Update on Communities of Practice

October 26, 2007

Our first community of practice is now about 10 months old and has about 65 listed members. Our monthly virtual meetings on Webex and conference call average about 20 members and there is a core of 4 members that help to make it work. This CoP is made up of members from Europe, Australia, Asia and North America and from functional groups like Professional Services, Product Management, Product Support, Marketing, Pre-Sales Support and Advanced Consulting. As a group they produce a small amount of IP that can be directly associated with the CoP, averaging a quality IP asset once every two months.

My second CoP is five months old and has 36 listed members, of which an average of 12 attend the monthly Webex and conference calls. This CoP is unique in that 3 employees of a partner company participate regularly to share information. There is a core group of three members that work to make the meetings interesting and lively. This CoP also has regular participation from our Training / Academy group. IP asset output has been limited in this group, averaging about a quality document every three months.

The third CoP is also five months old and has 38 listed members. Attendance at the monthly meetings for this group has been the lowest of the three at 8-10 members per call. Getting attendance from the various functional groups has been a challenge. Though the meetings have had surprisingly detailed and open discussions, more so than the other two CoPs. IP asset output is also a quality document every three months.

Lastly the SharePoint User Group (4th CoP) lists 52 members. This is an entirely virtual group with only an email d-list as the means of communication. I intend to move this to a Forum style group once I am able to secure the right platform. Questions posted to the group usually are answered in less than 30 mins if someone knows the answer. The issue here is SharePoint is new to almost everyone, so there are few true gurus in the group. Membership is also across functional groups and geographies. Once I get enough time and learn more about each member I intend to host a quarterly or bi-monthly user group call. We will be using SharePoint 2007 in the upcoming months and I’m sure that will spur a lot of questions, without immediate answers.

I am reminded about my earlier analogy that CoPs are like snow flakes, no two are alike. Here at HDS we have three CoPs aligned to strategic company goals and one aligned to internal support. Each consists of members in similar functional groups, have similar job descriptions and similar goals, but the “personality” of each CoP is quite different. Feedback on the CoPs from the members and their managers has been positive. There is still much more I think we can accomplish in each group, I am just out of bandwidth to drive more output. Though I’ve found in general that quality output takes time regardless of CoP. CoP participation and contribution must compete with other priorities of its members so I’ve found that it takes three months for any worthwhile guide or content to be completed.