so that its growth and change are taken into account. The community should be small and simple at the beginning, and as members join, more technical features can be added. The development of the community should be influenced by the feedback from community members. The second design principle is to create and manage feedback loops between the users and the management. The third principle is to empower the members over time. If carried out successfully, this leads to a situation where members contribute to the community more than the staff. (Kim, 2000.)
23 14 Reed (2009a) strongly emphasizes people and relationships in his online community building guidelines. He identifies eight steps that are required to build a community from scratch (Reed, 2009a): 1) Search for potential members: who and where they are? 2) When found, observe from a distance and learn to know them. 3) Get involved and build relationships. Add real value, be genuine and honest. 4) When they know you, inform selected people about your community plans. 5) Invite and recruit the first members. Make them feel special. 6) Develop and tailor the community to benefit its members, NOT your business. 7) Retain the members and activity in order to keep the community alive. 8) Repeat the steps; community building is a continuous process. Get new relationships, members and ideas, and don't forget your existing members. This type of social approach for online community building is surely effective and may work well for individual entrepreneurs, but probably it is not a straightforward solution in larger companies. The sixth step especially, which incites focus primarily on the users needs, may be problematic for a profit seeking businesses. Reed (2009b) has created an extensive list of 95 things he has learned while building online communities. The list provides useful tips for any kind of online community development. The tips highlight the importance of knowing the purpose of the community, its ease of use (keep it simple, expand slowly, and change rarely), clear guidelines and rules, and thorough planning and trust (Reed, 2009b) Refined online community development model Eskelinen (2009a) has revised the online community development guidelines by Preece (2000) and Kim (2000). He has constructed a refined set of guidelines on their foundations, and also on Reed s (e.g. 2009b) experiences. In contrast to others, his guideline makes a serious attempt at taking into account the needs and constraints of today s companies. His new online community development model introduces six stages: assessing needs, defining purpose, planning sociability, designing usability, putting into practice, and nurture. The stages are depicted in Figure 7 and are described in more detail in the following paragraphs.
24 15 Figure 7. A refined online community development model (Eskelinen 2009a) In Eskelinen s (2009a) model, assessing needs and defining purposes include gathering needs and crystallizing community goals, as the guidelines in earlier literature suggest. This guideline, however, emphasizes that the needs and purposes very likely differ from the point of view of the users and host, and that both sides should be examined. Thus, two purpose statements for the community should be formulated. The public purpose statement communicates the users' goals and objectives, and the private purpose statement explains how the company benefits from the community. (Eskelinen, 2009a.) Sociability and usability are separated into their own phases, as Eskelinen (2009a) saw that Preece s (2000) community design process bound them too closely together. In Eskelinen s (2009a) model, sociability planning involves people, policies, profiles, places and events. The design usability phase has been allocated into two parts: online solution and offline solution. Online solutions refer to design principles by Bouman, et al., (2007) that guide how to create software to trigger social behavior (Eskelinen, 2009a). An offline solution means organizing the roles and responsibilities of the community staff (Eskelinen, 2009a). Putting this into practice includes implementing the technical solution, final testing, content creation, community promotion, and finally launching the site (Eskelinen, 2009a). Nurture is the last remaining stage of community building. It is about welcoming new members, activating and empowering the former ones, and performing daily maintainance routines (Eskelinen, 2009a). What is notably missing from the refined online community development model compared to other guidelines, are continuous evaluation of usability and sociability (Preece, 2000) and following site traffic and interactions after the launch (Reed, 2009b). The model suggested by Eskelinen (2009a) also has some flaws regarding usability design.
25 16 Eskelinen (2009a) first introduces usability as a feature of how well the software supports users in their activities, for example in terms of effectiveness and learnability. This presentation is in line with the ISO (1997) explanation on usability. The aspect of traditional usability is further emphasized, as most of Eskelinen's (2009a) tips presented in this context are usability heuristics. However, splitting design usability into online and offline solutions represents a different view on the subject. Online solution-related design principles aim to respond to the social needs of users. An offline solution has to do with resourcing and structuring the work of community project participants. Neither of these solutions falls in the domain of traditional usability. Even though the model itself starts from needs assessment, it is not necessarily the point to begin in the development of a company online community. For example, the UCD model suggests planning the process and identifying the users and context of use before specifying requirements (ISO, 1999). Also, the guideline written by Eskelinen (2009a) contains a list of questions to consider before starting an online community building project. The questions are mainly related to reasons and resources. The assessment of resources, finding enthusiastic and skilled people and allocated time, is vital for companies that aim to develop and maintain a successful online community. The same applies to introducing social media to business use. This additional perspective regarding working in an online environment is represented in the next chapter Guidelines for introducing social media to business use Engaging in an online community is about being social, learning to manage with new software, and policies. The same applies in the case of deploying social media at work. For that purpose, Otala and Pöysti (2008) have constructed an introduction process for companies on how they could adopt social media or virtual workspaces. They stress that in order to start the process, the company must be able to answer affirmatively to the following three questions (Otala & Pöysti, 2008, p.24): Does the company have: 1) A real need for the use of social media? 2) A culture that enables openness and new working methods? 3) A critical mass of users? If the conditions are met, the next steps are to plan, pilot and conduct the introduction of social media. These are followed by starting to utilize the tools in work and measuring the
26 17 results. The process and actions related to each of the phases are described in more detail in Figure 8. Figure 8. Process and activities in introducing social media at work (Otala & Pöysti, 2008) Of all the models presented in this chapter, this process has the most business-like perspective. It shows in emphasizing the structuring of new ways of working and the monitoring of this. The idea of piloting the use of social media tools in a smaller scale is similar to Kim s (2000) online community design principle start off small. Like the other online community building guidelines, Otala and Pöysti (2008) highlight the necessity of a clear purpose and codes of conduct. 2.3 Online community -related requirements According to previously discussed online community building guidelines, assessing needs plays a crucial role when beginning to build a community. This research has been done in an attempt to understand the needs and requirements of online community building from various perspectives. Therefore, this section presents ideas for categorizing requirements based on the studied literature. Prerequisites for online communities derived from literature are also presented. To combine both perspectives, this section also discusses how online community prerequisites are related to different requirement categories.
27 Requirement categories This chapter describes the background of requirements and needs categorizing. The described issues are related to online community building later in this study. First the three levels of requirements are presented from a software engineering angle. The categorization is then widened with organizational requirements mentioned in ISO (1999), as the organizational requirements are anticipated to be essential when developing an online community in a company environment. Three levels of requirements Requirements are classified on three levels in the field of software engineering. The levels represent three different viewpoints of software engineering: business, users and technology. The requirements can also be categorized further into three different types: functional and non-functional requirements and constraints. The requirement levels and types are illustrated in Figure 9. (Kauppinen, 2008.) Figure 9. Levels and types of requirements in software engineering (Kauppinen, 2008) In this study the presented terms are understood in the following way: A User is an individual interacting with the system (ISO 1997, 1999). A Customer is the person who pays for the system and usually, but not necessarily, decides the requirements (IEEE, 1998). However, the customer is not always a user of a system. User needs describe problems and opportunities that affect users' likelihood in achieving their goals (Kujala, 2002). Customer needs are understood in a similar way. Customer and user needs set the ground for business and user requirements. Business requirements stand for high-level objectives of the organization or customer, who has requested the system or product (Wiegers, 1999). Business requirements are referred to as business goals
28 19 later in this study. User requirements refer to functions, properties and constraints required to satisfy a user s needs (Abbott, 1986). A technical point of view is represented by technical requirements that describe how the system will be implemented (Kauppinen, 2008). The types of requirements are explained according to the findings of Kauppinen (2008): Functional requirements specify functions or services that a system must be capable of performing. Non-functional requirements describe the properties of the system including, for example, performance, reliability and usability. Constraints are standards, software and hardware constraints, for example. Organizational requirements In addition to the aforementioned levels of requirements, the user-centered design process (ISO, 1999) brings up organizational requirements besides user requirements. According to Maguire (2001), organizational requirements are related to the use of a system in a social context, e.g. social and organizational structures. In this work, organizational requirements are seen to originate from the organization (i.e. the company) that hosts the online community. The following aspects, also mentioned in ISO (1999) in the context of identifying requirements, are considered to belong within the boundaries of organizational requirements: 1) Co-operation and communication between users and other relevant parties 2) The users jobs (including allocation of tasks, users well-being, and motivation) 3) Task performance 4) Work design and organization 5) Management of change, including training and personnel to be involved Online community prerequisites Online communities are shaped by their members and purpose and thus differ from each other. Still, they all share some common characteristics and features that are required for their emergence. In this study those features are addressed as online community prerequisites, which were also studied in my earlier study of literature (see Korppi-Tommola, 2007). This chapter summarizes my earlier findings and continues the work by refining the results based on further findings from literature and experiences. This chapter also proposes how the online community prerequisites can be connected to different levels of requirements.
29 20 The suggested online community prerequisites described in detail in this chapter are the following: - Group of people - Common needs - Social aspects - Interaction - Virtual arena It is notable that the list leaves out sense of community, which is mentioned in the online community definition used in this study. Nevertheless, a sense of community is assumed to develop when all prerequisites have been filled. Group of people People are the heart of a community, whether it is online or not. Some researchers (Rheingold, 1993; Williams & Cothrel, 2000; Hintikka, 2007) claim that a critical mass of users is required in order for the community to come into existence. Just a few people do not necessarily create enough communication, and then the community may not seem attractive to newcomers (Preece, 2000). However, having too many people involved may overwhelm members and make them think that they do not know anyone (Preece, 2000). Thus, the critical mass of users required to make and keep the community alive actually varies from community to community (Markus, 1990; Rice, 1994). People engaging in online communities represent different roles classified by type and activity of their participation. The roles include e.g. regular members, lurkers, leaders, moderators and community managers. Regular members participate in providing content and are familiar with the policies of the community (Kim, 2000). Lurkers only observe the community and do not participate (Kim, 2000; Preece, 2000). Both leaders and moderators are usually facilitators of discussion and sometimes allowed to handle some administrative tasks (Kim, 2000; Preece, 2000). Community manager is a term that lately has been topical in numerous blogs (e.g. Reed, 2009b). It usually refers to the person who holds the biggest interest towards the community as she is responsible for its building and development. Common needs People join online communities because of their similar interests (Armstrong & Hagel, 1997; Ridings & Gefen, 2004). Ultimately, people join online communities to satisfy their needs (Preece, 2000). As online communities are interest-based, it can be assumed that there is a connection between their members interests and needs.
30 21 User needs define the purpose of the community, as the online community building guidelines presented in section 2.2 imply. The fulfillment of user needs acts as one factor that produces the sense of community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986). Furthermore, the better an online community manages to respond to the needs of its members, the more likely it is to succeed (Armstrong & Hagel, 1997). There was no consensus found in the literature about what are peoples needs for belonging to a community. Despite the lack of consensus, there are three needs and reasons to join the communities that appear to rise above others: exchange of information, entertainment and social needs. Receiving and giving information is one of the most typical reasons to belong to a community (mentioned by e.g. Armstrong & Hagel, 1997; Blanchard & Markus, 2004; Otala & Pöysti, 2008; Ridings & Gefen, 2004; Äkkinen, 2005). The information content is usually related to a topic of common interest. Besides, or as an alternative, to informational benefits, people seek entertainment from online communities (Antikainen, 2007; Äkkinen, 2005). The word entertainment is used here to cover different expressions and dimensions such as recreation (Gefen & Ridings, 2004), fun (Reed, 2009a), and fantasy games (Armstrong & Hagel, 1997). In addition to information exchange and entertainment, there are social needs to belong to a community. The various social aspects are discussed next in their own chapter. Social aspects People are social beings and thus naturally gravitate towards communities. Based on the literature, six prerequisites were identified as the social aspects of online communities. The first three represent the social needs of individuals, which are also reasons to belong to an online community: social support, friendly relationships, and need to be accepted and recognized. The latter triad is vital regarding the fulfillment of the previous needs: trust, identification of users, and behavioral norms. All of these social prerequisites for online communities are presented in Table 1.
31 22 Table 1. Six social aspects that are vital for online communities and their contribution to a sense of community (SoC) and sense of virtual community (SoVC) Social prerequisites SoC SoVC Mentioned by Social support x x Blanchard & Markus, 2004; Ridings & Gefen, 2004 Friendly relationships x Armstrong & Hagel, 1997; Jones, 1997; Ridings & Gefen, 2004; Boyd, 2007 Need to be accepted and recognized x Rheingold, 1993; Blanchard & Markus, 2004 Trust x Preece, 2000; Blanchard & Markus, 2004; Reed, 2009b Identification of users x x Blanchard & Markus, 2004 Behavioral norms Preece, 2000; Blanchard & Markus, 2004; Boyd, 2007, Reed, 2009b Table 1 also presents how the social needs and identification of other community members are connected to the traditional definition of sense of community by McMillan and Chavis (1986, see also Chapter 2.1.1). In addition, Table 1 represents results from Blanchard and Markus (2004) who have studied the emergence of virtual sense of community. They concluded that it emerges via exchange of support, identification of users and trust. These prerequisites can be interpreted as non-functional user requirements for online community software. There are technical functions that can support actions affecting these social features; they are discussed in their own chapter. However, the behavioral norms of a community make an exception. Their evolution should rather be supported with guidelines and rules of conduct, which are to be clearly visible in the community (Preece, 2000; Reed, 2009b). Interaction People engage in interaction with other people in order to fulfill their social needs. Two-way communication is necessary when people want to get to know each other, form relationships, or discuss shared information. Interaction brings communities to life and is thus seen as a prerequisite for an online community to exist (e.g. Jones, 1997; Preece, 2000). Available online technology has both facilitated and restricted interaction between community members. In the earliest online communities, interaction was merely exchanging text-based messages. Nowadays different online sites offer various ways to interact; for example, users may produce, share and rate content, or they can play and network with each other. Despite of
32 23 all new forms of action, public discussion is still, as it was in 1993 according to Rheingold, the most common form of interaction an online community cannot live without. Interaction refers to users actions. Thus, users needs for interaction form the basis of functional user requirements of an online community. Virtual arena Virtual arena refers to the technical solution behind an online community. A virtual arena is the meeting place where community members gather and interact online. In its simplest form, a virtual arena is an interaction tool that mediates social interaction online and supports identification of users. For example, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or a discussion forum are virtual arenas. Newer interaction tools include blogs, wikis, social network services, and virtual worlds, among others (Antikainen, 2007). As discussed above, the new forms of interaction set new requirements for the online platforms that aim to satisfy their user community s needs. For example, on sites that concentrate on content production and sharing, speed of use and a good search function are vital requirements (Hintikka, 2007). In addition, user accounts and profile pages are important (Hintikka, 2007) because content can then be connected to its creator. Profile pages have a central role especially on social networking sites. These sites respond to people s social needs by allowing them to identify their friends and join interesting groups (Baym, 2007). Virtual arenas benefit from good usability (Preece, 2000; Hintikka, 2007). A good practice is to develop them according to users actions and feedback (Preece, 2000; Hintikka, 2007). All in all, a virtual arena attempts to respond to its community s needs by the means of technology. Therefore, requirements concerning a virtual arena, a few of which this chapter presents, are of a technical nature. 2.4 Challenges of online community development In this section the challenges regarding company online community building and maintaining are introduced from different viewpoints. The first insights concentrate on reasons why most online communities fail in general. The perspective then turns towards the special challenges that companies face when building their own online communities. In this context, guidance concerning the company online building is also presented, as ignoring advice will lead to an unsuccessful community. Finally, experiences on introducing social media in business use are examined. They reveal some interesting challenges that are closely related to this area of research.
33 General challenges in online community building Online community manager Martin Reed (2008) asserts that Nobody wants to join a community without members or content. Achieving both definitely requires time and effort as well as marketing the community. He notes that online communities are easy to start but hard to establish. Setting up a community is a different thing than making it successful. This is what people fail to realize and also the biggest reason why most online communities fall through. Reed (2008) emphasizes that communities require a long term vision to be successful. He reminds that reaching results demands both persistence and patience. (Reed, 2008.) Eskelinen (2009a) studied reasons for the failure of online communities through various online community building-related blogs and discussion forums. The most commonly stated troubles include poor community management, lack of attraction, inactive users, static and bad quality content, and too much focus on technology (Eskelinen, 2009a). In addition to these, unsuccessful communities typically have unclear purposes and goals, not enough people to maintain the community, and wrong metrics for measuring success (Eskelinen, 2009a). Furthermore, Eskelinen (2009a) points out that lack of competition may make some online communities immune to failure even though all of these troubles would prevail. This kind of situation is possible especially for those firm-hosted online communities that have been built around a particular product (Eskelinen, 2009a) Challenges with company online communities Armstrong and Hagel (1996) are among the pioneers who focused their research on business online communities. They identified a daunting array of issues of community management. These issues are listed briefly as follows: 1. Assessing strategies for competition 2. Designing the community 3. Operating the community 4. Partnering to compete The strategy issue involves figuring out the economic potential of the community and the intensity of possible competition (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). In community design, two important points need to be taken into consideration by the management. One is structuring the community into segments (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). A community with finer segmentation can better serve its members special needs, but its effects decrease proportionally when compared to the size of the community (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). The
34 25 other more controversial problem is to decide whether a company should host the community on their own web platform or lean on some proprietary service (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). This could nowadays be compared to a company s choice between utilizing well-known social media services or constructing their own site. Proprietary services already have the technological infrastructure and numbers of users (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). While a thirdparty entity lies between the community and the organizer, the agreements concerning the ownership of the content and the possible transactions may get complicated. By operating a community, Armstrong and Hagel (1996) refer to a number of new roles and tasks that need to be organized and carried out in order to manage an online community. Partnering is again an issue to be considered when deciding whether a company should build a community by themselves or form alliances with partners (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). They also believe that marketing should chase up the potential value and possible radical changes that electronic communities entail. An increasing number of studies around the topic have been published recently. The Tribalization of Business study by Gossieaux, et al., (2008) discovered several obstacles in the way of company online community builders. Major barriers are the demand for changes in management thinking and marketing approach and widely adopted bad design practices. (Gossieaux, et al., 2008.) Gossieaux, et al., (2008) report a significant mismatch between the expectations that have been set on the community and associated investments and conclude that for many large companies there is an under-investment and scale problem. There is a lack of employees managing online communities as well as lack of funding. In many cases the target of investment is technology. This often happens at the cost of establishing social relations with the customers. (Gossieaux, et al., 2008.) In addition to the lack of resources, there is a lack of skill and experience regarding online community management. Furthermore, it was found that measurements and community business goals are poorly bound together. The stated goals usually include generating more word-of-mouth marketing and increasing brand awareness and loyalty, but many companies stare at sales-focused metrics even though that was not the community s objective. (Gossieaux, et al., 2008.) Gossieaux, et al., (2008) assert that communities will transfer most business processes. This leads to new strategic and organizational challenges. For example, the researchers suggest that the role of chief marketing officer should be evolved into chief community officer. They
35 26 suspect it to cause radical shifts in attitude and approach to marketing and business. (Gossieaux, et al., 2008.) Figure 10 demonstrates different challenges perceived by the Tribalization of Business survey participants. In addition to the aforementioned obstacles, the survey respondents see community attractiveness and member engagement as substantial challenges. Figure 10. Challenges in community building according to company officials (Gossieaux, et al., 2008) Researchers Näkki, et al., (2008) see that the main challenge for companies building online communities is to create an attractive community. Nowadays competition for users is fierce, and the other communities lay just a click of a mouse away. They also emphasize the meaning of time and effort spent in creating content and networking with members. Members become committed and come back if they get value with every visit. (Näkki, et al., 2008.) Näkki, et al., (2008) see that building an online community entails challenges with new ways of working. The first step of pain is to convince everyone that the new ways working, e.g. sharing knowledge and networking, are more effective compared to old habits. Another complex area is public discussion about a company where individuals act as company representatives (Näkki, et al., 2008). To manage well with the new situation, a company should stay up to date on discussions, react quickly, and learn to be open (Näkki, et al., 2008).
36 27 Näkki, et al., (2008) also encourage communication with clients on other community sites and internal communications between the departments of a company. Antikainen (2007) brings out two new aspects concerning the difficulties in online community building. She indicates that one cannot build a ready-made online community and then launch it (Antikainen, 2007). An online community develops by itself, and community members play a big role in this (Antikainen, 2007). Another problem, which stems from the first one, is that an online community cannot be directed in a predetermined way (Antikainen, 2007). Firm-hosted online community research project PROFCOM, by Jantunen, et al., (2008) identified some issues regarding the building of a company online community. According to their preliminary studies, companies struggle with five problematic areas in their community development: internal alignment, culture, individual users, technology, and changing environment. Internal alignment encompasses questions about realizing the potential of an online community, unclear community-related responsibilities, and the effects of employees' online participation. Online participation is assumed to cause changes in daily tasks and internal work organization, and it requires discussion guidelines. Culture-related questions include how to create and maintain a collaborative culture and how the community's roles and responsibilities affect it. The extent of moderation and employees' participation in comparison to end users has also been contemplated. (Jantunen, et al., 2008.) Individual users refers to challenges concerning understanding and responding to users' needs, especially in supporting the development of users' identities. Technology concerns are mainly about enhancing the user experience: for example, how users' participation and sociability could be supported with the user interface and tools, and possibly also with mobile services. (Jantunen, et al., 2008.) Changing environment challenges the development of a firm-hosted online community in all its previously mentioned dimensions. Predicting changes and users' reactions to them is considered difficult. Figure 11 illustrates how the five areas found are assumed to overlap with each other. At the core of intersections lies a community s purpose, as Jantunen, et al., (2008) anticipate that it influences all other aspects of development. (Jantunen, et al., 2008.)
37 28 Figure 11. Overview of firm-hosted online community research needs (Jantunen, et al., 2008) Challenges for companies adopting social media Adopting social media in business use has many similarities compared to establishing a company online community. In both cases, managers need to make decisions concerning the new technology and how it will be utilized. They need to agree on new rules and roles required, and communicate them to employees. Otala and Pöysti (2008) discovered a number of obstacles that may occur when a company is introducing use of social media as a part of their daily work methods. The broadest problematic area that they discuss is management and its different dimensions. Managementrelated challenges include absence of management s commitment and reactions, difficulty in calculating economic benefit, insufficient resourcing, and finding the right balance of guidance between being too distractive or too loose. Lack of time typically causes the introduction of social media not to succeed. This means that the introduction has occurred without determining a real need for utilizing social media. Also, usually not enough time is reserved for the users to familiarize themselves and to work with the new tools. (Otala & Pöysti, 2008.) According to Otala and Pöysti (2008), other issues that complicate the adoption of social media are prejudice, organization structure, and culture. Prejudices commonly include fear of losing work efficiency and control (Otala & Pöysti, 2008). Otala and Pöysti (2008) suggest that hierarchical organization structure and authoritarian management model may prevent implementing necessary changes in ways of working. They also report that unclear responsibilities about social media, besides the resistance of change, slow down the introduction process. Moreover, openness in organizational culture is needed to create an innovative and collaborative social media environment (Otala & Pöysti, 2008).
38 29 In using social media tools, technical problems can occur. Nevertheless, Otala and Pöysti (2008) see that encouraging and activating people to contribute is a more significant challenge than tools and technology. 2.5 Summary of literature review No commonly agreed definitions or descriptions exist on how to build online communities, especially for companies, because the research area is relatively new. Regarding online communities, this research emphasizes the importance of the sense of community among community members. Sense of community differentiates online communities from other interactive social media sites and tools. Nevertheless, social media depend on the participation and interaction of their users, and thus social media-related processes and challenges need to be understood when studying online communities. Online community building was examined in this study through a few suggested online community building processes, as well as processes for human-centered design and introducing social media in at company level. All presented processes included several common and good design practices: involving users, defining purpose, policies, supporting sociability, and usability. However, none of the presented processes is perfectly applicable to the case company s needs. Online communities require specific conditions in order to emerge. The conditions, or prerequisites, are a group of users, common need(s), social aspects, interaction, and a virtual arena. In this study, online community prerequisites are categorized according to four perspectives: business, users, technology and organization. The general prerequisites for online communities concentrate on fulfilling users needs, which sets requirements for technology. However, building and maintaining an online community in a company environment requires taking the business and organization perspectives into account. Special prerequisites for company online communities would have been worthy of discussion in this chapter. However, literature concerning those remains scarce, and thus they are discussed later in connection with the results of this study. Challenges in building and maintaining online communities were also explored. The literature suggests that the following challenges are common: insufficient resourcing, unclear purpose, and lack of attraction and users activity. The challenges faced especially by companies hosting online communities include: unclear roles and responsibilities, organization culture, guidance and policies, and measuring success with the wrong metrics.
39 30 3 THE CASE The case company and the situation of its online community are described in this chapter. First, the characteristics of the case company s organization are outlined and light is shed on the current state of the Extranet platform and project. After that, results from two earlier studies regarding the company s Extranet are presented. 3.1 Environment of the study This chapter provides background information on the case company. Since the study is focused on its Building and construction business area, it s the structure of its organization is described briefly. In addition, the contents of the web site, Tekla Structures Extranet, that encloses the community is introduced. Company s community development attempts thus far are shortly presented at the end of this chapter Tekla Corporation Tekla is an international software company, established in 1966 in Finland. Tekla develops model-based software products that support and streamline their customers core processes in two business areas: Building and Construction and Infrastructure Management and Energy Distribution. The customer base is spread to nearly 100 countries. Tekla headquarters are located in Espoo, Finland, and in addition the company has offices in 14 other countries. Tekla Group currently employs approximately 470 persons, of whom 40% work outside Finland. In addition to own offices Tekla has a worldwide partner network. (Tekla, 2010a.) Building and Construction business area organization This study focuses on Tekla s Building and Construction business area and their efforts in building an online community for customers. Building and Construction business area is in charge of developing and marketing Tekla s best known product, Tekla Structures software. Tekla Building and Construction employs nearly 300 people. The organization consists now of three (four in 2009) customer segment teams and three units, who are responsible for marketing, business administration, and product development. Tekla organization structure of units and segments is neither hierarchical nor matrix. It has been playfully claimed to resemble an ameba. The segments, units, and area offices work in collaboration and have their own areas of responsibilities. Actions concerning sales, direct
40 31 customer communications and support belong to the area offices and resellers. There is no global unit for sales or support Introduction to Tekla Structures Extranet Tekla offers a private Extranet service for their registered customers. On the Extranet, customers may download products, use self learning materials, and find out about news and events. There is also a discussion forum available for customers questions and suggestions. The part of Extranet that is targeted for Building and Construction customers is called Tekla Structures Extranet. It is available in five different language versions. Of those, this study is limited solely to examine the issues concerning the English Tekla Structures Extranet. It is referred later in the study plainly as Extranet. Figure 12. Contents of Tekla Structures Extranet The Extranet in question has contents that are demonstrated in Figure 12. The image reveals that Tekla Structures Extranet includes an internal section that is not accessible to customers. It is mainly used for sharing material to area offices and resellers. The image also shows master content sections highlighted with red. Master content refers to the most important content that has to be available in every language version of Tekla Structures Extranet.
41 Overview of the Extranet community development The Tekla web renewal project was set into motion already in Even the earliest renewalrelated ideas include hopes for a community and interactive content. The renewed company website was launched in May 2008, and after that the majority of web resources were centered to the Extranet. Extranet s requirement definitions (Friberg, 2007) dating back to that time reveal plans for a separate community area. The new Extranet was finally launched in March The project was prolonged due to numerous changes in personnel and other challenges. Moreover, the new Extranet ended up not including any more community features than its previous version, except that the discussion forum was switched to a fancier one. After the Extranet launch there was time to take a break: to look back and consider the lessons learned during the project. During the years of web renewal, two Extranet user studies were conducted and their results were examined more closely. Tekla had been engaged in a firm-hosted online community research project, PROFCOM, which involved online community seminars. The seminar held in May 2009 offered new insights to the employees who were engaged in building the community, and especially the thoughts of Martin Reed (2009a) were considered useful. As a result, visions of an online community shifted from creating a separate community section in the Extranet to thinking that the community could exist throughout the site. The company had also started to plan to utilize outside social media sites to reach their audience. At that time, the web team manager Bergström saw the situation of Extranet development as follows: Before Tekla can start a project like this, a lot of things have to happen, especially organization-wise (and in mentality). What we need is an engaged, committed and resourced team coordinating, supporting and helping Tekla to mature to a virtual global community. (Bergström & Korppi- Tommola, 2009) 3.2 User study for old Extranet This chapter presents the findings of a user study carried out by a group of students from the Helsinki School of Economics, Ahonen, et al., (2007). Their interviews and survey targeted Teklans and customers from all over the world. The study was conducted in 2007 at the beginning of the renewal project of Tekla s old Extranet. The goal of the study was to find out the methods and the content that would maximize the value that Extranet creates for its users, both customers and Tekla (Ahonen, et al., 2007). The emphasis of the study mostly leaned towards content creation and content management. The study also examined recent web trends, an area closely related to content creation and management (Ahonen, et al., 2007).
42 33 For this case study, the most significant source of Extranet users needs was the study conducted by Ahonen, et al. Even though the report by Ahonen, et al., (2007) is now three years old, a great part of the wishes and pieces of advice presented are still current. The customer objectives derived from the results of the study by Ahonen, et al., (2007) are the following: Why customers use the current Extranet: - To get and share information - To interact with other users - To download different files What they wish form the new Extranet: - More information about the users - Knowledge data base - Even more material to download - Better organized discussion forum - Better all over search - More speed The study also reveals some challenges related to the old Extranet. Most of the challenges reflect the technical issues complicating the use and missing features desired by users. Ahonen, et al., (2007) predict that especially the absence of user profiles and groups is a challenge to the community s future. Yet another important challenge is the activity of discussion forum and its tracking. Furthermore, Ahonen, et al., (2007, p.31) state that the most noticeable requirement for the Extranet is to foster more active interaction among users. They stress that Tekla employees should participate even more in customer communication. (Ahonen, et al., 2007.) In addition to the challenges of community development from customers point of view, Ahonen, et al., (2007) identified a few risks that are closely tied to the procedures of the organization. Their concerns are crystallized in the following citation (Ahonen, et al., 2007, p.31): A large cultural shift is required inside the company when moving towards collaboration with customers. It is not just about implementing fancy new features to a website; it's about implementing a completely new culture.
43 34 The mentioned cultural change consists of three aspects: activating critical mass, embracing openness and taking the change seriously enough overall. The critical mass of participants, their content and interaction is vital for the community s ability to attract and engage people. Participants activation should be started by promoting new possibilities and benefits of the Extranet to employees and superusers. Empowering them as content providers calls for trust and openness from the company. (Ahonen, et al., 2007) Ahonen, et al., (2007) suggest that the company should form a clear and mutual understanding about openness and Extranet administration. Further, they see that the Extranet plays a central role in establishing competitive advantage. In addition to the best possible product, it would be worth adding the best service and interaction with customers to the company s business model. 3.3 Case study about Extranet community development Eskelinen studied the company s Extranet, and his findings have had a major impact on this thesis. He did his Master s Thesis on online community development methods (reference Eskelinen, 2009a) as part of the PROFCOM research project, in which Tekla was one of the stakeholders. Based on the findings from online community literature and surveys within the company, he constituted Tekla-specific guidelines (reference Eskelinen, 2009b) for company s internal use to support the community project at its first stage. This chapter summarizes his results concerning the needs, challenges and suggested solutions for the case company s online community development. Also, highlights from company specific guidelines are presented and discussed Summary of case study findings During the spring 2009, Eskelinen (2009a) scanned the Extranet use with an online survey, which took place in the freshly launched new Extranet. The survey drew only 21 answers of which nine were from the customers (Eskelinen, 2009a). The answers indicate that not much had changed since the earlier user study was performed by Ahonen, et al., (2007). Once again, the discussion forum and downloads were highlighted as the most useful features of the Extranet, followed by learning material and news (Eskelinen, 2009a). In addition to the survey, Eskelinen (2009a) interviewed nine employees who were involved with the Extranet development. The interview questions concentrated on the exchange of information, features of organization, and possibilities and risks related to Extranet. The interview results reveal that while some people were enthusiastic, others were disposed
44 35 somewhat skeptic towards the possibilities company online community would offer. Eskelinen (2009a, p.54) reports that among the interviewees, the biggest concerns [regarding the community] were getting people to volunteer on various tasks and general time allocation. (Eskelinen, 2009a.) The interviews disclosed that overlapping work was being done due to lack of communication inside the company. Therefore the roles, especially between headquarters and area offices, should be clarified with open communication. Also, the online community could be utilized in removing some of the redundant work. However, Eskelinen (2009a) emphasizes that the company should first resolve its organizational issues and make sure that there are enough resources available for the project before continuing the development of Extranet and its community supporting features. (Eskelinen, 2009a.) One of the organizational challenges is that the community project appears to lack leadership (Eskelinen, 2009a). Another complicated matter presented by Eskelinen (2009a) is that employees responsibilities should be reformed, but at the same time the managers have very little knowledge on online communities. He recommends that the managers should be informed about the benefits of online communities and the competitors efforts in the field. Moreover, Eskelinen (2009a, p.86) concludes: Managers should get more involved with the process or it has a real risk to fail. Well planned strategy and rightly allocated roles are vital in making a successful community Tekla specific guidelines In the company specific guidelines, Eskelinen (2009b) describes the company online community development as a process of two iteration cycles. The first iteration cycle should solely focus on preparing the company to establish an online community. The initializing actions include: clarifying the purpose, setting up goals, selecting people, defining roles, acknowledging current situation (resources), and allocating tasks (Eskelinen, 2009b, p.9). The second round is involved more closely with users and technology, and it follows the steps presented in Chapter (Eskelinen, 2009b.) The company specific guideline was compared to the Extranet community s situation, and the most relevant pieces of advice were selected for closer examination. This chapter next presents how the recommendations by Eskelinen (2009b) were interpreted and implemented in this study.
45 36 Perform a need analysis The need analysis forms the foundation for this work, as case description already indicates. The purpose of a need analysis is to find out differences between a current and desired situation (Eskelinen, 2009b, p.11). An overall need analysis is a big and a time-consuming task. During this study, the needs are gathered on a smaller scope than the guidelines recommend. The need analysis is focused on the Extranet, community and social media, as opposed to the suggested overall situation of the company. Distinguish problems and opportunities When the needs have been gathered, the guidelines suggest to prioritize them and to distinguish problems and opportunities. Eskelinen (2009b, p.12) describes this step as: Analysis of people, their tasks and organization. How things are done vs. how they could be done. Instead of an overall task analysis, this research distinguishes problems and opportunities concerning the establishing of the company online community. The problems are seen rather as challenges in fulfilling the desired needs. Inform skeptics According to the guidelines, in order to get the community function the staff has to have the support of the management (Eskelinen, 2009b, p. 13). The managers skepticism can be overcome by telling them the facts about the positive influence that the community has for the business and by presenting an analysis on competitors communities (Eskelinen, 2009b). Instead of informing, the goal of this case study was to deepen the understanding of the type of lacking information, especially among decision makers. Set different roles The role-setting chapter in the guideline asks what roles and responsibilities are needed to maintain the community (Eskelinen, 2009b). The advice given there is to pay attention to knowledge, skill and motivation when selecting people to community management tasks (Eskelinen, 2009b). It is assumed that the roles and responsibilities will get clearer once the needs concerning the community have been analyzed. Gather enthusiastic people In the guidelines, it was not declared whether the most valued members meant customers or employees, but they were assumed to include both. During this study, the employees who are interested in participating in the community building process are scouted with an online survey.
46 37 4 METHODOLOGY This chapter introduces the strategies and methods used for the research. First, the reasoning for a case study is explained. Then the relevant data collection and analysis methods are introduced and argued. The most essential data collection methods concerning this case were online survey and interviews. Data analysis was mostly carried out through affinity diagramming and root cause analysis. All these methods are described further in their own chapters. 4.1 Research strategy: case study Case study was chosen as the research strategy of this study. According to Yin (2003), it is characteristic for a case study that the boundaries between the studied phenomenon and its context are not clear. Such phenomena appear especially in the field of social science and business (Yin, 2003). Hence, a case study sets a good strategy for this particular research, as the focus is on online communities in business use. A case study aims to describe, understand and explain complex issues (Yin, 1989), which also suits the purpose of this company online communities-focused research. As a comprehensive research strategy, the case study is not a data collection tactic of merely a design feature alone (Stoecker, 1991). Instead, it is an all-encompassing method, which covers the logic of design and both data collection techniques and specific approaches to data analysis (Yin, 2003). Proposed data sources include documents, interviews and observation (Patton, 2002; Yin, 2003). In a case study, data can be analyzed e.g. by relying on theoretical propositions and developing a case description (Yin, 2003). Both data collection and analysis methods used in this single case study are described more closely in the following chapters. 4.2 Sources and methods for data collection The data sources selected for this case study consist of written documents, interviews and observations. They all are considered to be good sources of qualitative data (e.g. Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Leedy & Ormrod, 2005; Patton, 2002; Yin, 2003). An online survey was also utilized, as it is an effective way to elicit requirements (Davis, 2005). Multiple sources of evidence were used in order to increase the validity of data and to provide a deeper understanding of the case, as recommended by Patton (2002) and Yin (2003). Written documents as a data source refer mostly to literature and earlier company specific research reports, which were presented in chapters 2 and 3. Online survey and interviews were
47 38 used in collecting the most relevant data concerning the case. Both data collection methods are introduced in the following chapters and Observation of co-workers, managers, and the Extranet community remained quite passive as it was meant to give merely extra information about what is going on. Observation was strengthened by informal discussions around the topic. The information received both ways was mainly used to decide where the study should concentrate on Online survey This study utilized online survey as the type of questionnaire, aimed at the company employees. Questionnaire was chosen as the data collection method because of its strength in eliciting user needs (Davis, 2005). According to Preece (2000), a digital survey is a good tool for evaluating the use of an online community. Moreover, questionnaire provides a convenient way to collect a large amount of data from many stakeholders in a reasonable amount of time and effort (Lazar & Preece, 1999). Its other important advantages, relevant to this case in particular, are that it is not restricted by the time zone or the location of respondents (Lazar & Preece, 1999). A web-based survey was preferred over an survey because of three reasons. The results were stored into a database and arranged for viewing automatically. The format of answers was more flexible thanks to versatile web-based input options, e.g. checkboxes and radio buttons were available. To an online survey people could answer anonymously. This last reason was essential since the survey included sensitive questions about the attitudes and knowledge of the users. The survey consisted of a structured set of questions with fixed and open-ended answering options resulting in both quantitative and qualitative data. Most of the questions were fixedchoice ones as these were considered to yield more answers and reduce the risk of misinterpretation. Creating the survey and its results are described in detail in Chapter 6 Online survey Interview The target of this study was to collect needs and business goals as well as expectations and beliefs concerning the development of the company s online community. Thus, the most significant data collection method for this case study was interviewing people at management positions.
48 39 Interview was chosen as a method for the data collection because it is widely used and approved in qualitative research and case studies (e.g. Kvale, 1996; Patton, 2002; Yin, 2003). Interviewing has an important role also in eliciting requirements (Davis, 2005). One of the most important advantages of using interviews in this study is that they can reveal things an observer is not able to see: feelings, thoughts and intentions (Patton, 2002). Interviewing aims at entering into another person s perspective (Patton, 2002), and thus it provides in-depth information that helps acquire a better understanding over the topic. The interviews were conducted in a semi-structured manner, which means that the theme is determined beforehand, and some questions may be pre-planned (Kvale, 1996). This kind of approach is recommended by Marshall and Rossman (2006) for qualitative in-depth interviews that retain conversational style. In addition to traditional one-on-one interviews, pair interviews were conducted for this study. This method was chosen due to the assumption that they would facilitate some key persons to talk more freely and their counterpart would provoke them to think and tell more. How the interviews were planned and conducted in practice is presented in Chapter 7 Key person interviews. The results of interviews are included in the same chapter. 4.3 Strategies and methods for data analysis Analysis of qualitative data attempts to constitute order, structure and purpose for the collected data (Marshall & Rossman, 2006). There is no correct way to do data analysis (Marshall & Rossman, 2006), and there is no such thing as a complete analysis (Patton, 2002). Nevertheless, literature suggests some good practices and methods to be used in data analysis. The most important method for organizing and analyzing qualitative data that was used throughout this study was the affinity diagram. It provides a good way to identify and analyze issues (Gaffney, 1999). Another analysis method used in this study is called root cause analysis. It is especially applicable for problem solving (Andersen & Fagerhaug, 2006). These data analysis methods are not very widespread or familiar as methods for data collection. Therefore, they are described at more length in their own chapters straight after the data analysis strategies. This case study also included analysis of quantitative data, since most of the online survey results are of quantitative nature. In this study, the quantitative results from the survey were processed with an electronic spreadsheet. They were arranged so that it was possible to draw some conclusions that could further be associated with the qualitative results.
49 Data analysis strategies This study was set in motion by drafting a case description that was presented in Figure 1 in the introduction chapter. The case description has served as a comprehensive framework for constructing the whole study and the analysis. The idea behind case description strategy is that it leans on general characteristics and relations of the phenomenon (Yin, 2003). In addition, theoretical propositions were exploited to guide data analysis. Propositions from theoretical backgrounds were utilized especially in constructing different data categories while analyzing needs and challenges. Developing a case description and relying on theoretical propositions are suggested by Yin (2003). They are both general analytic strategies for case studies (Yin, 2003). Yin (2003) states that a general analytic strategy is the key to successful analysis. A strategy facilitates concentrating on certain data and ignoring irrelevancies (Yin, 2003). Determining a purpose for data analysis has been stressed also by Patton (2002). The purpose for analysis is usually inherited from research questions Affinity diagram Affinity diagram formed the heart of the analysis process of this study. This chapter describes the principles of affinity diagramming based on the literature and how they were applied in this study. Affinity diagram is not very widely used but a powerful analysis tool for combining and organizing plenty of qualitative data from different sources. The analysis aims at revealing new concepts and patterns from gathered data and thus gaining a deeper understanding of the subject. Affinity diagram is constructed of findings from user studies, each of them written on a separate note. The notes are placed together according to similar issues and themes. Then, the groups of notes are named and arranged hierarchically. The hierarchy in the diagram is created inductively, so that single details lead to general structures. (Beyer & Holtzblatt, 1998.) An example of the hierarchical ordering of notes for this research is depicted in Figure 13. In the research, the hierarchy of the affinity diagram was mainly built bottom-up based on the groups of similar themes and their relations, as proposed by Beyer & Holtzblatt (1998). However, a top-down approach was also experimented in a few suitable situations. It was used to examine how the findings from the literature matched this particular case.
50 41 Figure 13. Example of challenge categories and notes in hierarchical order In the affinity diagram, the findings from literature were placed as categories, which facilitated the grouping of the notes that described the evidence gathered on the field. The notes that didn t match any of the expected categories were grouped under new categories. This kind of analysis technique, which compares empirical patterns with predicted ones, is called pattern matching (Yin, 2003). The role of an affinity diagram was not merely to be a tool for data analysis in this study. The diagram acted as one kind of a case study database, since it stored all the relevant evidence collected from multiple sources and written on their own notes. Creating a case study database for storing and keeping the collected data together is recommended by Yin (2003). Notes from different sources were separated by the color and shape of the Post-its, in order to maintain traceability of evidence. The names of categories were written on their own notes with a colorful and thick felt-tip pen, and again, the colors and sizes of Post-its separated the categories from observations. The following image (Figure 14) illustrates the variety of notes.
51 42 Figure 14. Various Post-it notes distinguish multiple sources of evidence The diagram was constructed iteratively as the study went along and more data was collected and processed. As the amount of evidence and different perspectives grew, the notes and their groups were again analyzed and rearranged. As a consequence of this iterative analyzing process, understanding about the topic gained depth by every new grouping. By using this approach, a profound overall view of the case was reached. In this study, affinity diagram was first utilized in analyzing the preliminary challenges. The process is described in Chapter 5 Preliminary analysis of challenges. The further analysis done by an affinity diagram is discussed in detail in Chapter 8 Analysis of all results Root cause analysis This case study aims to form a deeper understanding of challenges (RQ3) to facilitate outlining solutions (RQ1). As root cause analysis is a tool for effective problem solving and prevention (Wilson, et al., 1993), it was considered an appropriate method for this work. This chapter explains the nature of problems and root causes and the role of root cause analysis concerning this work. Root cause analysis was utilized as one of the explanation building data analysis techniques in this study. The purpose of explanation building is to give an explanation about the case and to identify a set of causal links (Yin 2003). This is exactly what is achieved by root cause analysis, because it helps identifying not only what has happened and how, but also aims to explain why an event occurred (Rooney & Vanden Heuvel 2004).
52 43 The main purpose of root cause analysis in this research was to find out the possible ultimate challenges, which obstruct case company s community building. This application is typical for root cause analysis, as it is most often performed to uncover the reason for problems that have already occurred (Wilson, et al., 1993). Furthermore, the analysis can reveal potential problems. Preventing potential problems from realizing is more effective than solving troubles afterwards (Andersen & Fagerhaug, 2006). Figure 15. Common characteristics of problems compared to a weed Root cause analysis solves problems that typically have causes and visible symptoms. A problem could be compared to a weed, which has leaves that are easily observable and roots hidden underground. The comparison is illustrated in Figure 15. Root cause is the evil at the bottom, the true cause that sets the whole chain of problematic causes and effects in motion (Andersen & Fagerhaug, 2006). Furthermore, the causes and problems form different levels that are faced while digging deeper towards the root. The causes above the root can be called higher level causes (Andersen and Fagerhaug, 2006) or apparent causes (Wilson, et al., 1993). In this study, ultimate challenges were seen to ascend from root causes. The root cause needs to be identified and eliminated, since it is the only means the recurrence of the problem can be prevented (Andersen & Fagerhaug, 2006; Wilson, et al.,1993). Thus, tracking the roots of ultimate challenges offers keys to their solutions. Eliminating the symptoms of higher level causes can only fix the problem temporarily (Andersen & Fagerhaug, 2006). Figure 16 shows how the elimination of different causes affects the problematic situation.
53 44 Figure 16. Problems at different levels and the consequences of their elimination (Wilson, et al., 1993) Rooney and Vanden Heuvel (2004) outline four major steps of a root cause analysis: data collection, causal factor charting, root cause identification and recommendation generation and implementation. In the scope of this research, root cause analysis was performed until the recommendation generation phase. The progression through first phases, which lead to identification of potential root causes of challenges, is described in Chapter 5 Preliminary analysis of challenges. The recommendations are included in the answers of the main research question that are given in Chapter 9. The root cause identification method used in this study is called the five whys. Identification begins by defining the starting point for the analysis and by discovering causes below the starting point. The next step is to ask why this is a cause for the original problem. The question is repeated for every new answer. During the process, the chain of causes is depicted. This method often requires five rounds of asking why. The root cause can be identified among the answers that cannot be explained any further. (Andersen & Fagerhaug, 2006.)
54 45 5 PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF CHALLENGES The studied literature and earlier company-specific research revealed a heap of challenges that could complicate company online community building. However, the goal of this study was to gain a profound understanding of the most critical challenges concerning the case. Thus, the work was continued by scanning through previous interviews by Eskelinen (2009a). The old interview results were categorized into an affinity diagram according to the earlier findings. Thereafter, the most apparent challenges were examined by a root cause analysis. This chapter describes the preliminary analysis process for challenges: how the categories were constructed, merged and excluded. The preliminary analysis resulted in 12 potential challenges that are presented at the end of this chapter. The results of preliminary analysis were later utilized and verified during the next steps of this case study, the online survey and interviews. 5.1 Categorizing earlier interview results Earlier interview results refer to interviews that were made by Eskelinen (2009a) during the spring During this study, earlier interview transcriptions were analyzed in-depth, in order to attain an overall comprehension on the situation. This chapter explains how interview material was processed, analyzed and categorized using an affinity diagram. At the beginning, the interview transcriptions were revised and each observation was written on its own Post-it note. There were nearly 300 different observations from 9 interviews. The notes were grouped according to similar themes. The first grouping followed the classification of interview questions and answers. Thus, the first upper level categories included communication, organization and Extranet community. They were all divided further into needs, challenges and solutions, following the research questions of this study. Thereafter, different challenges were taken into closer examination. They were organized into smaller groups and categorized by various types of challenges proposed by literature and earlier researchers. However, some groups did not fit under suggested topics, and thus they received completely new labels for their categories. Those groups contained issues of organization procedures and communication. Although these issues were not directly related to online community building, they were not overlooked. Their influence was considered to be important regarding the management and coordination of a community building project. All categories of challenges in the affinity diagram at this phase are included in appendix 1 Preliminary listing of challenges and its first table Potential challenges regarding case
55 46 company s online community building. The second table of the appendix 1 contains alternative challenges that were proposed, but did not match observations and thus were left out from the affinity diagram. The organization of notes at this point is illustrated in Figure 17. The categories of challenges are written on small pink Post-it notes, and related observations are attached right underneath. The groups of challenges occupy the left side of the picture, whereas observations concerning needs and purposes lie yet disorganized on the right. Figure 17. Affinity diagram at its early stages The chosen challenge categories were reviewed before the root cause analysis. Some of the categories were merged or excluded. Excluded categories are also presented in the first table of appendix 1. Excluded categories mostly describe consequences of bigger challenges, and thus they were not seen as proper candidates for root causes. For example, changes in daily work could not happen before roles and responsibilities are cleared and prejudices prevail as long as there is not enough information about the topic. Other communities and not enough volunteer people were also excluded from root cause analysis, since they were regarded as minor challenges. Their correctness was decided to be validated by an online survey. Merged categories include openness and culture, which were united in hard to adopt open culture. Furthermore, internal communication and related problems were seen to be included in both communication with areas and ineffective ways of working.
56 Root cause identification for presumed challenges Next step in analyzing challenges was to identify problems with the most impact on company s online community building. The most critical problems were explored by a root cause analysis. The steps of root cause analysis conducted within this study and discussed in this chapter are: data collection, causal factor charting and root cause identification. The data for analysis was gathered and categorized during the previous phases of this research. Challenges and causes that were investigated with root cause analysis are presented in appendix 1 in the first table. Causal factors of challenges were drawn using a mind mapping tool (XMind). The chain of causal factors was formed for each of the presumed challenges. The causal factor charting, which finally led to root cause identification, was done by applying the five whys method described in Chapter Root cause analysis. The challenges were strongly dependent on each other, and thus no single root cause was identified. However, the challenges that most often caused other problems were considered as the most critical ones. The challenges that appeared most critical, the core problems of Extranet community development, are depicted in causal factor chart in Figure 18. Figure 18. Causal factor chart of the core challenges in Extranet community development 5.3 Results of preliminary analysis After root cause analysis, the most probable challenges concerning the case were collected and grouped according to their assumed severity. At that point, the results were reviewed by a
57 48 couple of colleagues and based on their feedback a new category, interaction with customers, was added to the list. The final list of challenges and their severity classifications are presented in Table 2. Assumptions concerning the presented challenges, their meanings and severities are discussed further in this chapter. Table 2. Presumed challenges and their expected severity MAJOR Unclear roles & responsibilities Culture MEDIUM Unclear purpose & goals Importance & commitment Interaction with customers Unclear user needs Too much focus on technology Resources Communication with areas POSSIBLE Technical problems Content is not updated frequently Ineffective ways of working Some challenges were again merged after root cause analysis. Unclear roles and responsibilities enclosed troublesome decision making and community management. Culture refers to openness, but to ways of thinking and conducting the work as well. Importance and commitment by management were seen so close to each other that they were treated as one common challenge. Severity categories selected include major, medium and possible. Both major and medium challenges were regarded as critical barriers for community development. The major category involves the most crucial, organization-wide challenges. Their resolution was predicted to be more difficult than finding solutions to medium challenges. Possible challenges were not seen that relevant at that point, but their recognition was supposed to be noteworthy considering the future of community building. Lack of information turned out to be the underlying reason for many causes. Root cause identification suggested three areas that lacked information: online community building in general, its benefits, and user needs. Furthermore, other interesting challenges regarding the
58 49 case are marked in bold in Table 2. Besides the lack of information, the bolded challenges are addressed as root challenges in this work. Their further investigation, as well as scanning the need for different types of information, are described more closely in the following chapters 6 Online survey for company people and 7 Key person interviews.
59 50 6 ONLINE SURVEY FOR COMPANY PEOPLE The online survey for the company people enquired their views and habits in the use of social media. The survey was created in order to verify some of the previously perceived challenges. Another function of the survey was to collect reasons and needs on why people are using Tekla Structures-related web resources. This chapter specifies the survey goals, presents how the survey was created, and discusses its results. 6.1 Targets of the survey The goals of this online survey are represented in Table 3 below. They are to verify the challenges found earlier and find solutions to them and suggestions for the purpose of the company s online community. In addition, the survey attempts to find employees who are interested in representing the company in social media or on the Extranet community. Table 3. Online survey goals and their relations to challenges Online survey goals Verify challenges found earlier: Lack of information Culture Not enough volunteer participants Other Tekla Structures communities Find solutions for: Unclear purposes and goals Not enough volunteer participants/resources The target group for the survey was mainly Tekla s employees from the Building and Construction business area. The target group was extended with resellers, as it turned out that it would be useful to collect the same information from them at the same time. Instead of the research theme, online communities, the survey was focused on social media. As declared in Chapter Online communities and social media, social media and online communities are quite similar phenomena, as they both involve social interaction in an online environment. Therefore, studying employees awareness and views about interactive online tools and social media services was regarded to provide the needed information.
60 Conducting online survey Conducting the survey was divided further into three phases: planning, implementation and promotion. The implementation of the survey question form was done with a web-based application. The chosen application was Webropol, which is a tool designed for conducting online surveys and gathering and reporting data. Planning and promoting the survey was not that straightforward, and these phases are discussed more closely in this chapter Planning the questions Planning started by drafting a list of questions. Questions were reviewed by six people altogether. With the help of their comments and after clarifying the goals of the survey, the questions evolved into their final form. The survey questions are represented in appendix 2A. Lack of information, or rather awareness of available tools and new ways of interaction, was mapped with questions about discussion forums, blogs, wikis and popular social media sites. If respondents had no experience with social media, they were given a chance to explain the reason for that. The answers to these questions were assumed to give some indication about the attitude that the respondents have towards social media. Their attitudes were regarded to reflect company cultural conditions. Volunteer participants, the so called social media enthusiasts, were sought by asking if respondents were willing to participate in the company s social media related actions. In the case that enthusiasts were be found, the challenge not enough volunteer participants would be disproven. Further on the resourcing problem would be lightened by creating a social media virtual team of eager participants, which is recommended by Eskelinen (2009b). As earlier interviews implied, there was a slight uncertainty about other, possibly competing Tekla Structures-related online communities. In order to find some evidence to support the assumption, a very brief investigation was conducted with an online search engine, Google, and within the most popular social media sites. Only a few cases were found using Tekla Structures as the search word. The benchmarking continued with the survey when people were asked if they knew about these or some other Tekla Structures-related online resources. The main goal behind open ended question What benefits would social media bring to Tekla or to your daily work? was to collect ideas and needs, the information from which the purpose of company s online community could be derived. Answers could be used again in analyzing awareness and attitudes of respondents.
61 Promotion of the survey Eskelinen (2009a) suggests stating the reasons for a survey in order to get more answers. Accordingly, a short introductory text was compiled, which first clarified the term social media, spiced up with two links, and then explained why the survey was being conducted, where the results would be used, and that anonymous answers were allowed. Recently, there had been news about companies that had blocked access to social media sites from their employees. As the objective of this study was not to monitor the employees and their use of social media during working hours, some extra caution was required in stating the reasons so that they were understood properly. Another tip from Eskelinen (2009a), also emphasized by Lazar and Preece (1999), is to make the online survey visible. This was followed by sending a notification of the survey by to Tekla s Building and Construction employees and resellers. The message consisted of the introduction text and the link to the survey. Moreover, news pieces and colorful banners were placed on the company s Intranet and to the internal section of Extranet and its discussion forum. Figure 19 illustrates a piece of news on the Extranet. Figure 19. A piece of news about the online survey on the Extranet
62 53 The best opportunity to reach out to the target group of the study was at the Building and Construction info meeting at the company headquarters. I gave a 15-minute presentation given about social media, plans for my Master s Thesis and asked everyone was to answer the survey. At the same time, I promised to a follow-up with the results of the survey in a later company meeting, which I also did. 6.3 Conclusions of survey results The survey was open for 10 days in the beginning of September Apparently the promotion of the survey was quite successful within the company because it received as many as 90 responses. This means that approximately 30% of the target employees answered the survey. Instead, there were just a few resellers who participated, so the results can be understood as a generalized idea of what employees think. The results of the survey are represented in more detail with descriptive diagrams and tables in appendix 2B. The following sections cover the most interesting findings that are related to the goals of the survey Variance of awareness and attitude Examining the column graphs of interactive online tools and services-related survey s results in appendix 2B gives the first impression that around 50% of the respondents seem to be familiar with forums, blogs, wikis and social media sites. Equivalently, the same number of participants were able to claim some benefits of social media use. In addition, the diagrams in appendix 2B reveal two interesting and clearly distinguishable phenomena: there are a few questions with less yes, often and sometimes answers that pile-up around the limit of 15%. There are also two 10 percent-sized gaps at the tail of the diagrams that indicate unfamiliarity with some of the most common tools. The answers were divided according to their percentage into four categories by these suggestive limits. Categorized answers turned out to describe different levels of users awareness, activity and prevailing attitude. Thus, answers seemed to profile four types of users. These identified types of users were descriptively named as follows: heavy user, social media savvy, accidental user, and ignorant. Distribution between the types is depicted in Figure 20. Their typical answers to survey questions that can be seen as their distinctive features are represented in the list below. Adjectives describing their attitudes towards social media were deduced on the grounds of the other results.
63 54 A: Heavy user (15%): - Writes her own blog - Has contributed to some wiki - Is an active LinkedIn user - Follows tweets in Twitter - Passionate about social media B: Social media savvy (40%): C: Accidental user (35%): D: Ignorant (10%): - Follows discussion forums and has participated in discussion - Probably also follows some blogs and has commented on them - Has browsed some other wiki than Wikipedia - Is an active Facebook user and has a profile on LinkedIn - Can tell some benefits of social media use - Interested in social media - Has seen YouTube videos - Has read blog articles - Careful with social media - Hasn t tried any of above - Doesn t see benefits of social media use - Suspicious towards social media Figure 20. Rough distribution of different user groups. A: Heavy users; B: Social media savvies; C: Accidental users; D: Ignorants
64 55 Considering earlier studies the level of social media awareness is surprisingly high. However, it is presumable that the survey attracted people who were the most interested in the topic. It can be concluded that the challenges related to the lack of information and culture are closely intertwined, and that there is still room for work in spreading information about social media practices and benefits Social media enthusiasts A total of 33 people (37% of participants) were willing to participate in developing Tekla s use of social media. The majority of them work at the headquarters in Finland. Another area office that stood out was Tekla Inc. located in the USA. Hence, the problem is not whether there would be enough enthusiastic and skilful volunteers for a virtual team. The question that still remains unanswered is who will take the lead of the team and guide them Other communities The possibility of other Tekla Structures communities luring Tekla s users is not a threat at the moment. People could not name any other competitive Tekla Structures community, except for one discussion forum that was mentioned four times. It is not as big and popular as the discussion forum on the Tekla Structures Extranet but worth keeping an eye on. The YouTube videos were the only well-known Tekla Structures-related web resource outside the company s Extranet, and yet most of them are created by Teklans. Under these circumstances, it is obvious that the time is right for the company to start building their own online community Benefits Half of the participants shared their ideas on the different benefits that social media could bring to Tekla or to their daily work. Respondents were keen to figure out reasons why Tekla as a company should join social media, but substantially fewer ideas were received about the use of social media in daily work. The results were sorted with an electronic spreadsheet by grouping the answers that had the same repetitive key words and then by concluding what was the idea behind the answers that did not include the most popular key words. The occurrence of the most commonly suggested benefits is listed in Table 4 below.
65 56 Table 4. Benefits of social media to Tekla or to daily work Benefits of social media? Externally Free marketing 11 Direct feedback & better understanding of our client's needs 9 Better brand awareness 8 Closer relationship with customers/potentials 6 Peer-to-peer support 6 Networking 4 News & events, etc. 4 Internally Better knowledge sharing (wiki) 4 Applicability of these benefits to a firm s own online community, or social media site, is quite straightforward. The following paragraphs clarify this connection with a few quotations among the answers that crystallize some of the most popular ideas: It would help communication/relationships. We rely on the customer being proactive in regards to o ur extranet or internet sites. These social networks are places that we could advertise to our customers and keep them better informed. Those of the listed advantages that are the most useful for the customer are actually typical characteristics of an online community: Support, whether it is technical or social, can be seen as a driving reason to belong to a virtual community. Two-way communication between the company people and customers helps in building trusting and friendly relationships, again raising the sense of community. Networking also facilitates people to get to know each other and become business partners, if not even friends. This is a good way to get users who are off maintenance to have a glimpse of what we are doing. It could sell maintenance for us. On the other hand, a lively and successful customer community results in the top three occurrences, which mostly profit the company. Free marketing in this context can be understood so that the users are sharing their success stories and recommending the company s products or services to each other. This kind of peer-to-peer advertisement happens easily on the social media sites that are public for everyone. Yet for now, only the registered customers have access to the Extranet community, so the site itself cannot act as a showcase displaying the flourishing community and the discussions within. Respectively the brand image, shaped by the Extranet and its services, reaches only the registered customers.
66 57 The leak of experiences and recommendations outside the boundaries of the closed community can happen only via its users, who spontaneously share their thoughts elsewhere. Since I do not deal with Tekla external customers, I think it would be a good learning experience for me to see what customers are talking about. I would learn a great deal about Tekla products in that manner. Direct feedback and better understanding of clients needs attained thereby is simply beneficial for both parties. It would not only serve as a learning experience for developers, but also guiding the way for the company to choose the right web strategy. As a conclusion, it seems that a firm-hosted online community would increase customer satisfaction and commitment, which would profit the company in the end Summary of online survey results A little more than half of the respondents seem to be quite well aware of the tools, services and benefits that are related to social media and its use. Around a third of all participants were keen on helping the company to exploit social media in business and work. Awareness seems to go hand in hand with the attitude towards social media. Those who were not that experienced with social media were probably not that well informed or interested in it. Sharing concrete and rousing examples of benefits and use should help in getting more people excited about the topic. It would be worthwhile to display a few examples on how not to use social media and what happens if the company is opted out from social networks and online communities. Luckily there are no competing communities to be reckoned with, but as long as the company does not improve its own, there is room for some better and bigger. Purposes for this firm-hosted online community could also be derived from the suggested benefits. Closer relationship with customers, peer-to-peer support, and networking would be useful for both Tekla and customers. If the community was made at least partially public, it would increase viral marketing and boost Tekla s brand.
67 58 7 KEY PERSON INTERVIEWS Interviews with key persons regarding online community development from a business perspective offered the most valuable case specific information for this study. The interviews aspired to assess business goals and verify and identify challenges and solutions. This chapter presents how the interviews were prepared and conducted. Thereafter, the interview results are briefly reported. They consist of what was said and observed during the interviews. During the interviews, the term Extranet was used to comprehend both the platform and the community, and it is used accordingly in this chapter. 7.1 Interview preparations Interview planning was started by clarifying a purpose and selecting persons for interviews, as recommended by Kvale (1996). Purposes and goals, themes and questions guiding the interviews as well as the target group are all described in this chapter. The overall purpose of the interviews was to examine key persons beliefs and views concerning the development of Extranet community. However, the actual goals behind the interviews were ultimately inherited from the research questions. Interview goals were further modified on the basis of earlier findings and preliminary analysis. Therefore, the interviews aimed to asses needs concerning the community, especially from a business point of view, to verify presumed root challenges and find suggestions for solutions. The interview goals and related challenges are presented in Table 5 below. Table 5. Interview goals and their relations to challenges Interview goals Verify challenges found earlier: Lack of information Culture Importance / commitment Interaction with customers Find solutions: Unclear roles and responsibilities Unclear purposes and goals
68 59 An array of questions was prepared to guide the discussions on the foundations of interview goals. The questions roughly cover three different topics: background information, business goals concerning the Extranet, and development challenges. Background information involves questions about current tasks and customer communication. Business goals and the purpose of the Extranet were assessed by asking about the role of Extranet now and in the future. By the same intention, the Extranet s affect on the Tekla brand and its connection to the company strategy were inquired. Questions about challenges concerned the responsibility of community development and charting other possible challenges. All planned interview questions are attached in appendix 3A. The interview questions were reviewed and refined with a product development director and one product development unit manager. Due to their participation in the planning, they were not included among the interviewees. Instead, the interviews targeted a dozen of other directors and managers of Tekla s Building and Construction business area. In total 14 persons were interviewed, eight of them in pairs. Their positions and languages used in the interviews are listed in Table 6. As a few of the interviewees do not speak Finnish as their mother tongue, their interview questions were translated and interviews held in English. Table 6. Positions of interviewees and interviewing languages Interviewee Vice president Business administration director Marketing manager Segment marketing manager Product development unit manager Product development unit manager Pair interviews Segment director & marketing manager Segment director & marketing manager Segment director & marketing manager Country director & marketing manager Language FI FI FI EN FI FI EN FI FI EN The reason for interviewing people in supervising positions was that they were regarded as important decision makers concerning the future of the Extranet online community. Selected interviewees are responsible of setting business goals and deciding on their subordinates tasks. Therefore, it was regarded essential to explore their beliefs and views on online community development from different angles.
69 60 The key persons were sent an invitation to interviews via approximately three weeks beforehand. The message stated, that the interview would be about finding out the unit s or segment s wants and needs regarding the Extranet community and about discussing related business and organizational challenges. They were also told that the interview was a part of this Master s Thesis. The time reserved for each interview was one hour. 7.2 Interviews in practice The interviews were held during September and October The interview situation was intended to resemble a natural conversation as far as possible. Thus, a suitable environment was usually the office of the interviewee or some meeting room nearby. All interviews were recorded with an audio recorder for later review. The most interesting points and notes were written down during the interviews. Each interview was begun with a short briefing about the research topic. In the briefing, the concept of online community and the current content in the Extranet was introduced first. Then, the interviewees were reminded of the three-level-model of requirements in software development. Last they were told that the interview concentrates on eliciting business goals. It was also mentioned that the results would be used later in planning concrete actions for how to move on with the company s online community building. As stated earlier, the model used was a semi-structured interview. It allowed conversation to fly freely, and thus it was not always necessary to stick to the question list. Additional questions were asked, especially based on ideas that were brought up in earlier interviews. For example, the importance of the Extranet was asked whenever the situation became suitable for that. Also, many of the interviewees were asked to give their opinions on the company hosted networking service and on the best practices data bank. The interviews were conducted so that all planned topics were discussed within the timeframe. However, the interview was ended earlier if the intended information was gathered before an hour had passed. Right after the discussions, the recorded tracks were listened to and the relevant content was written down to text documents for later analysis. 7.3 Summary of interview results The interviews resulted in ideas for goals and purposes for the community from business and also customer point of view. Identified business goals include indirect marketing, customer feedback, and crowd sourcing. Moreover, it was seen that the primary purpose of Extranet is
70 61 to offer value for customers, which is beneficial for both parties. Interviewed key persons thought that the core value that customers gain through Extranet is support. The support was understood to be both technical and emotional, since customers seek solutions for their technical problems as well as company of co-users on the Extranet. In addition to business benefits, Extranet s influence on company s brand was acknowledged, both in a positive and negative sense. Interviewees reported many challenges regarding the company s online community development, and root challenges identified earlier appeared to be as critical as surmised. Most often mentioned the challenges were unclear roles and responsibilities in addition to insufficient resourcing. Many were also troubled by the lack of interaction, static content and poor usability. Issues concerning the lack of information became evident as well. Informing about Extranet and community building in general, about community benefits, users needs and overall goals for the Extranet was regarded necessary. As though as a consequence of unawareness, approximately half of the interviewees represented slightly skeptic views towards the community. Furthermore, they did not consider it as important as the other half of the interviewees who stated that Extranet is not paid enough attention. The interviews revealed a couple of new challenges outside the list of preliminarily identified company related issues. Firstly, the online community related competence of company s personnel was suspected to be inadequate. Secondly, Extranet community s ability to attract customers was questioned. Moreover, not measuring and following the use of Extranet and not integrating community to other business were seen issues that need to be fixed. The need for changes that community maintaining entails in the organization structure and employees daily work was recognized, but no directly applicable recommendations were given. Nevertheless, various pieces of advice concerning the community development were shared during the interviews. Advice includes suggestions for creating a roadmap or strategy to steer community s future development, informing decision makers on aforementioned unclear subjects (i.e. the results of this study), and guiding and activating employees in online behavior and Extranet use. Furthermore, customer needs and behavior should be studied even on a wider scale than before. A more comprehensive report of interview answers can be found in appendix 3B.
71 62 8 ANALYSIS OF ALL FINDINGS This chapter presents the results of analysis, which combines all the previous findings from different sources in order to answer the research questions. First, the needs concerning Tekla s community are represented from a business and customer perspective. Thereafter the further analysis of challenges and its results are described. The latter part of this chapter reveals analyzed findings that were assumed to be fundamental when considering actions that are required when establishing a company online community. Therefore, special features of company online communities and deduced organizational requirements are presented. 8.1 Needs and goals for community One goal of this case study was to identify different needs, goals and requirements that are related to this company online community. The main emphasis was on finding out the business goals. Clarifying the business goals as well as user needs is vital in order to define the purpose for the community, according to Eskelinen s (2009a) community development model. All findings concerning business goals and customer needs analyzed are presented in this chapter Business goals Business goals were constructed mainly of the information that was gathered in management interviews. The business benefits of social media that employees suggested in the online survey proved to be very similar and thus they backed up the interview findings. The meanings of identified business goals are discussed and their relations analyzed in this chapter. Figure 21 presents high-level business goals of the company, business goals for its community, and how they are connected to each other. The connections are made through the main purpose of the community that is the value that the Extranet provides for both customers and company. Thus, all business goals illustrated in Figure 21 and discussed in this chapter are instances of values that the community may provide for the company.
72 63 Figure 21. Business goals of company and community connected together Ultimately, the company aims for profit and growth that is attained by more sales and costefficiency. The sales revenue comes from both new and existing customers. According to interview results, the Extranet is therefore a crucial element in providing additional value for the existing customers who pay a software maintenance fee. Extranet and the materials and discussions within should become so valuable that one cannot opt out the maintenance. In the value creation chain, the company first creates something valuable for customers i.e. what customers need, which is described in the next Chapter When the customers needs are fulfilled, they are satisfied with the offering of the company and thus they are willing to invest more in their products and services. This produces again value for the company. For now, Extranet generates maintenance sales merely by increasing customer satisfaction. Direct sales are not possible since Extranet lacks web shop features. Nevertheless, this kind of service is planned to be added in the future. Besides more sales and customer satisfaction, cost-efficiency is displayed among business goals in Figure 21. It is regarded as a welcome by-product of successful community building.
73 64 Also, the benefits of community maintaining are rather eligible community business goals. They support business and offer value to company in different ways. The suggested business goals for the community include indirect marketing, crowd sourcing and feedback. Indirect marketing includes sharing recommendations, success stories and best practices among Extranet users. Positive word-of-mouth information strengthens the existing customer relationships and attracts new potential customers. Crowd sourcing means harnessing users in maintaining the community by creating content and sharing ideas or even by product development, for example via beta tester groups that communicate through the Extranet. Versatile feedback can be easily collected through the Extranet, but it requires a planned process. Feedback would guide the company to better serve and satisfy their customers and work smarter. Both crowd sourcing and feedback result in cost-efficiency of the company s actions. Finally, increasing all kinds of interactions between company representatives and customers results in closer relationships. This creates again customer satisfaction and makes customers more committed to the company and community Customers needs Previous chapter discussed the purpose of Extranet to offer value for its users. From customers point of view it means fulfilling their needs. Customer needs concerning the Extranet were sought from earlier research results represented in Chapter 3. In addition, the employees interviewed suggested ideas on what Extranet could offer for customers during this and the earlier case study conducted by Eskelinen (2009a). Both customer needs and ideas from employees were compared to online community prerequisites found from the literature. The comparison of needs is presented in appendix 4. The comparison shows that customer needs correspond well to the community prerequisites. In fact, two out of three main goals of customers using the Extranet are reasons why people engage in online communities: exchange of information and social interactions. Moreover, the sense of community is both the cause and effect of both actions. Thus, it can be said that customers really wish to encounter community-like features and feelings in the Extranet. Central customer needs are displayed in a diagram in Figure 22 and discussed more in the following paragraphs.
74 65 Figure 22. Customers needs concerning the Extranet Downloading files, especially the new product versions, has long been the main reason for customers to use the Extranet. Customers told that they would like to have even more material to download. Nowadays Extranet offers a lot of product-related information, which is another attraction. Customers look for learning materials, and hints and tips on the use of the software. They would like to have some kind of knowledge base, for example of best practices. They are also interested in news and would like to read blog articles. Furthermore, customers would like to get more information about other users on the Extranet. User profile pages were suggested alongside with introductions of Teklans. A good search function was also emphasized to be important, since otherwise valuable information will remain undiscovered. Discussion board was, and probably still is, the most loved feature of the Extranet. Its main purpose is to serve as a support channel for customers. They can express their problems and questions there, and either company experts or other customers reply with solutions. The customers place a high value on this kind of online support. Some interviewed employees even suggested that the company should be prepared to support customers online around the clock. For now, the discussion forum is practically the only way for users to interact with each other. Customers wished for more interactivity and features that support connecting with other people, for example possibilities to form subgroups and networks of colleagues. Further, interactions were requested in forms of sharing and rating user created information and files.
75 Perceived challenges All challenges that interviews unfolded were considered to be most relevant regarding the case. The first part of this chapter represents their further analysis aiming to point out the major challenges. The latter part discusses the meanings and relations of the challenges Further analysis of challenges The challenges that were reported and observed during interviews were listed and categorized according to their fields: organization, strategy, users, technology. The categorized list is presented in appendix 5. According to the categorization, most of the challenges are of organizational or strategic nature. In further analysis, the challenges and their symptoms were drawn in a cause-effect diagram that is depicted in Figure 23. The colors in the image refer to earlier severity classifications of challenges. Now the major challenges can be distinguished by their location in the diagram: the farther left they are, the closer to the roots of community development problems they can be seen to relate. On the other hand, the severity of a problem can be assessed by the number of undesired consequences it causes.
76 67 Figure 23. Cause-effect diagram of challenges in community building (OC = Online community) The image shows that lack of information is the root cause. Also, organization culture has been placed nearly on the same level. This is because lack of information cannot be seen as a direct cause of prevailing culture but it probably has influence on its development. Increasing knowledge especially on online communities in general could have an effect on all culture related issues. Lack of information appears to be clearly bigger problem than supposed challenges of culture, which refers to ways of working and thinking, because it breeds so many other problems. Moreover, more painful nodes, other than culture, turn out to be unclear goals and purposes as well as unclear roles and responsibilities. All in all, preliminarily assumed root challenges proved to play a significant part on the field of challenges according to this analysis approach. The only exception is the meaning of lack of interaction. Nevertheless, the lack of interaction involves here both customer and internal communication. Earlier interview results showed remarkable flaws in internal communication and information management, which can actually have some influence on the root cause, the lack of information.
77 Discussion on challenges The analysis revealed that the major challenges of the company s online community development are lack of information, importance and managers commitment; unclear goals and purposes; unclear roles and responsibilities; and organization culture. Next paragraphs discuss how they were perceived, why they occur, and what are their consequences. Lack of information Lack of information was proven to be the deepest and widest problem according to the results of the online survey, interviews and this analysis. Lack of information was discovered on four different areas related to online community: general building principles, benefits, user needs and internal organization. All interviewees expressed uncertainty on one or more of these areas, and online survey results implied that at least half of the employees would require more training on the field of online interaction. Lack of information causes unclarity regarding the community s goals and purposes as well as roles responsibilities. Moreover, unclarity of goals and unawareness of benefits were assumed to affect the importance and commitment given to community development according to interviewees. Importance and managers commitment The managers commitment to the development is crucial since the community s resourcing is dependent on their decisions. In addition, the managers are responsible for setting the business goals of the community and resolving issues concerning roles and responsibilities. In the interviews, managers regarded the importance of Extranet as follows: Extranet is not important enough, It requires more attention in the future, It is just one important thing among others, or more descriptively, We devote one finger of left hand to Extranet. The received answers imply the lack of importance and manager s commitment to be a very distinct challenge. Unclear goals and purposes The community s goals and purposes seem unclear because of insufficient understanding of user needs, community benefits, and also of community building principles, which stress that a community should have a purpose. On the other hand, the analysis suggests unclear goals and purposes to be a reason for various issues that were categorized being strategic. These issues include customers not perceiving the value, community not being connected to core business and strategy, not having measurements, and not standing out, which means knowing, showing and reinforcing the community s assets. What is remarkable is that all these strategic
78 69 issues are new additions to a preliminary analysis of challenges, and they were brought out by the interviewees during this research. Unclear roles and responsibilities The reason for unclear roles and responsibilities in a community project is probably that there is not enough information on how to structure a suitable internal organization. This was proven in interviews, since none of the interviewees recognized applicable solutions. As long as the roles and responsibilities remain unsettled, the community development and employees active participation are hampered. These result in a lack of interactions and static content. Also, the decision making and management of the community as well as training and making employees adopt changes in their daily tasks all require a decent organization of roles and responsibilities. Culture Organization culture did not receive that much attention in the interview answers compared to other major challenges. In this analysis, three areas were connected with Tekla s organization culture: openness, too much focus on technology, and ineffective ways of working. The last mentioned might very well be a consequence of the second one. Many of the company s employees have a background in engineering and their education has been focused on technology instead of sociability, which may explain the technology-centric way of thinking and working. Too much focus on technology has already backfired in the Extranet development, since it has the minimum possibilities for interaction and numerous usability issues. Both are crucial from the customers perspective. Cherishing openness, however, is probably not that critical in a closed community than in public social media. Nevertheless, it is useful when building trust between community members. 8.3 Special features of company online communities The company s environment and business objectives bring some new aspects into its online community building. In this study, the perspective is on a company that wants to utilize an online community to support its core business, which focuses on something else. Similar company online communities probably enclose special features that separate them from noncompany online communities. These features were identified among all the information gathered, especially in the interviews. Found special features of company online community include:
79 70 - Value for customers and company - Connection to company strategy - Effect on brand image - Decision making concerning the community - Employees participation Company online community s main objective is to create value for its members and the company (Antikainen, 2007), which was proven also at this case. The value creation for customers is critical. If the company s community site fails to offer value for customers, they have no reason to visit it (Näkki, et al, 2008). As a consequence, there will be no community to benefit the company. The value that defines the purpose of a community is different for the customers and company. The objectives concerning both perspectives were expressed earlier in chapters Business goals and Customers needs. Building an online community should fit in with the company s business. As a consequence, community development is affected by the strategic alignment and decisions of the company. On the other hand, the discussions within and outside of the online community may have an effect on the company s brand. The interviewees suggested a look and feel for the community Moreover, at least some of the employees participate in social activities in the community where they are regarded as company representatives. Considering all this, the decision-making model, processes, and managing company online community should be more disciplined than in non-company online communities. 8.4 Organizational requirements The aforementioned features of company environment set their own requirements for successful online community building. In the context of this study, they are called organizational requirements. They mostly concern the strategic nature of company online communities and internal organization. Deduced organizational requirements for company online communities include: - Value creation through community - Clear and strategic purpose - Policies - Adequate resourcing - New roles and tasks - Management buy-in
80 71 Above all, online communities need management buy-in as Reed (2009c) states it. Company management plays a crucial role here since their decisions affect the development of the community. Managers are responsible for establishing business goals, strategies and policies, planning actions and allocating resources. Building an online community in a company environment requires all these, and thus managements commitment to the project is important. However, knowledge on online communities is also required since decision makers should be aware of topics they are making decisions about. Company s task is to establish the community s value creation, which means that it has to fulfill the needs of users while meeting its business goals. Clear and strategic purpose statement should communicate the value of the community. The importance of an online community having a clear purpose was highlighted in all studied development guidelines (see Chapter 2.2). For companies, a clear purpose in building a community is vital. It explains why the community exists, and it helps in constructing a development strategy for the community. The community s connection to the company s strategy and brand should also be taken into account. This especially calls for guiding and training employees on how they should behave online as company representatives. Moreover, the community should have common policies for all users. In addition to rules of conduct, policies should cover security, privacy and copyright. Building and maintaining a company online community takes resources: time and commitment of employees and money. It also calls for a reform of roles, responsibilities and tasks. Managers need to decide who will participate and how much time chosen employees are allowed to spend in their online community related tasks. Furthermore, the management of an online community needs to be thought out carefully. It may cause changes in the organization structure and decision making system.
81 72 9 CONCLUSIONS AND DISCUSSION Finding suggestions for the next steps that Tekla should take in their online community development was the main motivation behind this study. The first section of this chapter presents suggestions for these steps and concludes all findings of this study. The second section summarizes and discusses research results as answers to the research questions. Their validity and applicability is evaluated in the third chapter. The final section summarizes the contributions of this research and offers suggestions for further research. 9.1 Proposals for solutions In effect, the company should next fulfill the requirements and remove the challenges. This section presents discussion on how this should be done. The suggestions are based on the literature studied, research results, and further conclusions. Organizational requirements are significant in forming a foundation for most of the solution proposals and actions that should be taken. Table 7 displays the solutions as responses to challenges and special features of company online communities. Solutions include informing and involving the key persons, establishing a strategy, and organizing community management, development and participation. These form the basis in establishing a company online community, in addition to a needs analysis. The next step is to create a roadmap, which provides clear guidelines for development and thus prevents development related challenges to emerge. All steps are first presented in an overall company online community establishment process. Thereafter, solutions are discussed in detail from the case company s perspective in their own chapters.
82 73 Table 7. Proposed solutions in connection to challenges and organizational requirements PROPOSED SOLUTIONS CHALLENGE COC FEATURES 1. Scan situation (assess needs and challenges) 2. Informing and involving key persons (management buy-in) 3. Establish strategy (purposes, policies, measurements) 4. Organize roles and responsibilities (management, development and participation) Lack of information Unclear goals and purpose Lack of information Importance / managers' commitment Unclear goals and purpose Unclear roles and responsibilities Resourcing Value for users and owners (= customers' needs and business goals) Value for users and owners Connection to company strategy Effect on brand image Employees' participation Decision-making concerning the community Employees' participation 5. Create roadmap Poor content and usability Lack of interaction Technical problems Value for users
83 Suggested process for establishing a company online community Figure 24. Suggested process for establishing a company online community
84 75 Figure 24 presents in a general format a proposal for the process of establishing the company online community. Although the process is primarily designed for the case company, following a similar process could help any other company establish their own customer community. In the following chapters of this work, the details of each step are described from Tekla s point of view. However, the next paragraphs offer a quick overview on the suggested process. The first suggested phase in community development is to scan the overall situation. This means identifying all stakeholders and user groups, assessing needs and challenges, and gathering information that is needed with the next steps. The second step includes spreading information on various online community related topics. Informing is one way to involve key persons, who are important considering the future development of the community: the company s decision makers and community s most active members. The third phase has to do with the strategic aspect of the company online community. The suggestion is that assets should be first identified, and they should be highlighted in a public purpose statement. The community should also be given an attractive and descriptive name. Targets and measurements should be set, where involvement of managers is again important. The community s policies should be created, and they should support the company s strategic alignment and the brand. The fourth phase includes everything about the whole internal organization: arranging decision-making, community management, development and participation, finding suitable participants, assigning and training new tasks and roles to employees and constructing related processes. Organization structure should probably be reconsidered throughout the company. Literature on organizational changes and managing projects is worth reading for additional tips regarding this phase. The fifth phase suggests that a roadmap for development is also needed. Content creation, communication and interaction should be planned in advance. It is also good to consider the services that the online community could offer. Technical development plans should be based on these needs. It is noteworthy that the steps described in this process are only the first steps for establishing the company online community. Developing and maintaining the community is an iterative and continuous activity. Ideas for further development and maintenance were described in Chapter 2.2 Online community building processes and principles.
85 Identify and define users and their needs This research scanned the situation concerning business goals and development challenges. The remaining actions that Tekla should carry out on their way to establishing an online community are described in this chapter. The actions are gathering users needs, identifying user groups, and continuing benchmarking. Assess users needs. There are user needs concerning the community yet to be discovered. Old studies of customers needs may still be valid, but a survey with wider sampling and upto-date questions would be in order. A thorough understanding of customers needs is vital, since it is fundamental to value creation (Kauppinen, 2008). Moreover, the needs of employees, especially from the area office personnel and resellers as suggested in interviews, should be charted. This would help in planning how utilizing the Extranet community could facilitate their work with customers and colleagues. Identify different user groups. Needs assessment should take into account that there are numerous different user groups with various needs. All, or at least the primary, groups of users should be identified in order to assess and fulfill their needs. Understand users. Identifying different users and needs should aim at better comprehension of the community s users: what kind of people they are, what motivates them, what things they regard important, interesting or fun, how they communicate etc. Creating this kind of understanding probably requires more than just a simple online survey. One good method for gaining a deeper understanding of users is contextual inquiry described by Beyer & Holtzblatt (1998). Build relationships and trust. Community builders should also build relationships with the community members, as Reed (2009a) suggests. At the early stages of community building, it would be worthwhile to get to know the key persons: the decision makers in the company as well as the most enthusiastic and potential community driving members, whether they are employees or customers. Getting to know each other creates trust between the people involved in the community. Trust is a required element for the emergence of the sense of community (Blanchard & Markus, 2004) and additionally facilitates collaboration. Follow competitors and trends. Benchmarking competitors efforts with their online communities and following web trends should be continuous. Information on both is useful in planning actions for the company s own community building.
86 Inform and involve people The biggest challenge was lack of information, which seemingly influenced on how important the managers regarded community building and how closely they were committed to it. Executives and managers need to be provided with enough information to facilitate their decision making concerning establishing the community. This chapter concentrates on contemplating what kind of information should be shared and how people, especially the management, could be involved and engaged even more to the project. Inform about community benefits connected to business goals and challenges. Community benefits for business should be presented to managers in order to get them interested about communities (Eskelinen, 2009b; Reed 2009c). From strategic point of view, it would be worth communicating how the benefits contribute to company s higher business objectives (as in Chapter Business goals) and overcoming current business challenges. Inform about examples, competitors and trends. Presenting the following material to decision makers was regarded useful by interviewees: examples of successful and unsuccessful communities and how they were done, benchmarking results of competing communities and competitors community building efforts and web trends in general. Inform about users needs and behavior. The interviews disclosed that managers were also curious about customers wishes concerning the Extranet. Analysis showed that building an interactive online community would definitely satisfy customers needs (see Chapter Customers needs). Managers also expressed their interest towards users current activities in the Extranet. In the future, different measurements concerning community use should be collected and reported to decision makers frequently. Inform about online community development principles. The main online community building principles in general (in Chapter 2.2) and special features (Chapter 8.3) and requirements concerning company online communities (Chapter 8.4) should be shared, especially among those who are responsible for organizing and carrying out work regarding the community. Displaying the user-centric guidelines and emphasizing the social nature of communities would hopefully turn the focus from technology to users. Promote community. Promote community. Community building activities involve community promotion (Butler, et al., 2002). For a start, interviewees suggested reminding users that Extranet exists. In addition, Extranet and benefits of communities could be promoted in company meetings and in context with related user surveys. In addition, Extranet campaigns, competitions and theme days could be considered. The goal of promotion and
87 78 informing employees is to prepare the organization s atmosphere to working in web 2.0 environment to embrace openness and rapid responses to changes. Involve key persons. Managers would probably be best informed about the suggested topics in their meetings and personal discussions. Involving them to discuss and agree on community s goals and purpose would probably increase their commitment to community development. Involving key persons in eliciting requirements already at the early stages of a project to increase their commitment has been recommended by Kujala (2002) and Kauppinen (2008). Moreover, engaging all kinds of users in online community building project is an action approved by Preece (2000) and Kim (2000). Reed (2009a) suggests finding and recruiting a group of active members to create buzz within the community even before it has been launched Define purposes and set measurements Building a company online community is not only a user-centric design activity, since it should involve the company s strategic aspects as well. Interviews showed remarkable deficiency concerning this area of the case company s community establishing. This chapter gives suggestions on how Tekla should take its community s strategic issues, such as purposes, assets and measurements into account in community development. Identify assets. When agreeing on community s purpose, its assets should be considered. This should be done because community needs to stand out from its competitors to attract visitors, as Reed (2009b) and three interviewees pointed out. Thus, it is presumable that the community will draw more members if its purpose leans on assets; when it offers something more than others and succeeds in communicating it. The distinguishable feature and strength of case company s community is that there are experts involved in conversations and content creation. As discussed earlier, this is the point that requires attention and development. Suggestions for public purpose: As a conclusive suggestion concerning the public purpose of Extranet community, the elements of purpose statement could be: connect with other Tekla Structures users and experts, learn together and support each other. However, the purpose statement should not promise anything that the community does not fully offer. For this reason, the community and related processes still need development to meet these promises before a purpose is published. Suggestions for private purpose: The private purpose statement for the company should communicate the Extranet s importance regarding maintenance sales, customer commitment and feedback as well as its function as a versatile communication channel.
88 79 Validate purposes with managers. After formation, the statements should be evaluated by people who make decisions concerning the company s strategy. This ensures that the community s purposes are in line with the company s strategy and that key persons understand and stand behind them. Consider purpose for employees. In addition to purposes that respond to customers needs and company s business goals, it would be good to consider if a third purpose should be formed for employees, who participate in the community actions. Although they act and engage in the community as company representatives, they are still people with their own personalities and motivations. Thus, they need a reason to join and act in the community, and the better it suits their motivations, for example performing faster and better in their tasks, the more likely it is that they will become active participants. Give community a name. In addition to purpose statements, community should have a descriptive name (Reed, 2009a; Eskelinen, 2009a). The name is also good to be accepted by management, since it may later have an essential influence on the company s brand. Measure with purpose. Both purposes and measurements are valuable guidelines concerning the development of community. The evolution of community should be followed and measured against the targets, just like it is done on other areas of business. The measurements, however, should be tied to the goals set for the community (Gossieaux, et al., 2008). For example, if the community s purpose is to increase customer satisfaction and decrease the load on other support channels, then fulfillment of these targets should be measured instead of e.g. community s member count. Think about people, not just numbers. Community s web analytics software provides some hints of use but it does not provide an overall picture of use. Users opinions should be collected by other means, for example with an online survey. Furthermore, the reports of use should not rely solely on numbers (Reed, 2009a). The community is a living entity, and it probably breeds interesting stories that would be worth sharing with decision makers and other community members Internal organization Settling the roles and responsibilities of online community management and maintaining is probably the hardest of issues to resolve. Neither interviewees nor literature gave unambiguous instructions for solutions. Therefore, this chapter is rather a collection of things that community organizers should be aware of. The topics cover ideas and discussion about decision making concerning the community, new roles and tasks and employees participation.
89 80 Extensive decision making Reconsider the whole organization structure. In the interviews it became clear that the current organization structure does not include any evident location that could be placed with the ownership of the community and the responsibility for its development. Building the community seems to involve everyone who is attending in strategic decision-making, action planning, customer communication, providing support and producing content to the Extranet. Thus, it looks like that the structure of the organization has to be reconsidered throughout the whole company. Empower a steering team with multiple skills and know-how. The case company s community related decision-making requires understanding of the following areas: company s business objectives, expertise in the field of business, web trends, online community development and strategic user-centered design. At this point, it is probably very hard to find one person with this broad a view on all aforementioned topics. Thus, a small steering team of insightful people could be founded to take care of early decision-making and coordinating the community establishing efforts. In addition to responsibility, they need to have enough influence and support from the company executives. Establish new roles and tasks The actual development and maintaining of the online community requires people to take care of technical administration and social interactions (Butler, et al., 2002). In addition to those, content is an essential element in the case company s community. For now, the responsibilities concerning technical development have been shared between web team and information management unit. At the same time, Extranet development responsibilities regarding content and interaction are scattered around the organization. Their centralized coordination should be considered. Moreover, a higher-level strategic guidance and follow-up concerning all these areas is needed. The missing responsibilities could be met by establishing new roles and reforming old ones. Several suggestions for required roles and tasks were found from literature, and they are next presented briefly. Hagel and Armstrong (1996) found a number of roles for operating a community, which are played or overseen by the producer or general manager of the community. They address these first three roles as the most important: executive moderator, the moderator of moderators, who follows discussions, community merchandisers marketing interesting goods and services unobtrusively to community members and the executive editor, who develops an inclusive programming strategy for the community. The remaining three roles are archivist maintaining and organizing user generated content, usage analyst reporting participants behavior and newproduct developer full of fresh development ideas (Hagel & Armstrong, 1996).
90 81 Preece (2000) identifies a typical three-person development team that involves a team manager, a technical specialist and a human-computer interface specialist, who acts as a community advocate and takes care of collecting users needs. Seybold (2006) notes that customer communities tend to have 'an internal champion and a group of key employees or stakeholders who participate (without injecting their agendas) in the customer community. This internal champion could be paralleled to community manager, a position that has lately been argued a lot in online community related blogs. Suggested list for company community maintenance activities: Based on all findings during the study, a list containing case company s community maintaining activities was drafted to facilitate organizing roles and tasks. The preliminary list was as follows: - Activating and rewarding members - Promoting community - Keeping participants and content creators up to date - Trainings and guidelines - Technical support - Requirements gathering and analysis - Development planning - Planning related processes - Monitoring and measuring - Competitor benchmarking and following trends Suggestions for allocating roles: The activities were experimentally attached to different roles in order to gain a comprehension on how many full-time employees maintaining a community takes. The mind map about roles and responsibilities is displayed in appendix 6. The result of outlining responsibilities was that in addition to current web team at least a community manager is required. Furthermore, accompanying her by someone managing the content creation would be welcome. However, it is notable that the list of actions and tasks will be reformed once the community s purposes have been set, which may have an influence on the required roles and activities. Employees participation Find volunteers and activate participants. Creating an expert community primarily requires participation of product experts, instead of web team members, whose profession lies on a different field. There are already a dozen of experts answering to questions on discussion forum, but their number and forms of interaction will probably increase in the future.
91 82 Especially area office personnel and resellers should be encouraged to become involved in the community activities, according to interviewees. However, the most enthusiastic and potentially active community members should be preferred to ensure the liveliness of the community. During this research, employees interest was queried with online survey, and a group of eager volunteers was found. Prepare policies and train for new tasks. Participating in community causes changes in job descriptions and overall work design. In this kind of situation, it is important to communicate to new participants the purpose of the community, what is expected of them and what are the guidelines for online behavior. Enough time should be reserved for training employees to work in the community environment. Luckily, the company has already prepared instructions for social computing, but its contents should be made known more widely among employees. Resolve other responsibility issues. Earlier interview results by Eskelinen (2009a) indicated that there are unclarities in roles and responsibilities also on other areas of working than in the community building. These should be examined more closely and cleared out at the same time as designing the ways of working related to the customer community. Overcoming these troubles is important, since unclear conceptions of the work may cause misunderstandings and restrain people from participating (Otala & Pöysti, 2008). Again, clearly stated purposes and policies for the community could be of help there Further development ideas Interviews conducted the during earlier and this case study gave various hints on community development. This chapter summarizes the development ideas for Extranet platform, content and services. Figure 25 displays the development ideas according to their topicality. Figure 25. Guideline for Extranet feature development
92 83 Ongoing development issues describe topics that have been recently discussed: updates to download pages, support center and marketing, and sharing new products. However, their development is still quite slow because of scarce resources in the web team. Moreover, ways of utilizing discussion forums, blogs and internal communication in general should be considered in order to increase interactivity and productivity among employees. Also, getting a properly functioning and all-inclusive search function is crucial regarding the usability of the community. User profile pages displaying information about users should be added soon, since they help users to identify each other, which facilitates emergence of the sense of community (Blanchard & Markus, 2004). The same applies to the users ability to form groups and networks, but their absence is not regarded as critical. Even less critical development targets from the community perspective are the best practices wiki and e-commerce features of the Extranet, and thus their design can be postponed further to the future. What is missing from the picture is the redesigning of the front page, which was pointed out by a few interviewees. It should promote community s activity and updated content, or its display could even be adjusted by the users. Also, new ways to serve customers via the Extranet should be thought about. Interviewees suggested, for example, sharing webinars and constant online support. In the longer run, development of the community should concern how it is developed side by side with the public web pages and intranet. Also, internal information processing and management and related tools should be reconsidered in association with online community development. 9.2 Answers to research questions This chapter provides a summary of the findings and lessons learned during this case study. The contents are formulated as answers to research questions: what are Tekla s needs, major challenges and suggested solutions concerning online community building What are the needs concerning Tekla s online community? The results of this study show that Tekla s online community s purpose is to create value for its users and owners by fulfilling their needs. Thus, the needs concerning the community play a crucial role, since they define its purpose and guide its development. During this research, the needs were mostly gathered from the business perspective. Tekla s high-level business goals, to which company benefits could be connected, are increasing
93 84 maintenance sales and customer satisfaction. Business goals related to community include offering value to customers, closer relationships with customers, direct feedback, free marketing and crowd sourcing. Customers needs were studied from earlier research results. The customers needs concerning the community consist of receiving information and support and being in contact with other Tekla Structures users. Customers needs were compared to general online community users needs suggested by literature. The general needs related to online communities include desire for information and sociability, and thus can be concluded that Tekla s customers would really benefit from an online community. The needs from the community s users and owners set requirements for different features that online community setting has to fulfill. At the case of company online community, these requirements concern the organization and technology. Figure 26 displays how goals and needs are related to requirements. This figure also shows origins of some of the organizational requirements for Tekla: strategic purpose, policies, participation and content creation. In addition to these, the organizational requirements include involvement of the management and an internal organization that supports community building. Figure 26. Construction of company online community s needs and requirements
94 85 Specifying technical requirements was out of the scope of this study. Nevertheless, they should be formed to support users needs and actions, for example communication and identification of other users. Literature offers further examples and heuristics for designing social software (Bouman, et. al, 2008; Malinen, 2009) and good usability (Nielsen, 1994) What are Tekla s challenges concerning online community building? The research results indicate that the biggest challenge in Tekla s online community building is lack of information in the following areas: users needs, community s benefits, internal organization, online communities in general, and possibilities of the Extranet. These lead to other online community development related problems: unclear goals, purposes and strategies, unclear roles and responsibilities, and managers commitment to project. Also, problems with insufficient resourcing and tendency to focus too much on technology were perceived. Minor problems were discovered with different cultures and languages inside organization. Other minor problems, that significantly affect user experience, are inflexible technical platform, lack of interaction and poor content and usability. Interpreting all the findings and considering everything that was learned during this research, it seems that the biggest problem after all is the extent of the project that probably is much greater than anyone could expect. Establishing an online community requires a lot of attention and effort, careful plans and strategy, new actions and participants. Establishing a company online community may also have an effect on overall business model, organization structure, communication and information management, both technically and in even wider in ways of working. Transferring work even more and more into online environment causes changes in sales, marketing and support methods. As Gossieaux, et al., (2008) put it: Communities will transform most business processes. The whole big picture concerning company online community is hard to grasp, since it requires so much comprehension from a variety of areas. In addition to all areas mentioned above, also understanding about strategic user-centered design, requirements engineering and management, content production, web technologies and leading organizational changes are necessary. It is very challenging to find persons with this wide knowledge and competence, so close collaboration between experts representing different fields seems an inevitable solution.
95 How to continue building Tekla s Extranet community? The ultimate goal of this study was to find a set of concrete actions that Tekla should next take in its online community building. After studying the literature and case in depth, especially from the business perspective, the following steps are suggested: 1) Assess customers and employees needs 2) Inform and involve decision makers 3) Set strategies, targets & measurements 4) Organize management, development and participation 5) Plan further development of content, interaction and technology Actions related to each of these steps have been described in detail at the beginning of this chapter. As discussed above in context with the challenges, the development of online community may entail huge changes. Therefore, it is important that the company considers developing online community in association with all its other operations and not just as one corner of Extranet. The web as business environment seems to become even more dominant day by day, and thus mastering its possibilities is probably the key for success for companies in the future. 9.3 Evaluation and applicability of results Multiple sources of evidence were collected in order to increase the validity of data and to provide a deeper understanding of the case, as proposed by Patton (2002) and Yin (2003). This case study relied on literature, earlier research, online survey for employees, and interviews of managers. Both online survey and interviews met their goals. They resulted in ideas for business benefits and goals. They also provided information that was useful in verifying the challenges found earlier and in planning suggestions for company s next community building actions. Online survey gathered 90 responses, which is approximately 30% of the target audience. The survey results are regarded to indicate employees views and experiences on the inquired topics well. However, it is likely that the survey attracted more persons who are interested in social media than those who are not, which may bias the results a bit more towards their answers. The sampling in interviews was comprehensive. Interviews reached all persons who were invited, which means all key persons from the management of Building and Construction business area at the company headquarters.
96 87 The business goals were deduced primarily from the results of key person interviews. The results concerning business goals did not reveal any contradictions, and they can be regarded reliable. Moreover, similar goals and business benefits recurred in the online survey results. Also, literature acknowledges chosen community business goals as benefits company online communities may entail (e.g. Warms, et al., 2000; Mittilä & Mäntymäki, 2004; Antikainen, 2007). The validity of online community development challenges was examined even more thoroughly. The analysis was done in two phases, both included categorization and examination of causes and effects. The purpose of latter analysis was to verify the results found in the first phase. Analyses combined variety of findings from literature, earlier research and this case study, which increases the reliability of results. The results suggest that there are challenges that are easy to observe and those that are actually their root causes. The literature supports this observation, since the most obvious challenges, for example resourcing, were mentioned more often than underlying reasons such as lack of different types of information and managers commitment. It is notable that the results should not be interpreted to provide a holistic view on the situation of the company s online community development. There are still undiscovered areas concerning the project. For example, the roles of the Information Management unit and Corporate Communications unit were excluded from this study. Also, there is a broad spectrum of customers, employees and resellers needs from all over the world waiting to be studied, and they all should have an impact on the community s future. Still, the suggested solutions for Tekla s following online community development steps stand on a firm ground founded by literature and all findings. Studied subjects offer a decent overview of the company s online community development situation from a management and business perspective. The management usually represents the force that drives changes in an organization. Therefore, the role of management and their actions is regarded central during the first steps in the process of establishing a company online community. The applicability of the suggested process, however, remains to be seen in practice. The overall process has been constructed to meet the needs of a medium-sized software company that attempts to establish online community as an additional, supportive service for their customers. Even though the study involved only one case, the suggested company online community establishment process, as well as the other research results, can be useful to other companies with a similar situation and goals.
97 Contributions and suggestions for further research The contributions of this study to the fields of online community research and company online community research consist of various contemplations of related topical issues. The contemplations include reasoning and suggestions, and offer starting points for further research. The contributions concerning online communities include examining the following topics: - Relation between online communities and social media (Chapter 2.1.5) - Prerequisites for online communities, including social aspects (Chapter 2.3.2) For the first topic, the literature does not offer clear specifications. Also, a concrete list of building blocks of online community seems to be missing. It is warmly recommended that future studies regarding either of the subjects should acknowledge sense of community. The contributions concerning the development of company online communities are even more significant, since the company s perspective has not been the focus of many studies before. The following topics were examined during this research: - Classification of company online community related needs and requirements - Common features of company online communities - Organizational requirements for companies building online communities - Company online community maintenance tasks - Biggest challenges for companies developing online communities - Proposed process for establishing company online community The classification of company online community related needs and requirements is displayed in Figure 26. It utilizes ideas from requirements engineering and user-centered design, which were easily applicable to the context of study. The validity of suggested classification could be confirmed with further studies. It was assumed that company online communities have some common features that separate them from non-company online communities. This study gives suggestions on those features (Chapter 8.3), but their further research is required. These features and company environment set specific requirements for community hosting organization, which were addressed as organizational requirements in this study (Chapter 8.4). Also, their further investigation is recommended. A guideline representing prerequisites for company online communities would probably be welcomed in many companies.
98 89 This study outlined major challenges of the case company s online community building. The challenges were studied carefully, and it is presumed that similar findings wait with corresponding companies. Of the challenges, especially the effect of organization culture on online community development could be studied further, since its meaning remained a little unclear. The most important contribution of this study is its emphasis on the strategic and organizational issues in context of company online community research. Although they form the basis for the proposed process of establishing company online communities, the significance of strategic and organizational aspects seems to be overlooked in the literature referring to company online communities. The future studies should thus acknowledge both aspects. Also, the proposed community establishment process requires further verification and completion.
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105 Challenges that were supported by earlier interview results => Affinity diagram categories for challenges Excluded from root cause analysis Starting points for root cause analysis 96 APPENDIX 1: PRELIMINARY LISTING OF CHALLENGES Table 8. Potential challenges regarding case company s online community building CHALLENGES Literature Earlier studies Not enough resources Eskelinen, 2009a; Gossieaux, et al., 2008; Näkki, et al., 2008; Otala & Pöysti, 2008; Reed, 2008 Eskelinen, 2009b Unclear purpose and goals Eskelinen, 2009a; Jantunen, et al., 2008; Otala & Pöysti, 2008; Reed, 2008 Culture Gossieaux, et al., 2008; Jantunen, et al., 2008; Näkki, et al., 2008; Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Unclear roles and responsibilities Armstrong & Hagel, 1996; Jantunen, et al., 2008; Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Guidance and policies Jantunen, et al., 2008; Näkki, et al., 2008; Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Poor community management Eskelinen, 2009a Eskelinen, 2009b Ahonen, et al., 2007 Eskelinen, 2009b Managers' commitment Otala & Pöysti, 2008; Reed, 2009c Eskelinen, 2009b Importance Ahonen, et al., 2007 Not enough information about community building & management Not enough information about community benefits Unclear user needs Jantunen, et al., 2008 Gossieaux, et al., 2008; Jantunen, et al., 2008 Eskelinen, 2009b Eskelinen, 2009b Technical problems Otala & Pöysti, 2008; Jantunen, et al., 2008 Ahonen, et al., 2007 Too much focus on technology Eskelinen, 2009a; Gossieaux, et al., 2008 Content is not updated frequently Lack of clear processes Troublesome decision making Ineffective ways of working (information & knowledge management) Communication with areas Lack / difficulty of executive informing Eskelinen, 2009a Other communities Armstrong & Hagel, 1996; Näkki, et al., 2008 Not enough volunteer people Eskelinen, 2009b Openness Näkki, et al., 2008; Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Ahonen, et al., 2007 Changes in daily work Gossieaux, et al., 2008; Jantunen, et al., 2008; Näkki, et al., 2008 Eskelinen, 2009b Internal communication Näkki, et al., 2008; Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Eskelinen, 2009b Prejudices Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Eskelinen, 2009b No critical mass of users Reed, 2008 Ahonen, et al., related problems
106 Challenges that did not match earlier interview results Excluded from root cause analysis 97 Table 9. Other challenges of online community building, suggested by literature and earlier researchers CHALLENGES Literature Earlier studies Ownership of Extranet Ahonen, et al., 2007; Eskelinen, 2009b Activity tracking Ahonen, et al., 2007 Encouraging and activating people Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Success is measured with wrong metrics Eskelinen, 2009a; Gossieaux, et al., 2008; Reed, 2008 Lack of attraction Eskelinen, 2009a; Gossieaux, et al., 2008; Näkki, et al., 2008 Member engagement Gossieaux, et al., 2008 Inactive users Eskelinen, 2009a Changing environment Antikainen, 2007; Jantunen, et al., 2008 Not maintaining the community Reed, 2008 Not enough content Reed, 2008 Bad quality content Eskelinen, 2009a Org. Structure Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Changes management thinking and marketing approach Gossieaux, et al., 2008 Realizing the potential of community Jantunen, et al., 2008 Data security Otala & Pöysti, 2008 Segmentation Armstrong & Hagel, 1996 Hosting Armstrong & Hagel, 1996 Ahonen, et al., 2007
107 98 APPENDIX 2A: ONLINE SURVEY QUESTIONS I work at [radio button choice] * HQ * Area office * Reseller Discussion forums: [yes/no radio button choice for each] I regularly follow conversations on the Tekla Structures Extranet discussion forum I follow conversations on other discussion forums (e.g. software, games, sports) I have participated in the discussion on other forums Blogging: [yes/no radio button choice for each] I have read a blog article I follow some blog(s) actively I have commented to a blog post I write my own blog I would like to write job-related articles Wikis: [yes/no radio button choice for each] I know what is the difference between wiki and Wikipedia I've browsed some other wiki than Wikipedia I've contributed to some wiki I use... [radio button: often / sometimes / (almost) never] Facebook LinkedIn Twitter YouTube Other social media sites that I use: [TEXTFIELD] This question is only for AREA OFFICES: I would like to participate in these social media sites as a Teklan: [TEXTFIELD] Tekla Structures-related online resources outside the Tekla Extranet: Are you familiar with... [ ] Tekla Structures tutorial videos in YouTube [ ] Tekla Structures discussion groups (Yahoo, Google). Which one(s)? [TEXTFIELD] [ ] other Tekla Structures discussion forums? URL(s): [TEXTFIELD] Do you... [ ] belong to LinkedIn Tekla Structures Users group? [ ] belong to some Tekla Structures group in Facebook? Which one(s): [TEXTFIELD] [ ] know some Tekla Structures-related blogs or blog articles? URL(s): [TEXTFIELD] What do you consider the most suitable social media for Tekla Structures users in your area? [TEXTFIELD] What benefits would social media bring to Tekla or to your daily work?
108 99 [TEXTFIELD] If you have no experience in social media, why not? [radio button choice] * I'm just old fashioned * I see no benefit * I'm a little afraid of presenting myself out there * Other reason... [TEXTFIELD] I want to participate in the development of Tekla s use of social media. [radio button choice] * Yes, my [TEXTFIELD] * No I can participate by [ ] writing blog articles [ ] discussing on a discussion forum [ ] planning [ ] telling/teaching people about social media [ ] sharing my know-how/competence in the field of social media. Tell more about your competende [TEXTFIELD]
109 100 APPENDIX 2B: ONLINE SURVEY RESULTS Reseller 5 % Area 31 % HQ 64 % Figure 27. Distribution of respondent s positions Interactive online tools and services Figure 28. Familiarity of discussion forums
110 101 Figure 29. Familiarity of blogs Figure 30. Familiarity of wikis Figure 31. Visits on social media sites
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