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With the formal launch of this week of IFS Community at IFS World Conference (WoCo), IFS is committing to an endeavor the software vendor has never done before – the bringing together of IFS customers, partners, and employees on a single peer-to-peer support platform to share knowledge and solve problems.

IFS Community will bring the whole community together,” said Paul Helms, IFS senior vice president, customer success, in an interview at IFS World Conference. “There’s a lot of situations where someone has a simple question and they need a short answer. It’s too much to go and hire a consultant for and too small to ignore – that’s where Community comes in.”

IFS also has a roadmap of features planned for the self-service Community portal, which goes beyond posting questions and answers, according to Helms. These will likely include expert and partner chats, WebExs, meet-the-expert sessions, a product ideation section, and clinic-type discussions of specific topics.

That said, the next iteration of Community is very much up to its members. “We’ve launched Community now at WoCo with minimal feasible capability – it’s in its infancy,” Helms said. “We’re getting the community involved and we’ll model it based on what community members like and want – that’s the best way to create a really relevant community for the members.”

Paul Helms

Genesis of IFS Community

Over the years, IFS has previously sporadically endeavored to create a community, but the last offering, OpenIFS, was really only a forum, Helms said. As IFS Community becomes more established, IFS will retire OpenIFS and is currently determining a porting strategy to bring across the valuable content on OpenIFS over to IFS Community, according to Nuwan Perera, director, software development at IFS.

IFS Community becomes an integral part of the IFS support product portfolio, sitting alongside its existing Gold and Platinum programs and the newly announced Success and Select offerings. One of the drivers for launching Community now is how fast IFS is growing, which is leading to a much greater need for IFS knowledge than ever before, while at the same time, IFS is expanding its ecosystem to additional partners, Helms said. Community offers IFS partners a tangible way to show off their expertise, while individuals can also establish or enhance their technology reputation.

“Our hope is that Community vastly enhancing everyone’s experience and is a very fast way to get feedback from IFS experts,” said Perera. “It will be a game-changer for us.”

Questions and answers are tagged under different categories and those categories will evolve over time, according to Kristen Gastaldo, IFS customer community lead, who is managing the Community space. Community is available globally 24/7, so answers can be received in real-time. Each category has a moderator to help ensure that the information available is both relevant and correct.

Once a question has been answered on Community, that response becomes searchable. “If someone has a problem, probably someone else on Community has already solved it,” said Helms. IFS will also be using Community to share its own best practices with customers and partners. The vendor is actively encouraging all 3,700 of its employees to join Community. After Community was first launched to IFS staff, 500 employees joined. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Community has 674 members, 233 topics raised, and 381 replies.

Gamification: The Rise of the Heroes

Keenly aware that a community only works when its members participate, IFS is including gamification in Community. “In order to stimulate ongoing discussions and ideation about new product features, we created an advocacy program called ‘Heroes,” Helms said.

By helping each other and being recognized by their peers for their contributions, customers, partners, and IFS employees can move up the leaderboard ranking system. You begin as a Do Gooder, then become a Side Kick, and then a Hero, with Hero status being designed to be attainable. Above Hero status is Super Hero, then Ultimate Hero, and finally Legend, which probably only a select few IFS experts will achieve.

Community members can also gain a variety of badges including a special limited availability WoCo 19 badge for attending this week’s event. As well as adding additional gamification features over time, IFS plans to reward and publicly recognize Heroes and Legends. Rewards may include IFS swag, admission to a pilot program, and other freebies.

The ‘Heroes’ name came about during a discussion with IFS CEO Darren Roos who described IFS customers as “the real heroes of the story.” The name stuck and resonated with early adopter customers who tested out Community.

In keeping with the IFS theme of ‘For the Challengers,” IFS chose customer success community software provider inSided as the third-party cloud tool powering Community. “They are a challenger in their space and are really disrupting the market,” Helms said. “InSided has really solid technology and they have the right culture to work with our challenger culture at IFS.”

Measuring Community Success

For any community endeavor, it’s key to monitor progress by determining what constitutes success metrics. “First and foremost, it’s about providing knowledge where knowledge is required,” said Helms. One measurement will be seeing how many questions, which previously would have appeared via the IFS support channel, now move over to Community. “We expect to see a reduction in the share of how-to, consulting-type questions coming in via our formal support channel,” he added.

Over the medium term, IFS will be seeing how many community members achieve Hero status and the smaller number that gain Legend status. “Finally, we want to build better products for our customers,” Helms said. IFS will be tracking how many ideas in Community really end up flowing into the IFS product roadmap. Ultimately, the goal of IFS Community is to disseminate knowledge, create advocates, and help IFS to build better products, he added.

So, why not log onto IFS Community, complete your profile, start contributing, and earn your first badge!

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