About the series – Roger West Creative & Code set out to discover how our clients are adapting to the historically disruptive business environment of 2020. This is the first installment of our series, Rise & Thrive, an examination of challenges faced and lessons learned in the time of COVID-19.
Who is Dynamic Communities?
Dynamic Communities is the platform connecting partners and users of Microsoft business applications and other top tech solutions around the world, enabling them to interact with purpose and meaning online and in person.
The global community nurtured by Dynamic Communities gives tens of thousands of members the chance to pursue business growth, collaboration, discovery, education and professional development. Dynamic Communities is focus on providing these opportunities through personalized content and interfaces based on the information and experiences relevant to the individual.
Connections among members are supported by local online user groups, online training and education. But things really take off when members gather in person three times a year at Community Summit North America, Community Summit Australia and Community Summit Europe.
These in-person Summits have become must-attend events for thousands of partners and users in the tech solutions space. In a professional ecosystem often fragmented across industries and functions, attendees know they can find “their people,” explore solutions, gain education, and engage in unforgettable experiences at Community Summit – no matter what continent they’re on.
Then came 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic. Dynamic Communities, like millions of organizations around the globe, had to figure out a new way forward.
CEO John Seifert shared an inside look at how the organization has confronted unprecedented challenges and positioned Dynamic Communities to pivot and reinvent themselves.
Recognition & Response – The World Stood Still
Like many around the world, the team at Dynamic Communities began to pay close attention in early 2020 to rising international concerns about a dangerous, new virus. By March 7, when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a disaster emergency in the state, Seifert understood that disruption was inevitable.
“We knew this was going to be disruptive not only for our business but for our country and for the world,” Seifert said. “That’s when the organization took a step back and said, ‘What do we need to be thinking about here, and what do we need to be adapting to?’”
The initial concern was what to do about the three in-person Community Summits scheduled for 2020 in Australia, Barcelona, Spain, and Nashville, Tenn.
“One of the first adaptations was really around rethinking and reconsidering our live event strategy,” Seifert said. “This is what all the event companies were trying to figure out at the time.”
The sports, entertainment and convention industries took an early beating as events were canceled or postponed. The NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments. Japan’s Summer Olympics also were canceled, as were concert tours for musicians Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and Billie Eilish.
The world stood still and waited to see what was next.
Meanwhile, Dynamic Communities continued to provide its worldwide online community support and to prepare for potential live events in Australia and Spain. They remained optimistic but began to consider different options.
New Challenges – Identifying Unexpected Obstacles
By June, it became obvious that ongoing local lockdowns and international travel restrictions would not allow Dynamic Communities to hold its in-person events in Australia and Spain.
The in-person event planned for Nashville in October also seemed to be in jeopardy. Ultimately, Dynamic Communities chose to go 100% online for their Spain event, and combine their Australian event and the Community Summit North America into one virtual conference.
Before those decisions were made, however, Dynamic Communities had to identify and evaluate the new challenges ahead.
Pretty quickly, Dynamic Communities came to understand that the online community and live event planning model was not sustainable during a pandemic. Perhaps the biggest new challenge was identifying and managing the shifting expectations of online community members and event attendees.
“The context of a live event is really quite different from that of a virtual event,” Seifert said. “When you go to a live event, the context is, ‘I’m going to go wait in line for registration, or I’m going to go meet my friends at the bar that I haven’t seen for a year.’ Or, ‘I’m going to pick and choose the conference sessions that I want to go to.’
“You’ve got individuals that are choosing their ‘explore and discover’ time. In our category, it’s going to be exploring and discovering all the new software features and functionality, and exploring new ISV solutions to extend their software investment. The problem is, you can’t really replicate all of that in a virtual experience.”
Strategic Shift – Adjusting to a New Model
With the contrast between expectations for virtual events vs. in-person events established, Dynamic Communities made the decision to move to an all-virtual model for its Summits.
Community Summit Europe was the first event to receive the all-online treatment. It was an opportunity for the Dynamic Communities team to find out early what worked well – and what didn’t.
Seifert acknowledges it was a learning experience.
“In Europe, one of the things we realized was that because the team was really trying to replicate that live event environment, we didn’t meet our attendee expectations,” Seifert said. “We said, ‘let’s take a step back and make sure we really reconsider what the expectations are.’”
The major difference between a live event and a virtual event, Seifert said, is the in-person potential for spontaneity in a hotel lobby, at a breakout session, or at an after-hours dinner.
“Part of what makes it tough is accepting the fact as an organization that puts live events together, you can’t replicate that serendipity,” Seifert said. “A virtual environment is more about education and levels of engagement that you can take away from this environment.”,/p>
As it happened, Dynamic Communities was well-positioned to shift from the spontaneous ecosystem of an in-person event to the “point-in-time” environment of a virtual event.
The Revelation – What They Learned
The obstacles that arose from the pandemic allowed Dynamic Communities to take a new look at how it serves its community members. The company found that its strength as a platform of online communities worldwide and its recent investments in new technology infrastructure translated well to the sudden shift to virtual event planning.
“This is the incredible benefit of being a community platform,” Seifert said. “We don’t need to use just a point-in-time event to bring people together. We’re in an enviable position because we’re already connecting people together: peers together on this side, and buyers and sellers on the other side.”
Knowing that virtual attendees are looking for specific experiences, need fast results and expect swift answers played into Dynamic Communities’ foundational service – online global community curation.
They developed the concept of the Decision Acceleration Community (DAC) to help guide the approach to virtual event planning.
“What we’re doing now is an interesting way of reinventing our connection points with our community while those (in-person) events are not going on,” Seifert said. “We can enable them to come in and pick and choose the content, filters, and tags most important to them. And when the time comes to go back to live events, we can’t wait to bring the community back together in-person again.”
The Takeaway – Change is Inevitable: Plan to Adapt
While challenging and disruptive, the COVID-19 pandemic furnished an opportunity for Dynamic Communities to reimagine and re-invent its business model. For them, it meant building on their existing online communities, rather than attempting to start from scratch.
The lessons they learned about how to adapt nimbly in the face of historic disruption can serve companies across a variety of industries.
“This entire process has to be about adaptation,” Seifert said. “It has to be about quick learning, and then shifting direction in order to make sure that we’re serving the communities across this ecosystem and ethos. The beauty of this premise of adaptation is you’re learning every single day on what to shift, what to adapt and what to bring to bear for our audience.”
A Way Forward
The pandemic of 2020 left many organizations searching for a way forward. Roger West is examining how our clients chose to meet their unique challenges, and we're sharing their lessons in the hope that others might benefit. Our team of digital marketing masterminds is here to help your organization thrive in 2021, so contact us and let's figure it out together.