oCEM: the open Community Enablement Model

The Open Community Enablement Model (oCEM) is a definition of how a service provider works with its client community to enable them to do their jobs. It is similar to the CRM/CEM paradigms, but the “C” does not stand for “Customer”; it does not assume a customer/vendor relationship where the end goal is customer retention/expansion (i.e., more sales). It is applicable not just for competitive business environments, but also in environments where there is a monopoly service provider, such as in government education and interdepartmental interactions.

This model grew out of an effort of mine with John Cass to define a measure for social media practices. We agreed that it was a good idea to look at social media maturity in general, though this has been tackled by others (see models from RD2, from Rachel Happe). I wanted to limit the scope of my effort. First, many voices suggest that social media is a means, not an end. I wanted to focus on the end objective. Second, the end objective I had in mind was specifically about community enablement. Much of the focus on social media is for sales, marketing, and brand building. I leave that for others.

Obviously, the true test of a model is how it is used. I don’t have the time to go through and evaluate communities, but I would like, with others’ help, to start.


Core Processes

The core processes are defined as such:

  1. Problem Resolution – Process of identifying problems and resolving them.
  2. Content Sharing – Process of creating knowledge from information, publishing it, and refining it.
  3. Innovation Pipeline – Process of creating new ideas for future inclusion in product or service.

Social networking is at present omitted from the core processes, it may be an input or an output to them. (Do people collaborate better because they have built social relations or visa Versa? Or a little of both?)

Derivation of the Name

Open Community – This refers to a community of practice. It can be commonly referred to as a user community or developer community. It is similar to customers or clients, but the use of “community” implies that the users can collaborate on their own. The term “customer” is not used to avoid business connotations. Open was added to emphasize the ability of any stakeholder to join, and also to distinguish it from CEM.

Enablement – The community is enabled, to do a job. Community empowerment is implied, though this often is a political statement of the balance of power.

Model – This is used to denote a framework. (Similar conceptual frameworks use ‘M’ for Management.)

Other Models

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has coalesced as a framework for orchestrating customer service. It is insufficient for OCEM for a couple of fundamental reasons. It traditionally deals with customers as individuals, and not as a community. Second, CRM is often sales-driven.

Customer Experience Management (CEM or CExM) was a reaction to CRM; it’s been positioned as a more holistic approach. There is no general-purpose CEM software. It is not a technical standard for evaluating software; it is more commonly used for evaluating a company’s holistic processes– from a customer point of view. Forrester expert Bruce Temkin cites Jeff Bezos telling Business Week’s Heather Green: “Customer experience includes having the lowest price, having the fastest delivery, having it reliable enough so that you don’t need to contact [anyone].” (In other words, the company’s core businesses!)

Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) is an emerging framework that seeks to be a reciprocal to CRM: empowering customers to manage their experience with the vendor.

Community Relations is a business function that is largely unrelated and does not have a formal model behind it. A business’s office of community relations interacts with the leaders of the local community (government/charity/education officials).

Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP) is a name suggested by Yochai Benkler as an umbrella term for open source software and similarly-inspired projects (Wikipedia, etc). Indeed, community enablement is almost part-and-parcel with such projects, though the oCEM processes aren’t always systematized. Moreover, being a strictly open source should not be required for oCEM adherence.

In addition, models are often inferred by work of industry analysts (cf. Forrester Community Platforms and Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software) These efforts are helpful but ultimately inadequate for a couple of reasons: first, they focus on the software makers as business suppliers, and do not provide special focus on the process architecture itself; second, they do not offer a model for evaluating how effectively social software/community platforms are adopted.


An OCEM evaluation can be run against these entities:

  • Software
  • Product Vendors
  • Internal departments

Internally, each of these pillars can be evaluated against CMM levels. An outside party (the community itself) can assign an openness rating as well:

  1. No formal system.
  2. Closed system for limited partners/customers.
  3. Open, but Limited interactivity (moderation).
  4. Full interactivity.
  5. Managed interactivity — top users are promoted, abusers are demoted.


A. Problem Resolution

“Give a man a fish”

Problem Resolution is the basic operation of customer service.

Tools: Combination of CRM tools, online forums, Twitter monitoring.

Metrics: Mean time to response; meantime to solution; open issues per community member.

Openness: Web-Based discussion forums allow for community investigation and resolution. Twitter monitoring allows for real-time responses.

Challenges: Closed and open forum processes are often managed separately; duplication of issues. Open forums are generally seen as “unofficial support” and not measured.

B. Content Sharing

“Teach a man to fish”

Content Sharing is akin to Knowledge Management: the process of recognizing useful information and publishing it in an open, searchable forum.

Tools: Online manual with customer comments; and/or managed a wiki.

Metrics: how many answers are found in the corpus; how rapidly errors in the documentation are corrected, how many new documents are added.

Openness: Allowing multiple parties to document makes the changes speedier.

Challenges: A blog is often used, but is often used for marketing purposes; a managed wiki could be better.

C. Innovation Pipeline

“Listen to the man’s ideas on fishing…”

Tools: Forums can be used. salesforce.com IdeaExchange.

Metrics: how quickly ideas are productized (by vendor or partner)

Openness: The community can also productize ideas, not just the vendor.

Challenges: Taxonomy is needed to align ideas with the management model.


This is how an outside analyst can perform evaluations:

  • Evaluating a community software package. Does it support each process? For each process, what metrics does it collect?
  • Evaluating an organization. Does it implement each process? For each process, how open is it? How mature is it, is it being measured & optimized?

Remember that oCEM is ultimately focused on the core processes and business objectives. It may be a handy outcome of social software that users find themselves more connected to each other– but these only matters if those connections can deliver quicker answers, better documentation, and acceptable solutions.

If this post was helpful then please share it and help others too. ;)

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