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Alumni community platforms: to build or to buy?

Build a corporate alumni platform in-house or buy from a third-party software provider

Are you looking to develop or implement a secure online networking platform for your alumni community but don’t know where to start? 

Look no further – here are some of my thoughts to help you and your company before you commit to an investment. 

Building an alumni network platform solution in-house 

Building a networking or community engagement platform in-house can involve a number of people as well as time and money.  There are a couple of questions I’d suggest you ask yourself and your organisation before committing to this route: 

  1. Do we have market-leading community management technology to use for this product?
  2. Are we agile in our approach and development?
  3. Can we keep up to date with technology advances (and roll these out on the website regularly)?
  4. Do we have access to ‘user experience’ and CRM experts? 
  5. Will our Internal IT/development team be a dedicated resource to the ongoing maintenance and development of your website? 

If your answer is ‘no’ to more than three of these questions, you may be setting yourself up for failure before you begin!  

I have seen alumni network platforms built in-house, which can, in the short-term, seem like a less risky and cost-effective solution, but by launch they’re hit with disaster when  

  • Their technology was already out of date 
  • The hype of launch was crushed by the advancement of technology!  
  • And, to add insult to injury, the individuals in the alumni network were already using more sophisticated technology platforms in their other networks. 

Building an internal solution will be the right approach for some.  If you have the resources, as well as the expertise and your organisation has had success with other network engagement solutions, go for it!  Open-source technology is out there for the taking and can, with the right expertise, enhance your in-house technology solutions.  

Buying and investing in a white-labelled third-party platform solution 

Implementing an alumni network platform using a third-party platform solution is the other option.  There are a number of alumni community-specific products in the market, as well as a wide range of broader community engagement platforms.  

The benefits of using a platform solution developed outside of your organisation include:

  • Expertise and experience of market-leading community management technology.
  • Sophisticated, efficient and regular product development cycles.
  • 100% focus on the product, the user experience, data management and content management.
  • These are white-labelled products which can be fully branded.  

This sounds great and a no-brainer, right?  Why not choose a third-party platform solution which is tailored to community or more specifically, alumni engagement? 

Investing in a third-party platform solution (alas) is not as simple as putting money towards it, especially if you are considering integrating the platform with your in-house HRIS and CRM systems.  You’ll need to engage the right people from your HR, CRM, IT, and Marketing teams to support the design, development and implementation.  

If you are managing and/or developing a global alumni network or a national alumni network with significant alumni numbers, a third-party platform solution will likely be a more efficient and effective option.  You will be able to achieve a more personalised, tailored alumni user experience and at scale.  

Build or Buy?  

Both options are an investment and a long-term commitment – whether that be investment in people, time and/or money.  Plus, once launched, the ongoing resource you invest in community management and engagement is absolutely key to the success of your alumni network. 

I have seen both options work well for companies.  However, they’ve worked well because the solution has answered the simple ‘exam’ questions: 

  1. What problem(s) or challenges(s) are we trying to address?  (your objectives)
  2. Who are our customers (or alumni)? What type of customers (or alumni) are in our community? (persona development)
  3. What are their needs? (customer development)
  4. What are our assumptions? (assumption development and testing)
  5. What solution will work best for our customers and us? 

Whichever route you choose to go down, remember who your customers are, what their needs are and what your needs are too.  Always keep these thoughts at the heart of your design, development and platform launch.  

The technology solution you choose to support your alumni engagement, can and should, provide mutual benefit to your alumni and you. 

If you are in the process of deciding what options are available to you to launch and manage your alumni programme and would welcome an objective discussion, book in for a half hour advisory call with me.

Book in today for a free no obligation call. 

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