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Author's profile photo Lars Elmquist

Running an Online Community

With the transition from SAP Jam to SAP Build Workzone, I have had the opportunity not only to become more familiar with the technical aspects of this solution, but also, due to my work as Community Lead for our Procurement Solution Advisors,  given me an opportunity to (re) formulate what an online community is, why it is important to create/have one, to evaluate how to run a successful online community, as well looking at which tools to use and which skills you need as a Community Lead.

I might even choose to call my work a Beginner’s Guide or an Online Communities for Dummies, nevertheless the hours spent has been worth the while. It revealed some things, that I have already known deep down and also been practising to a greater or lesser extent, however getting it “on paper”, into words, for my own pleasure and/or others has been worth the while, as I consider it as a very educational process. It has been giving me the opportunity to reflect, get confirmation of what I am already doing and finding opportunities to learn and adopt other unknown areas.

My findings represents a good mix of, what I have found on the internet, some using ChatGPT (which is surprisingly good at finding relevant answers), other findings inspired by a colleague’s work, and finally also added some of my own experiences from my work as a Community Lead over the last couple of years.

It is undeniably challenging to run a community 100% digital/virtually, it presents certain limitations, but is it impossible? No, not at all, it does require a special strategy to compensate for the physical, face-to-face activities. Now virtual visibility and virtual engagement are even more important in order not to lose your community members in the digital jungle of mass communication. You need to be in their minds almost all the time, and you need to stay up to date and relevant.

Before we go any further, let’s get a definition in place:

An online community is a group of people who share a common interest or purpose and interact with each other primarily through digital means, such as social media platforms, forums, chat rooms, or email lists. These communities allow people from various geographical locations to engage in discussions, share ideas, learn, collaborate on projects, socially interact, or receive support and advice. Some online communities revolve around hobbies or interests, while others are centered on professional or educational topics.

The requirements for running a successful online community are many, I will go into these in more detail in some later blogs, but I can briefly mention some requirements, such as a having a user friendly platform, engagement tools and analytics.

The right choice of a platform is crucial and there are, after all, a multitude of options. Some use Microsoft tools such as Microsoft Viva Engage (prevously known as Yammer) and Microsoft Teams, others Slack, and there is also a solution from Facebook called Workplace from Facebook and another player is Google with Google Workspace. All probably with their share of good functionalities, I’m not an expert on these tools (besides MS Team, which we use at SAP, primarily for smaller teams, not for communities with hundreds or thousands of users), so I will not act as judge for some over others, I guess it’s a matter of preferences, target audience, budget and required functionalities.

At SAP, we have a solution that you should consider for running an online community, SAP Build Work Zone, where you can invite colleagues and customers to participate in a closed or open community. You can create a community around a special topic, just like we do for all our SAP Solution Advisors, the Procurement Hub being one. You can interact with your community members through comments, forums, blogs and more. All in a scalable solution that fits both large and small devices and with good design options as well as analytics.

So if you are on your way to building a new community, then consider the SAP Build Work Zone as well.

The more I look at pairing the success criteria for running an online community, with the technical features in SAP Build Work Zone, the closer I am to hitting the target on some of the core values that an online community provides a company, such as Information and Knowledge Sharing (not only one-way, but mutual sharing), Networking and Building Connections (as a supplement/alternative to physical meetings) and Support and Guidance through active moderation, good search options and integration to 3rd party tools through UI5 cards.

I would appreciate hearing about your experiences in this area, maybe we can share some knowledge and best practises.



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