Jive SBS Structure Best Practices, Part 1

September 14th, 2009 by Gia Lyons Leave a reply »

The following is a result of Jive Client Services‘ extensive work with many large clients who have deployed Jive SBS for employee engagement purposes. It is Part 1 of a three-part series.

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There are generally two approaches to creating an initial Jive SBS structure: emergent, and prescribed. An organization’s culture dictates which approach is predominant.

Since many organizations are in the process of a cultural evolution about how they collaborate and network when they first implement Jive SBS, the best approach to structure involves a combination of emergent and prescribed. Jive SBS can be a useful environment to help participants transition from old, traditional collaboration and networking behaviors (“Enterprise 1.0”) to a newer way of collaborating and networking (“Enterprise 2.0”). To aid in this transition, the structure should be a combination of the old and familiar, and the new and innovative.

Emergent Approach (few Spaces, many Groups)

PeopleBrowse

The emergent approach involves creating very few spaces in which participants interact about a wide range of topics. It also involves allowing participants to create groups for whatever they need. Participants are encouraged to use tags extensively in order to help others find their content more easily.

Over time, the Enterprise Community Manager reviews the content being created, how it is being tagged, and how participants interact with one another about that content. From this, the community manager can usually determine a structure that makes sense to the majority of participants. Implementing more structure based on this analysis can help to better organize participant interaction and content findability. It also enables participants to more finely tune their subscriptions and Your View page to focus on the people, places and content they care about.

Here is an example list of initial spaces designed to let structure emerge over time:

  • Help and Feedback: peer support community about how to use Jive SBS and how to improve it
  • Exploring Ideas: where thoughts are shared and discussed about anything related to the company
  • Questions and Answers: where people can post questions and answers about anything related to the company
  • The Break Room: where people can discuss anything not related to the company
Implementing in Jive SBS

To implement this emergent structure within a space, the community manager can create categories – collections of the tags that participants have been using – and display those categories as a list of folders within the Categories widget on the space’s Overview page. Sub-spaces can also be created to provide better organization. Content from the original space can be moved into these sub-spaces, and spaces can be merged together.

To implement this emergent structure for groups, the community manager reviews the Group directory’s tag cloud, then determines which groups to relate to which spaces. She or he adds a Formatted Text widget to a space’s Overview page, then lists some of the groups related to that space’s topics. The goal is to make these groups more findable for participants who choose to browse the space taxonomy. It isn’t necessary to add all groups, because when a participant visits the Overview page for any group, he or she will see related groups in the Similar Groups widget.

The emergent approach works best if new participants are instructed to use the search function to find people, content, and places.

Risks
New participant confusion

The emergent structure approach tends to cause confusion for new participants. This is because they typically expect a browsable taxonomy, similar to their experience with other software applications (e.g., shared file drives, corporate intranet, email folders, desktop file folders). To reduce this risk, repeatedly reinforce the use of search over browsing, and encourage content creators to use tags consistently. Accomplish this through training materials, the telling of success stories, and community email newsletters.

Note: Seasoned participants rarely browse the space taxonomy or the group directory, because they’ve learned how to fine-tune their Your View page and various subscription and notification selections to follow the people, places and content they care most about.

Duplicate groups

Understandably, this approach can lead to the creation of duplicate groups about particular topics. Since groups have a strong membership element, however, many groups about a particular topic can encourage people in different parts of the organization to discover like-minded people that they weren’t aware of before. You must be prepared to tolerate duplicate groups and group proliferation. Some structure can be applied, however, by manually relating groups to a space, as described earlier.

Routine manual “gardening”

While this approach can sometimes feel chaotic and disorganized, and requires routine “gardening” on the community manager’s part, it is extremely effective in generating a structure that makes sense to most participants. This is because an emergent structure tends to reflect how people truly think about and interact about your organization’s people, business processes, functions, business units, competitors, products and services, etc. Such structures can lead to more meaningful and more sustained participation over time.

Prescribed Approach (many Spaces, few Groups)

The prescribed approach is a more traditional approach to structure. It is most commonly used in creating structure for corporate intranets and shared file drives, for example. This involves creating several spaces and sub-spaces based on the implementation team’s perception of what will make sense to most participants. It also involves limiting the creation of groups by implementing a request process.

Here is an example structure of initial spaces designed to prescribe structure from the outset:

  • Help and Support
    • Getting Started
    • Success Stories
    • Feedback
  • Corporate
    • Communications
      • Internal Communications
      • Corporate Communications
    • HR
      • Compliance
      • Benefits
      • Job Postings
    • Finance
    • Legal
      • Regulatory
      • Intellectual Property
    • Manufacturing
    • Marketing
      • Competition
        • Competitor 1
        • Competitor 2
        • Products
          • Brand A
            • Product 1
            • Product 2

            Brand B

            • Product 1
            • Product 2
        • Services
    • IT
    • R&D
  • EMEA
    • Communications
      • Internal Communications
      • Corporate Communications
    • HR
      • Compliance
      • Benefits
      • Job Postings
    • Finance
    • Legal
      • Regulatory
      • Intellectual Property
    • Manufacturing
    • Marketing
      • Competition
      • Products
      • Services
    • IT
    • R&D
  • APAC
  • Americas
  • Etc.
Implementing in Jive SBS

To implement a prescribed structure, the implementation team determines which main spaces and sub-spaces will make the most sense and be the most familiar to a majority of participants. They also determine which categories to create within each space, as necessary.

Participants can request a group through a request process. This process can, for example, require that the requester describe what the group will be used for, whether they’ve already searched for any existing groups or spaces that will meet their needs, and indicate that they are legally responsible for the group’s content and members’ interaction with one another.

Risks
Participant confusion

Creating too much structure early on can be confusing, invoking the question ‘where does this go?’ when participants attempt to create content. This can result in early abandonment and slow adoption over time. Less structure and good examples and training materials can reduce confusion.

Collaboration stifling

Requiring participants to request groups through a laborious process can result in the stifling of organic collaboration and business networking. A simple or automated request process, or no process at all can limit the stifling.

Content scattering

Creating too much structure inhibits critical mass in any one area.  The information becomes too scattered to get diverse parts of the organization to interact with one another, and to create opportunities to discover new information. Less structure and education about the use of tags to organize content can encourage a critical mass of interaction and content about particular topics.

Empty spaces

Creating spaces without any content in them, or without identifying people who will manage those spaces leads to a dead, empty environment. In general, only create a space or sub-space if someone or a collection of people are committed to maintaining it.

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Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week, which will explain what kinds of spaces and groups to create to blend the emergent and prescribed approaches.

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11 comments

  1. Will England says:

    Great point – we have legacy forum structures from a previous product and we see lots of confusion about where to post; posts in the wrong place; and lots of empty / abandoned forums. We’re looking at a 3.0 SBS upgrade; the problem is – what to do with the existing 60,000 posts?!

  2. admin says:

    Hi Will,

    We’ve done loads of migrations from previous forum applications – are you working with Jive Support on this?

  3. Will England says:

    Not yet; still in the concept, design and ideation phase. Once we get buyin from the lead team to drop 85% of our categories (sub-communities), we’ll be looking for help.

    Another question: With heavy reliance on groups, how do you control / guide users to the correct group, and how do you manage the (potential) confusion of blog posts, documents, etc?

    • admin says:

      Hi Will, relying heavily on groups certainly poses a browsing issue for new users. In Part 3 this Friday, I’ll talk about a pattern that has emerged from some of our clients, based on recommendations that originated with my colleague and mentor, Kathryn Everest (props, KE!). There is no silver bullet when it comes to guiding newbies where you want them to go from a technological standpoint, which is why a strong advocate community can be quite critical in guiding new users to where they want to be.

  4. Claire Flanagan says:

    This is fantastic work! Of course having worked with us at CSC, you know our preferred approach was the Emergent Group. Enterprise 2.0 is all about ’emergent’ activity and crowdsourcing. We felt prescribing a structure was imposing our organization boundaries on what should be a flexible tool. Make no mistake – you still need to ‘garden’ even in the prescriptive approach. So the extra effort to watch for duplicates or dead groups is no different than watching for dead spaces. I love this article! It’s a great model for future folks to look at and think about. Good work Gia!

  5. admin says:

    Thanks, Claire! Your real-world experience is invaluable!

  6. Matt Crowl says:

    Great stuff. We are about to launch Jive SBS for a 6 month pilot and the we were discussing these topics last Friday. Thanks! Can’t wait for part two.

  7. Lee White says:

    “Since many organizations are in the process of a cultural evolution about how they collaborate and network …”

    This quote intrigues me most of all. I am curious how you (jive) go about assessing the clients culture when starting a new implementation. I am starting up a research project around this and would love to get your input.