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Julia Murashova
Julia Murashova

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Community management: how to create a global network of internal IT communities | DevRel case

In this article I would like to share my approach of building a successful network of internal professional communities in a global IT company. This approach is based on my experience during 2020-21. I have built a project that consisted of 16 communities and involved about four thousand employees (about 30% of total headcount). This experience helped me to come up with a useful and scalable formula for IT community building.

Why do IT companies benefit from internal professional communities?

There are three areas of strategic business goals that potentially can be solved through maintaining internal professional IT communities:

  • Talent management and HR
  • Developer Relations
  • Business goals

It is very important to identify your particular goals and relevant KPIs. What would you like to improve by building a community? What results do you expect?

Let me come up with a table of goals and corresponding KPIs. This list is not comprehensive, but something to start with.

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All of the mentioned goals follow the idea: to identify, grow and work with high potential people. According to Harvard Business Review, “high potentials consistently and significantly outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving these superior levels of performance, […] they show a strong capacity to grow and succeed throughout their careers within an organization—more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.”
In other words, high potentials:

  • are highly self-motivated and ambitious
  • show capabilities to solve complicated issues
  • have (or eager to have) strong hard expertise, as well as soft skills
  • strive for communication and self-presentation

High potentials will be the people who pay attention to the communities and will become core team members. Finding and involving such people in the project is the first priority for the community manager.

Five key components for building internal IT communities

All communities follow a typical life cycle: inception, creation, growth, maturity and re-inception or death. It is very important to create a certain environment that helps the project go through these stages successfully.

The project model discussed below is built in a way that your communities function as long and successfully as possible, as well as be able to scale and “reborn”.

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1. Good structure

Structure is important to make it easier for employees to navigate communities. For example, communities can be created around:

  • roles (BA, QA, DevOps)
  • coding languages (Java, Go, C++, Kotlin etc.)
  • technologies (Kubernetes, PostgreSQL, AWS etc.)
  • company’s offerings or products

Also, it could be useful to ask yourself two questions before creating a community: are there enough people who are interested in this topic in the company and is the business interested in growing this expertise?

2. Identity

The power of marketing and design could not be underestimated. Brand identity creates the feeling of belonging to a certain group. It is very important for communities. Create identity (logo, unique color scheme, prints) and provide community members with some branded goodies. This is a nice move to unite people. This is what actually makes a community.

3. Motivation and recognition

Motivation and recognition systems should help the project to be self-driven. Community is something people usually do in their extra time, so they need extra motivation that may be expressed as:

  • Unique souvenirs/goodies for community members (t-shirts, cups, hoodies, etc.)
  • Rewards for speakers (something useful and meaningful, for example, professional books or training)
  • Public recognition (it is important to promote internally what is happening in the community and express public gratitude to the people who invest their efforts to this community).

4. Communication infrastructure

There is no community if there is no platform where members can communicate with each other. The most popular solutions on the market are Slack and Discord.

The community exists when:

  • an employee can easily join / leave the community
  • community members can communicate with each other on the same platform
  • horizontal connections begin to appear

5. Project management

Unfortunately, building the project and just watching it work without any management is not possible in real life. If you ensure the four components, the system still needs management and monitoring.

The project will require efforts in organizing events, working with speakers, collecting and working out feedback as well as planning development strategy.

Here are my 10 personal experience tips for community management in IT:

🤝 Don’t shift responsibility, experts won’t drive a community for you, they will do that only with you.
☎️ Regular sync ups are more important than you could imagine.
🥳 Don't underestimate emotional support and motivation, do not skip on kind words and praise. Celebrate achievements of active community members, make their merits public.
✨ If the first event failed, don’t get upset. Give people time to realize that this activity is regular — the crowd will get involved.
🧭 Only about 10% of people want to share their expertise publicly. Not everyone wants to contribute.
🔋 If 30% of the company actively participates in communities — you are a hero, congratulations!
🌻 A beautiful wrapper is half of the success. Create something special.
🤩 Communities definitely help to create company spirit, comfortable working environment, atmosphere, and informal communication.
🏆 The community would be supported by 2-3 active experts. If you have only one active, you depend on them too much. Gather a group, find out the motivation someone has to engage in community, keep them motivated.
❤️ Community must not be something obligational, it is for the soul.

Top comments (1)

meghna__das_ profile image
Meghna Das

This looks great! Thanks for sharing Julia ♥