Company: Cisco Systems, Inc.
Company background: Cisco has helped prove that amazing things can happen when you connect the unconnected. By creating long-lasting customer partnerships, Cisco works to provide solutions that fuel their success. In 1984, Len Bosack and wife Sandy Lerner, wanted to email each other from their offices at Stanford University, but the technology didn’t exist. This is how the multiprotocol router was born. Since then Cisco has shaped the future of the Internet by creating unprecedented value and opportunity for our customers, employees, investors and ecosystem partners and has become the worldwide leader in networking - transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate.
Contact: Denise Brittin
Title: Digital Marketing Manager
Related URLs: https://community.cisco.com
Lithy category: B2B Community Innovator
1. Describe the innovation(s) and how you settled on the decision to innovate (user request, Lithium suggestion, internal idea, etc.)
For a decade, Cisco ran two large communities on separate platforms. Cisco Support Community, migrated to the Lithium platform in August 2017, was focused on technical support and case avoidance and had 16M annual unique visitors. Cisco Communities, on the Jive hosted platform and with 1M annual unique visitors, was focused on business topics, enabling Cisco’s partner and developer ecosystems, and product team engagement through Cisco’s Customer Connection global user group program. While both communities were successful, the holistic customer and partner experience was fragmented. For years, customers and partners asked the Cisco organizations responsible for the two communities the same question: “Why have two communities?”
Upon analysis, we discovered that the communities did indeed have an overlap of 100,000 registered users, representing 30% of the registered users in each community. Customers and partners often posted the same question on both communities, simply trying to get an answer. Cisco subject matter experts were burdened with monitoring two communities, leading to poor engagement consistency. Community metrics reporting was silo’d, with no holistic view of the impact community was having as both a digital property and a social channel.
In October 2017, we broke down organizational barriers, and project Fusion was approved to merge Cisco Support Community and Cisco Communities on the Lithium platform that Cisco Support Community had migrated to in mid-2017. This initiative brought together Cisco’s Digital Marketing, Technical Services (now Customer Experience), Partner Marketing and Developer Network organizations to provide customers and partners a single streamlined community experience. Thus began the 9 month journey to create Cisco Community, culminating in the launch on July 23, 2018.
2. Tell us about how you made it happen Did you stage it first, who got an early look, how you drove adoption/use, and any iterations you had to make to get it right.
Our approach to the project was not simply to migrate all the forums and content from Jive to Lithium, but to streamline the entire experience; a consolidated community structure, a user interface design that aligns with Cisco’s new digital personality and usability and personalization improvements.
Merging two production communities presented a unique set of technical challenges. Multiple development and migration servers were spun up to support the data mapping, custom development, user experience and user interface work required. Over 30 community managers had to be trained and supported as they designed their categories and boards. Throughout the process, concepts and designs were vetted with Cisco Support Community VIPs and Cisco Communities Customer Connection members. The new community was announced and demo’d at Cisco Live US, Cisco’s largest customer and partner conference, one month prior to launch. Overwhelmingly, the response was “It’s about time!”
The community design incorporates navigational consistency between Cisco’s web site and community. For example, users see the same “satellite navigation” element, "Quick Task bar" and iconography in both digital properties.
Community “pillars” streamline navigation for the four key audiences: customers, partners, developers and public. Each pillar has its own consistently designed “home” page and structure of forums. The Quick Task bar is persistent on every page, allowing easy lateral navigation across the entire community. This was extremely important, as many of our customers and partners participate in multiple pillars.
Technology & Support Pillar:
The publicly accessible forums reside here, and it serves as the Cisco Community home page. This pillar is organized by Cisco technology area and therefore required the most architectural consolidation between the Jive forums and the existing Lithium forums. Some forums were combined into a single board, some were broken out into separate boards, categories or sub-categories depending on volume of use, technology portfolios and business strategy. The Developer support forums were consolidated under this pillar.
Focused on partner enablement and engagement, access to these forums is restricted to registered Cisco partners and Cisco employees via SSO login. We took this opportunity to “clean house,” and reduce the number of partner forums by 83%, from 400 to 65.
Customer Connection Pillar:
Customer Connection is Cisco’s community-based global user group program, which is open to Cisco customers and partners only. Access is gated via an application survey and each applicant is qualified before being granted access to the private forums in this pillar. Custom components and API integration was leveraged to achieve a seamless and streamlined application, qualification and access process. The pillar home page displays different components to program members vs non-members. Program promotion is simplified, as one URL leads customers to the program home page where they can join or participate in member-only activities, including private discussion forums, community-based early adopter trials, product enhancement idea submission, and technical and roadmap online briefings.
The Events pillar enables users to view upcoming or past community events, such as Ask the Expert opportunities or webcasts. Custom personalization surfaces the events relevant to the pillar that the user was on when they clicked on Events. Custom filters enable users to easily find an event that interests them.
Members & Recognition Pillar:
Members are at the heart of the community. This pillar enables everyone to see community leaderboards and top contributors, Spotlight Awards, Hall of Fame and community VIPs.
Developing a community-wide label strategy for every interaction style was key to consolidating the forums. Implementing this strategy required a multi-phase approach:
1) examine all production Jive categories and Lithium labels,
2) determine the labels applicable to each new category,
3) determine the labels applicable to multiple categories based on technology interlock,
4) rename current labels as required, and
5) remove duplicate labels that remain within a category.
The rank and badging schemes were very different between the two communities, therefore, we developed an entirely new rank and badge system for Cisco Community. Extensive analysis was done to ensure a current user’s relative position on the rank ladder was preserved, regardless of which community they previously participated in. We also designed the system to encourage new members to quickly become participants and contributors.
Change management was a critical part of the project. Internal and external FAQs, and community banners kept members and Cisco experts informed. Drop-in office hours helped community managers prepare for the change. But the most exciting part of the change management is the WalkMe community help that’s incorporated into the community. This technology literally “walks” users through performing common community functions. Not only will this help new and old users alike, it provides metrics telling us what users need help with the most. This will enable us to improve community usability going forward.
3. What were the results? Tell us how it impacted your customer experience or the outcomes you seek as a business.
Only a few weeks post-launch, our data is limited, but here are a few key metrics:
A single community destination coupled with the Lithium portfolio enables a wealth of business impacting opportunities moving forward. Examples include:
To quote an oldie but goodie … we’ve only just begun.
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