The coordination and planning required for support of the consumer collaboration community can be very complicated and yet it is not necessarily complicated unless you make it complicated.  The challenge requires focus and this is what the program management practice provides quite frankly.  Program management brings the practice and capabilities together that are required to work across platforms and business practices.  The consumer collaboration community requires support across business practices and provides input across business practices and it is very important that the retailer does not underestimate the importance or the requirements.

It is important to put in place the process and methods early in the life of the consumer collaboration community.  It will be much harder to put these methods into place after the fact and potentially re-work or reorganize process and methods, it is always easier to start off with the appropriate methods than to re-engineer the process after the fact and this is no different.  The program management practice in this case is especially important because of the integration opportunities with both internal organization processes and external partner data sharing opportunities.  Since I am suggesting that the basis of the consumer community be cloud services and technology there must be a process in place that evaluates and coordinates the implementation of these services and technology.  I believe the program management practice methodology is the best practice to support the community, organization and external partner opportunities and requirements.

People, process and technology must be the focus and the mantra for the success of the consumer community and the integration across the retail organization and external partners.  This will be an extremely time consuming practice to implement and maintain and this is where the program management practice will show it greatest value.  I have said that the support of internal leadership is critical to the success of the consumer community and the cost can be minimized through use of cloud technologies and services.  The one greatest factor of support from leadership will be the support, encouragement and patience to allow the program management practices to succeed with this initiative.  The greatest investment requirement, in my opinion, from leadership is this patience and support to allow the consumer community to grow through the initial start up trials and build the participation and community spirit that will bring success to this initiative. 

The consumer community is a long term investment from the retail leadership, as some say it is a marathon and not a sprint.  This means that the retail leadership cannot impose short term hard financial return on the initiative. The reason why I suggest that the initiative should be supported via cloud technology and services is to limit the investment required to the time of people in the organization.  This limited hard dollar investment should reduce the demands for immediate return and allow the community to build and grow, allowing the community to find its value and develop the base and attraction to participate and become a member of the community.  The organic growth of the community will provide the best foundation for the long term success and value that can be derived from the community.