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Valued Contributor

Presenting community requirements / evaluation criteria to internal stakeholders

Hi! I am currently in the process of creating a comprehensive list of community requirements that I will use to evaluate between 3-5 Community Technology vendors (including Lithium!), and was wondering if any group members would be willing to share some resources?

 

Do you have any recommendations on how to go about organizing/presenting community requirements to internal stakeholders and/or vendors?

 

At this point, I have A LOT of data, but am having a hard time putting it all together.

21 Replies 21
Advisor

Hi Leah,

 

The best advice I have is to create a matrix. Put the vendors across the top and the criteria from top to bottom. Organize by importance, i.e., must-haves, would-like-to-haves, and nice-to-haves. Then basically start filling in the blanks: does the given vendor have that feature? is the feature out-of-the-box or does it require extra work? how much extra work? can they show you the feature in practice? are the vendors responsive to your questions? how responsive? (some give a yes or no answer, some elaborate, some don't respond at all... a clear indication of the type of service you can expect to receive as a signed client).

 

From there you have a great starting point to speak with your internal stakeholders as well as easily justify your decision/recommendations. And you will most likely have narrowed your selection to a few before you get into the finer points, whereas you just continue the process.

 

Best of luck!

Patricia

:)

Honored Contributor

Hi

More than happy to help and offer advice. My first bit of advice is make the vendors do the work!!

As suggested by Patricia create a matrix of all the features you want from your platform along with an overview of your business objectives for the community this is normally called an RFI or request for information you can send the same brief and requirements to all vendors who will tell you if they can do, partially do or not do what you want, next to each requirement you have detailed.

You can then easily score them all on a basis of how much they each meet your needs, this takes a lot of emotion out of it as they either do or don't do something and you can rank all providers based on your needs and how well they score.

This is something all vendors will be use to doing and will normally be happy to complete and present how they can help. I would be more than happy to share a copy of the matrix I used when I was looking for a new platform however I can tell you that although a number of vendors completed it only one led the pack and that was Lithium, hence why they won our business.

If you pm me your email I'll share something but I may have to wait till I'm back in the office on Monday as I may not have what u need right now.

 

With regards to transposing a requirement to internal stakeholders "speak their language" at the end of the day to compare platforms you will need to go to a low level of detail but internal stakeholders will mostly want to know how each platform can help them deliver their objectives such as call deflection, increased revenue reduced support costs. 

 

At a feature level "as an example" you could say how something like Gamification will help your business increase engagement amongst it users by about 20% vs if you didn't have it, there are loads of white papers and case studies on here loaded with factoids just like this which will mean much more to your execs that the lower level details. 

Any other questions just shout!!

Stephen

Checkout some of the stuff i've built using the platform:
Community l Ideation l Blog l Product Hubs l Check & Report l Service Status 

My latest Ideas: Vanity URL Manager l @mention Roles l  LSW Password Policy

Esteemed Contributor

Lots of great tips. In addition to platform features, I'd also make sure sections on solutions, support / uptime SLA, security/spam control and services (moderation, professional services..etc) are included. Platform feature checkbox matrix is important, but it can also be misleading without verbose information in business values that can't be quantified in a binary checkbox selection. For example, many vendors do not offer terms-of-use moderation service. Depending on how big your community is, that may be a serious consideration which can impact your internal resources/headcount/budget. 

 

Cheers,

 

ac


Fellsteruk wrote:
Hi

More than happy to help and offer advice. My first bit of advice is make the vendors do the work!!

As suggested by Patricia create a matrix of all the features you want from your platform along with an overview of your business objectives for the community this is normally called an RFI or request for information you can send the same brief and requirements to all vendors who will tell you if they can do, partially do or not do what you want, next to each requirement you have detailed.

You can then easily score them all on a basis of how much they each meet your needs, this takes a lot of emotion out of it as they either do or don't do something and you can rank all providers based on your needs and how well they score.

This is something all vendors will be use to doing and will normally be happy to complete and present how they can help. I would be more than happy to share a copy of the matrix I used when I was looking for a new platform however I can tell you that although a number of vendors completed it only one led the pack and that was Lithium, hence why they won our business.

If you pm me your email I'll share something but I may have to wait till I'm back in the office on Monday as I may not have what u need right now.

Any other questions just shout!!

@Fellsteruk said it! I was just leading Leah to read between the lines. Hands down, Lithium led the pack from beginning to end...

Honored Contributor

Hey @pmdCanon Im not as modest :) Almost as much a Lithium fan boy as i am Apple & Nikon "sorry" but having used and had experience with a number of different community & social platforms especially for an enterprise such as myself its hands down winner :) 

 

@leahknowles One other thing to consider... If your area or the work your doing involves using the community for owned support or supporting customers via social such as twitter, fb etc you may also want to look as LSW "Lithium Social Web" or a combination of community and LSW combined they make a very powerful duo.... It also works well with your CRM as many can be hooked into Lithium. 

 

Stephen

Checkout some of the stuff i've built using the platform:
Community l Ideation l Blog l Product Hubs l Check & Report l Service Status 

My latest Ideas: Vanity URL Manager l @mention Roles l  LSW Password Policy

Honored Contributor

Obviously it is important to compare features, functions, and technical capabilities, but don't forget about passion, vision, expertise, and ability to execute. Are the companies you're talking to just selling software or are they truly invested in your success and have the people to get you there? If you view the vision for your community as a checklist that can be pencil-whipped, they're likely to as well.

Esteemed Contributor

@BrianOblinger makes a great point. In my experience, it takes a bit more efforts to certain stakeholders on these non-technical elements, and like Brian said, you want to make sure that the conversation is not limited "let's count the checkboxes" type of binary discussion. This can be a bigger challenge if there are very opinionated stakeholders with one dimentional IT/Operations point of view. Building a community partnership with a strong vendor is very different from buying cloud storage, and It helps to focus on overall value, vision, sucess stories/references and steer away fromh "$x will buy me y checkboxes" type of arguements. 

Honored Contributor

 

Leah,

 

Lot of great feedback from other very experienced community managers here...

 

I know Lithium has a whitepaper on top questions to ask a community vendor - it is written fairly objectively and may give you some additional items to consider.

 

I think fellsteruk's advice is spot on.  I used a matrix when I led a commitee to select a community platform back in 2007.

 

Here are some things I would consider:

 

1) Platform features and scalability - can it grow and evolve with your needs? Is it modular?  Can you easily modify structures, access them via APIs, deliver a mobile optimized experience,  manage user permissions manually and with automated rules?  Is it easy to use?

 

2) Supported languages, and flexibility in how they are deployed ?

 

3) Vendor Revenue model - as your community grows, how will your costs change?   Implementation vs steady state costs

 

4) Availability of professional services - to deploy and help you maintain the platform, to consult on best practices, to provide skilled resources (if desired) to help you manage it, consulting & access to an index of peer communities to help you understand your results

 

5) Performance & Security - uptime, scalability, intrusion detection, crisis management, disaster recovery - how long?  Communication channels available to you?  How will you be proactively notified?

 

6) Data migration and ownership - do you get your data back if you exit the contract?

 

7) Depth of the organization - you are going to have a relationship with the vendors team as well as the technology (this actually wound up being a signficant factor in my decision, and also I have observed this has led people to move from one vendor to another.  The relationship may become more important over the life of your community as your needs change.  You aren't buying a toaster - you are getting into a partnership.  Are you only getting to talk to sales people, or do you have easy access to subject matter experts ?

 

8) Wisdom of the crowd.   Look at your peers and see what community technology they are running and for how long ?  Ask your perspective vendor to show you other clients that may be comparable to your business.   When I went through this excercise, I saw a very clear trend for technology companies running peer support communities tending to be on a particular platform, whereas more media and entertainment might have been on another.  Where is the momentum in the industry and why?

 

9) Vendor vision and roadmap - where have they been, and where do they see themselves going a year from now, three years from now?   Is that where you think you want to be?  What do they see as the biggest challenges to be addressed and what are they doing to meet it?  This was another significant factor for me.

 

10) How is the vendor using community to run their business?  Do they have a community?  How well organized and run is their company's community?   Can you interact with other customers?  What do they have to say?

 

Lot of thoughts on things to think about in strategically selecting your community provider.    Perhaps a bit harder to suggest how best to organize for an internal audience without knowing the makeup of the audience?

 

I find myself talking about different facets of community with different kinds of people internally.   Business stakeholders may care more about the results that are going to be delivered and the content, and perhaps how the features and functions of the communtiy are going to support that.  Outwardly how it may look and feel.   Some may be interested in what kind of data you can get out of it - what kinds of reports, what you can tell them about the customers, how the content can be analyzed for inclusion in the business.

IT folks may care more about the technology and security, while finance stakeholders may care more about the business terms and projected costs and total cost of adoption.   Others might care about governance and risk - how will you know if something goes wrong, how much approval / control is their over the content and how does the platform features and technology help mitigate various risks.

 

Hope some of this helps?

 

Mark

 

 

Valued Contributor

I can share a matrix I created covering a the major and a few minor league platforms as a comparison for features and functionality.   It might get you jump started.   I can tell you from experiece if you are looking to start a public facing community Lithium's is the right choice.

 

Please feel free to ping me with questions.

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