2023 Customer Awards: Esri - Best-in-Class: Community

2023 Customer Awards: Esri - Best-in-Class: Community

Esri Logo.png

Company: Esri

Company background: Esri is the global market leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping. Since 1969, we have supported customers with geographic science and geospatial analytics, what we call The Science of Where. We take a geographic approach to problem-solving, brought to life by modern GIS technology. We are committed to using science and technology to build a sustainable world.

Contact: Jesse Cloutier

Title: Community Manager, Engagement & Content

Related URLs: https://community.esri.com/

Kudos Category: Best-in-Class: Community

1. Describe the organization's objectives in launching a Khoros community. What is the use-case and purpose of your community (support, enablement and learning, marketing awareness, customer success, driving sales, product innovation, etc.)? Has the community charter evolved since its launch, and if so, how?

2022 Esri Community Highlights and Wins video

Organizational Objectives & Purpose for Esri Community

Esri Community’s purpose is no secret. It emblazons the banner of our home page:

Esri Community_Home Page Banner.png"A global community of Esri users where you can find solutions, share ideas,
and collaborate to solve problems with GIS."

Professionals working in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) use powerful software to perform work ranging from tasks as fundamental as adding points on a map to far more advanced undertakings involving a high degree of complexity and business impact. And with over 300,000 worldwide organizations using Esri’s ArcGIS products, our community-driven purpose addresses the need for topical knowledge sharing and collaborative product support across Esri’s 140+ products.

Esri Community is much more than that, though. With 321,000 active user accounts by the end of 2022, the daily practice of collaboration provides key opportunities for Esri to engage with customers and partners to improve Esri products, decrease service costs for all parties, and to buoy Esri’s position as the worldwide leader in GIS technologies.

Our Community team’s efforts focus on meeting the following three business objectives:

  1. Enable Esri customers to ask and answer questions about the use of Esri software and services. This enablement helps increase customer satisfaction through a self-service experience and reduces the cost of delivering Esri technical support.

  2. Drive product innovation through Ideas Exchanges where customers and Esri staff share and support each other’s ArcGIS product feature requests.

  3. Boost Esri brand loyalty and product accessibility, leading to customer retention and renewals.

Migrating to Khoros

Esri has a 30+ year history of hosting online community that culminated in a migration to Khoros from the JiveX platform in 2020. The move was prompted by shortcomings of the JiveX experience, an imminent sunset of the JiveX platform, and the necessity to shift to a new community platform that would enable Esri to address growing business needs and execute our strategic vision of community building with customers.

The search for a new platform commenced, guided in part by Esri’s need for a service partner capable of matching our pursuit of innovation with community technology. Because its core features and design aligned with Esri customers' needs and requirements, Khoros set itself apart from other candidates and delivered an exciting, progressive roadmap throughout our 2-year procurement process. Our selection committee became convinced that Khoros was the right partner for Esri.

Evolution of Esri Community’s Charter

With a Khoros go-live date in November 2020, our then Community team immediately went to work reversing engagement stagnation that had been setting in on JiveX. We also took the opportunity re-name the Community from GeoNet to Esri Community. This decision was made to better align the Community with a larger company-wide Esri rebranding and marketing campaign. As part of those initiatives, the name, look and feel, and design of Esri Community were successfully implemented. Along with the rebranding, the Community team set out to repair sentiment damaged during the deteriorated JiveX user experience and successfully used change management strategies to improve adoption and engagement. Additionally, at that point, we needed a new vision and to rebuild strategic business value for Esri Community among internal stakeholders.

“Congrats on the release! It feels way snappier than the old site and looks great.”

—Internal Stakeholder                                   

Now more than 2 years into hosting Esri Community via Khoros and ground has not only been drastically regained, but we’ve transitioned well into implementing a multi-faceted strategy that advances our objectives. As an organization, Esri has become more sophisticated in how online Community is leveraged across the company and within our customer experience. Khoros has been a key enabler in this process, empowering us to build a solid foundation as we enact a new 3-year vision: to build strategic Community, measure its impacts across our customer base, and take intentional, prioritized action based on data analysis and insights.

Moreover, a key part of our strategic future vision for Community includes:

  1. Integrating Community deeper into business operations, including technical support, ArcGIS product development, customer experience, marketing, events, and sales.

  2. Creating a community analytics portfolio.

  3. Expanding the impact for our international customer and distributor audiences.

We see the Khoros platform as a key enabler of this vision and execution.

2. How did the community get brought to life? Was there executive/business/stakeholder buy-in? What was the process to gain this buy-in? How was cross-functional support and organizational adoption achieved?

"With the Esri Community, we’re all in on supporting our users interconnecting, but also our various partners, and also the employees here at Esri—in sharing, learning from each other, and growing the impact of our collective work on the world’s big problems and challenges."

—Jack Dangermond, Esri’s Founder and President                       

Community as a concept—bringing people together to collaborate, share ideas, combine perspectives, and to support each other—has been part of Esri’s DNA since Jack Dangermond first started the company in 1969. That mentality permeates all corners of Esri and is unambiguously recognized as essential to the company’s success.

With community-centric behavior as a leading company value and decades of hosting online community via evolving technologies, Khoros’ position as a leading solution made our partnership a natural conclusion. Adoption among internal stakeholders who would integrate Esri Community in their workflows is where efforts were needed. We’ve achieved this through implementation of awareness and adoption strategies fine-tuned to our audiences, and by aligning the necessary resources to do so.

Growing the Esri Community Team

The Esri Community team grew with newly created roles designed to rapidly advance key strategic initiatives:

  • Develop appealing storytelling content that educates and boosts audience awareness.

  • Quicken team response times and expand priority message detection through adoption of a Khoros Care moderation strategy.

  • Leverage a rich analytics portfolio as the compass within Esri Community’s operations framework.

  • Capitalize on platform enhancements that enhance users’ experience.

  • Multiply investment in product innovation through Esri Community’s ArcGIS Ideas Exchange.

This team growth enabled a re-distribution of responsibilities among the incumbent team to prioritize key projects that include re-engagement with Esri product distributors, integrating Esri Community in staff onboarding, and member journey mapping.

Nurturing our MVP Member Program

Esri Community MVPs are a group of 52 elite members—just 0.02% of all active Esri Community accounts—who contribute a remarkably outsized impact. In 2022, MVPs supplied 22% of all 6,300 posts marked as Accepted Solutions on Community questions. Nourishing this group of super-users is mission critical. We do this by:

  • Equipping MVPs with advanced permissions and a Place to privately interact with each other and Esri Community team Admins.

  • Facilitating direct access to Esri Product Managers via exclusive quarterly Zoom meetings

  • Applauding MVP impacts through a variety of means, including public recognition at Esri's User Conference for MVPs who win the elite level of our Annual Community Contest, and a staff-contributed message of thanks to all MVPs for their work.

MVP Thank You GIF.gifGIF slideshow of Esri staff thank-you posts to Esri Community MVPs

Revamped Gamification System

In consultation with Khoros during onboarding, we developed a comprehensive gamification system that has grown to include 66 badges, and with five new complex badges on track to distribute throughout the second half of 2023. More than 150,000 badges were unlocked by members in 2022 and community consultant FeverBee rated Esri Community’s gamification as strong and within their highest rank range: World Class.  

Esri Community_Badges Unlocked.pngInfographic from Esri Community’s 2022 Year-End Wrap Up ArcGIS StoryMap

Running an Annual Community Contest

We host an annual Esri Community contest to reward top customer members among three categories that span key points in the member journey: An Elite level strictly for Esri Community MVPs, a Rising Star level for other members with mature accounts, and a Newcomer of the Year level for members whose participation began within the calendar year. In addition to other prizes, winners at the Elite level received special recognition during Esri’s 2022 Annual User Conference. Conference attendance exceeded 23,000 customers, 54% of whom were members of Esri Community.

MVP Award Announcement_600pxW.png MVP Award Winners announcement at User Conference 2022

ArcGIS Product Integration

As part of our customer awareness and enablement strategy begun in 2020, we’ve taken steps to integrate Esri Community into our core software. Doing so helps users working in the software quickly connect with Community resources when needs arise, driving customer success and satisfaction.

ArcGIS Pro EC Help Example.pngEsri Community is easily accessed from ArcGIS Pro’s help ribbon

Education & Awareness Through Storytelling

To increase awareness of Esri Community value among existing and prospective users, 2022 kicked off two new multimedia series that combine video and articles to demonstrate the Community’s positive impacts on customer and staff audiences:

  • (Customer Success) Esri Community Member Spotlights — Starting in September, this monthly series features customer and partner members who model Esri Community’s purpose in action. Of the four entries published in 2022, they garnered a combined 941 pageviews by EOY. These Spotlights are additionally distributed via internal channels, augmenting staff awareness and creating a fuller picture of Esri Community’s role in the ecosystem of our business.

Member Spotlight_NIFC_Video Thumbnail.pngThe National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Member Spotlight featured a large Esri Community User Group focused on wildland fire management.

  • (Staff Enablement) Esri Community: Inside Success — This quarterly interview series features Esri staff who’ve established a high degree of success integrating Esri Community into their work. The content is configured specifically for staff consumption and distributed through various internal channels to generate team adoption and awareness.

Inside Success with Korey Kramer_Video Thumbnail.png Ad for Esri Community’s Inside Success staff video interview series

Reporting Results

In addition to quarterly reporting, our Community team closed the chapter on 2022 by introducing a new, public Year-End Wrap Up report that utilizes Esri’s own ArcGIS StoryMaps product to combine highly digestible data and storytelling in an appealing multimedia format. By most recent counts, the report has been viewed more than 800 times.

EOY-StoryMap_Teams-Banner.gifGIF banner ad for our Year-End Wrap Up ArcGIS StoryMap

Staff Member Appreciation

As part of our staff enablement and adoption strategy, we annually publish a message of appreciation in Esri Community to thank the thousands of Esri staff who participate. Special attention is paid to the top 30 staff contributors from the year. All are tagged to notify them of the recognition. For the 2022 group, we additionally followed up with individual emails to the managers of all recognized staff to direct further meaningful recognition to their direct report’s accomplishments.

Esri Community_Letter to Supervisors.pngLetter to managers of staff recognized for 2022 Esri Community achievements 

“Looking back as far as I can remember, the user/Esri community platform has evolved for two decades from Forum, to GeoNet, to now Esri Community. I found it’s a great place to listen to users’ pulses, give them a hand in solving problems while learning about their real-world cases, and bring their feedback and requests to our teams. I truly enjoy the interactions and the opportunities.”

—Response from recognized staff member          

3. What were the results? More revenue generated, a reduction of costs, improved customer experience, more innovation, etc.? Tell us how Khoros helped you achieve those results. Please include quantifiable metrics if possible.

With decades of online community culminating in our current state, it’s evident that a combination of learnings, strong support from Esri leadership, and expansive capabilities of the Khoros platform have elevated Esri Community to its best position yet. Some of our key results include:

  • Esri Community membership increased by 18% to 321,000 in 2022, supported in part by improvements to UX and awareness campaigns.

  • By investing in staff training, customer engagement programming, and optimizing the experience for finding, asking, and answering questions, from 2022 to 2023, Esri saw a 28% quarterly increase in ROI for technical support cost savings and self-service delivery.

  • ArcGIS Ideas Exchanges provided a direct pipeline between customers and Esri Product Managers, resulting in 2,311 Idea submissions in 2022, an 18% YOY increase. Integrating Khoros API data with PowerBI further enabled product teams to better track and evaluate customer Ideas, leading to the implementation of 241 Ideas in product updates.

  • An exceptional 7,800+ Value Analytics surveys were submitted in 2022, with 60% of respondents reporting being satisfied or very satisfied, and with minimal dissatisfaction results of 15%.

  • Users searched Esri Community over 270,000 times in 2022, with 94% of searches producing results. 66% of Value Analytics respondents reported finding what they were looking for.

We Believe We are a Best-in-Class Community:

Esri knows community is the backbone to our company. It’s our secret sauce. Community is indispensable and essential to our values, character, and long-term success. That ethos takes many shapes throughout the company, but none more so than our online Esri Community where hundreds of thousands of users regularly gather to share ideas, collaborate, and solve problems together. Enthusiastic investment from our executive leadership backs our commitment to learn with our users as needs transform, to innovate on behalf of all stakeholders, and to arrange a full measure of resources in support of our membership and the important, world-changing GIS work that they do.

Special Thanks: Michelle Godin, Jaina Shah

Case Study Opt-In: Yes