Success secrets community managers should know about platform launches and migrations

Michael Puhala of iTalent Digital presenting with other panelists at CTS 2023

Is there a 'secret' formula for success when it comes to launching a new community or migrating an existing community to a different platform? This is the question we earnestly discussed on the Secrets of a Successful Platform Launch (or Migration) panel at the Community Technology Summit in October. Of course, there is no “easy” button for performing a new launch or a migration in one click. The first thing we cleared up on the panel is that there are distinct differences in the two types of initiatives. Let's cover the highlight reel for each, shall we?

New community launches

New community launches are fraught with risk. Primarily because it's usually a new motion for the company and there are a lot of stakeholders involved. This is as much a change management initiative as it is a community launch initiative. Understanding the changes that an organization will need toWhen launching a community, start with the core functions and phase in capabilities over time, based on the expressed needs and desires of the members - iTalent Digital blog undergo was one of the first areas we discussed on the panel. For example, if the primary charter of the community is customer support, how will the support team engage with the community and what changes need to be employed?

Communities come with a lot of features and functionality, and it's easy to want to turn on everything available on the platform. One thing we discussed was exercising a fair amount of restraint when introducing a new community to the customer base. There are a lot of clichés thrown around: don't boil the ocean, take on a crawl, walk, run approach, etcetera. Practically speaking, this translates to: start with the core functions and phase in capabilities over time. A good example here is not to turn on “Ideation” right out of the gate. Establish the community first and better understand the organizational readiness for introducing customer-led ideas to the community and company at large.

Another topic we covered was the idea of not making the community another silo of information, but instead integrating it into other critical systems of record. CRM and SSO are the most common integrations to tackle when launching a community for the first time, but of course there are a lot of other systems and potential integrations to consider. Areas such as unified search, business Intelligence and analytics, or support ticket management systems that may or may not be tied with the CRM system. The approach we discussed is determining what is absolutely necessary at launch versus what can be phased in over time.

Community migrations

If you speak to any tenured community manager, chances are good they have tackled two or more migrations in their career. Ask them what their least favorite community project to undertake is? You guessed it: migrating a community from one platform to another. As easy as a vendor wants to make it sound, it's never easy and there are always roadblocks, pitfalls and speed bumps along the way. SoThink of your community platform migration as a renovation rather than as a simple move. What user experience can we improve? What features will enhance the community experience? - iTalent Digital blog what's the secret to a community migration? Minimize surprises, plain and simple. You won't eradicate surprises completely, but this is where experience really matters. 

One area we discussed on the panel was to make sure all of the user data is captured and migrated appropriately. If a user loses history such as badges, ranks, community registration date and a host of other data points, you have the potential to upset your most valuable community members.

We also noted that migrating a community is the best time to purge irrelevant and dated content. A spring cleaning of sorts. I emphasized that simply taking a 'lift and shift' approach is the wrong strategy. Think of it as a renovation rather than a simple move. What user experience can we improve? What features will enhance the community experience?

Of course, we could have spent several hours on this topic alone and there are full-on consultancy projects that look to tackle these projects.

 Learn about how iTalent Digital successfully migrated and consolidated seven different online communities onto the Khoros platform.

If I had to boil everything down to one secret that covers both topics: having an experienced community manager (or project manager) who has managed multiple launches and/or migrations is a key ingredient to success.

How iTalent Digital can help

iTalent Digital has more than a decade of experience implementing, customizing, extending and managing the Khoros customer engagement platform. Its full-service community center of excellence is undergirded by deep expertise in DevOps, software integrations, data analytics and visualization, unified search, change management, customer experience optimization, and data management and security. Learn more about iTalent’s Enterprise Community Practice.

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