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The University of Southampton
CORMSIS Centre for Operational Research, Management Sciences and Information Systems

CORMSIS joins the ROBUST Project

Published: 27 November 2013

Prof. Joerg Fliege to contribute to the EU project ROBUST, which provides novel analytical tools that uncover the parts of a community that are successful and the areas that exhibit problems.

Online communities and enterprise social networks help employees and customers connect and collaborate. They allow employees and customers to talk about their experiences and find answers to questions about company products and services.  Ensuring the success of such online communities is a crucial problem for companies. How can a company make sure that the needs of hundreds of thousands or even millions of members are satisfied?

The EU project ROBUST provides novel analytical tools that uncover the parts of a community that are successful and the areas that exhibit problems. To achieve this, ROBUST investigated the objectives of users in business communities and how these users interact with each other. For example, users often know exactly the information that they are looking for. If they repeatedly cannot find this information, they will reduce their activity, will collaborate less with others and eventually leave the community. The project offers a dedicated website to demonstrate, with example applications and videos, how ROBUST technologies can identify dissatisfied users and how different strategies can be applied to determine trends within communities

Using a novel visualisation metaphor, ROBUST presents the opinions of users on company-relevant topics  as an aquarium. A bad atmosphere in the social network, which means that many negative statements are encountered, is visualised by turbid water and many cavorting sharks. Clicking on the surrounding corals reveals the topics that are being discussed in a negative or positive way. This visualisation provides an intuitive and immediate insight into the state of the community.

Using a demonstrator application of ROBUST technology, the software provider SAP AG, one of the project partners, reveals insights into the SAP Community Network (SCN) - a community with more than 2 million members. The ROBUST demonstrator identifies the forums that are flourishing, those that will become unpopular and the underlying trends. Even in large networks this technology allows community managers to keep track of the situation and developments and to identify experts and influential users.

More than 600,000 employees of IBM use the IBM Connections platform to exchange ideas and business-relevant information. ROBUST analyses how these business communities develop. The application identifies the branches of the company that are collaborating well and the users that play a central role in this process.

Although the "ROBUST" project  officially finishes on the 31st of October, its technology will continue to make many communities happier into the future.

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