As the software industry embraces social software such as wikis, forums, tagging, and collaborative Web tools, Gartner believes managers are failing to understand how successful communities form with the "install and they will come" practice rarely succeeding.
According to Anthony Bradley, managing vice president at Gartner, many organisations "fall into the trap of worst practice" and install social software with the expectation that productive communities will emerge spontaneously.
"Contrary to the common perception that vibrant communities arise spontaneously, starting with a carefully chosen purpose does not limit participants. It gives them the direction they need to form a productive community," Bradley said in a release by the company.
According to discussions Gartner has had with its clients "about 70 per cent of the community typically fails to coalesce. Furthermore, of the 30 per cent of the communities that do emerge, many revolve around interactions that planners didn't envision, that don't provide business value and that may even be counterproductive."
The key, according to Gartner, is for social sites to have a defined purpose with a limited scope. In true Web 2.0 style, the analyst firm has created a list of seven characteristics that Gartner believes a social application should have to be successful:
- Magnetic: the purpose should draw people directly to participate, immediately appealing to the "What's in it for me?" characteristic.
- Aligned Purpose: should align with business value, which is the "What's in it for the business?" value, be it direct or indirect.
- Low Risk: organisations are advised to resist the temptation to opt for high-risk communities, which seem to offer the greatest potential for business value. They are better revisited once social applications have gained momentum.
- Properly Scoped :: Gartner advises organisations to start with a minimal scope and focus on growing a community's scale as fast as possible. Once the community has scaled up, users will guide on how to expand the scope.
- Facilitates: Evolution Purposes must be selected that both the organisation and community can build on. A "purpose road map" will allow for growing the scope of communities or establishing other applications and communities with the goal of progressing toward a highly collaborative enterprise.
- Measurable: the success of a good purpose can be measured. Especially early on, when organisations are sceptical of social applications, Gartner advises choosing a purpose where business and community value can be clearly measured.
- Community-Driven: the value must come from the community. The best communities contribute far more to themselves than the enterprises that support them. If the purpose requires the enterprise to contribute most of the content, and the community participants are mere readers, the enterprise has simply used the new technologies as another channel to push communications.