We need less community managers and more loops closers


keep-calm-and-close-the-loopWhen a business starts an internal social business initiative one of the first concerns is to define the roles / profiles they need in priority. In most cases it’s community managers because everyone knows that the future of enterprise is to turn everything into communities. In fact it’s more complicated than that.

We’ve seen that community-oriented approaches without any link with real work and member’s accountability don’t work, or not very long, and usually become more a problem than a solution. Community management matters, of course, but if businesses need someone to coordinate the initiative at a global scale, an approach that will help legitimate people to run communities will often work better than a managed approach that takes as much effort as communities does not make sense. Not mentioning that sometimes a simple manager is enough to do the job. By the way I still often use this old table to find my way in the complexity of social needs. In short, community managers are necessary but are not enough to make an initiative successful.

Managing communities is not enough

Other roles matter too and some profiles are emerging as businesses, weary of “engage and pray” approaches are looking for something more and want more security about the impact of their social business initiatives.

If we consider the initial promise, the purpose was not to organize communities and make them work in parallel with work but promote new ways to interact to get work done, since it’s understood that communities was the missing link in the current model. A common mistake was to think that it was supposed to replace all the existing, what caused a defense reflex that isolated social into a bubble from where it won’t harm existing ways of working instead of considering that both dimensions had to merge. This merger leads to something that is not either one or the other model, nor the sum of both, but something new as the result of this alchemy.

What we must find is who will conduct this merger and what skills do they need. To start this reflection, I suggest you have a look at this presentation from Sameer Patel.

In this deck, he coins a concept I find essential : “closing loops”. What is it about ? To fill the gap in existing processes and activities by relying on people information, on the ability to innovate and solve problems social makes possible. Backed with examples and cases.
But what is a good “loop closer” ?

The revenge of business practitioners, not social ones

• Before all he’s a professional in a specific business field or practice. As a matter of fact, how could one think of completing and improving something he does not know in a business field that isn’t his. As announced months ago, it’s the return of business practitioners in the social business sphere. Not social business practitionners but “real” business ones.

• He has a social sensitivity and the more developed the better. Knowledge of concepts, tools, philosophies. Both on the customer side and on the enterprise side. Unlike community managers they will also need to be knowledgeable about business intelligence and all the “not social” environment to be able to talk about BI, ECM, ERR etc…
• He’ll have a business focused and quantitative approach. Indicators, ROI, metrics, system follow-up and improvement will be words he’ll use everyday.
• He won’t need to be a good communicator, a community manager or any kind of digital emcee.
Where will he be in the organization ?
Not in any digital department or team, for the same reason we don’t need any director of social but a social sensitivity spread among the entire organization. I hardly think one person can be good at HR, finance, supply chain, BPM, CRM at the same time, so I’d rather see many professionals in a specific field with a high social sensitivity. Loop closers will have to be located in business lines and corporate directions, even if they can also form a transverse community.