2021 Customer Awards: NetApp, Inc. - Best-in-Class: Community

2021 Customer Awards: NetApp, Inc. - Best-in-Class: Community

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Company: NetApp, Inc.

Company background: In a world full of generalists, NetApp is a specialist. We’re focused on one thing, helping your business get the most out of your data. NetApp brings the enterprise-grade data services you rely on into the cloud, and the simple flexibility of cloud into the data center. Our industry-leading solutions work across diverse customer environments and the world’s biggest public clouds.

Contact: Drew Claybrook

Title: Community Manager

Related URLs:

Kudos Category: Best-in-Class: Community

1. Describe your community(s) and how you decided to start a community or grow/change it in the last year? (user request, Khoros suggestion, internal idea, etc.) What is the purpose of your community?

The NetApp Community empowers our customers and partners to optimize their support journey. Built on robust Knowledge-Centered Service v6 Practices and a three-channel support model (Assisted, Self-Serve, and Peer-to-Peer), the Community serves the peer-to-peer channel. This alignment provides insight into the customer's world while helping to reduce support ticket load and fostering open knowledge sharing.

NetApp has had a community since 2008 with limited success over the years. The site was migrated to the Khoros platform in 2014, where it was managed by marketing. In 2018, the community was completely redesigned to significantly upgrade features, introduce a mobile-responsive design, and improve the user interface to increase engagement and participation. This provided enhanced access to quality content from community experts. However, after these efforts, a change in resources resulted in neglected community management responsibilities which led to an overall decline in user experience and participation.

Since moving the Community’s “ownership” over to the Digital Support Organization in late 2019, emphasis has been placed on ensuring topics are responded to and answered in a timely manner. This was a process that, admittedly, required some foundation repairs.

When our Community Manager joined NetApp in January 2020, he knew the community needed attention. Spam was scattered throughout the site and needed removal. Email templates and site footers were years out-of-date. Topics sat without responses, and many had valid answers that weren’t marked as such. That’s all been remediated. The commitment placed on restoring members’ confidence has paid off, as we’ll share below.

2. Tell us about how you made it happen? Did you stage it first? Who got an early look? How did you drive adoption? Did you get executive buy-in? Did you have any key iterations?

In mid-2020, we enlisted the services of a community development partner to help redesign areas of the site and build new functionality as well as updating corporate branding. Additionally, extensive efforts have gone into building a NetApp Employees “internal-only” area for a variety of teams.

In that same period of time, a team of engineers was recruited to help restore customer confidence in the public-facing peer-to-peer support channel. This team engages in the community to review recently created topics and to provide solutions to unresolved questions.

To begin to increase our own participation, we created a “community backstop” pilot program with another group of engineers for several months before responsibilities were shifted to a more senior team. Members of this “new” team now serve as moderators, assisting the Community Manager with routine tasks and providing feedback to improve community experience. They’re the front-line of the site and by bringing their insights to rest of the digital support team, we’re able to determine where to focus.

Along this journey, an old mindset was uncovered which basically stated that the community was “off-limits” to support staff responding to customers. That’s not good…

Having support from executive staff is imperative. We needed their buy-in to ensure that community team members were allocated time during the day to browse and respond to topics. Their top-down messaging was necessary to reverse the “rumor” that the community was off-limits and open to staff participation again.

When management embraces the community, engineers can be given more flexibility and an opportunity to explore and learn about new products outside of their normal focus areas. Feedback from the team is very positive and they’re enjoying the skills growth.

On the topic of executive support, one of the internal-only spaces we created was built at the request of an executive to migrate away from email communication and into an area where conversations are more searchable and can be curated. A recent analysis by that team showed that 46% of page views within their private space were on posts older than two weeks. People are searching – knowledge persistence is imperative to success!

Just last month, we opened a portion of the internal site to a select group of NetApp A-Team and Partner Success Advisory Board members to pilot their experience to see if opening it up to a wider audience is something we want to do.

The lessons learned by evangelizing the new spaces are directly applicable to the open areas of the community, and we'll continue to use them to build in 2021!

3. What were the results? Tell us how it impacted your customer experience or the outcomes you seek as a business. Please include metrics if possible.

The internal-only community space has seen incredible membership growth, indicated below in blue. It was launched in October, where campaigns and targeted posts brought in lots of our own employees to participate. While their participation is primarily internal, we have seen some users make the jump to the other side and respond in the public spaces.

The first bump in registration happened in May, 2020. The higher than average (at the time) registration metric comes from the kickoff of our community backstop program AND with our May the 4th be With You badge campaign, where 214 NetApp inspired digital baby Yodas were gifted to community visitors. On May 4th of this year, another 326 badges were awarded to community members.


When the senior engineers joined in October, a lot of their time was spent focusing on ensuring topics had answers. We even saw small spikes in the correlated first response times as those topics were attended to. In the past six months (Nov 20 – April 21), four ambitious team members have tagged 36% of all topic solutions, while authoring 16% of them themselves. An impressive feat!

With their help, we’re fully prepared to handle outstanding questions and ensure they’re appropriately moderated.


This shows us the number of forum topics with a percentage of accepted solutions, displayed as a lagging indicator. It’s pretty clear that we started seeing improvements as a result of the backstop program in June 2020. The team carrying the torch pushed further forward in October. Breaks over the Holidays in 2020 caused some decline, but it was more than compensated for in March. What you don’t see here, is that new topic creation was up 13% in 2020 (vs 2019) and we’re on track for a similar increase in 2021.

So, how do we know people care?

For that, we have Kudos! Since Kudos are roughly equivalent to “likes,” they seem to be one of the most organic measures of overall user satisfaction available to us. The best part is that they can serve as a regular and unobtrusive metric that users don’t seem to try to exploit. While I’ve separated internal Kudos from the site total, it’s apparent that we’re trending in the right direction and that people like what they see.


Not only did we reboot our community amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, NetApp’s Digital Support Operations team managed to launch a completely redesigned, award-winning support site AND a gold-standard Knowledge Base.

The NetApp Community continues to grow, both in membership and in content. We’ve got a lot of interest from our partner teams who are excited to build partners-only spaces. Most importantly, we’ve equipped our moderation team for success by building tremendous executive and management support. Hopefully the story we share next year is as exciting as this one has been.