Defining Community Success

Defining Community Success

June 7, 2022

In a previous article we took a look at how metrics in Developer Relations and Community Management can often be difficult, but not impossible to ascertain. One of the key tenets to discovering how to properly metricize your operation is determining what success should look like prior to setting metrics like OKRs and KPIs.

Defining Success

Often content discussing success is evasive or ethereal and tends to break from giving specific concrete measures or techniques. This isn’t just a clever way to drag out content about success, this is because success is often subjective. What success means to one team or organization would be different to another team or organization.

For example, looking at a company that delivers an Open Source project. Their idea of success is likely tied to contributors and contributions to the project, or the parts of the project they want to promote. It’s measured in participatory metrics, such as git contributions and tickets completed.

For a large-scale enterprise operation that has a customer-facing product, not specifically for developers, the landscape and the metrics will look very different. They will be tied to top-of-funnel activity or the adoption of new features. They may be focused on specific monetary goals, but not in how many people are participating in the forums or asking to help build features.Before finding what works best, it’s important to ask yourself or your organization a few questions:

  • What, other than financials, do we consider success?
  • How does the success of other teams and business stakeholders work towards your success?
  • How do you plan to communicate your success and how you measure to other parts of the organization?
  • What is the audience outside of our organization that contributes to that success (users, contributors, purchasers, etc.)?
  • What mechanisms do we currently have or can we put in place to move toward that success?
  • What tools do we use to measure success? OKRs and KPIs?

Determining Success

Simply having a definition of what we consider success with our communities is not enough. At some point, we will need to decide what the finish line is. Here there is a caveat: like good software, building a successful community is never “done”. That said, we need to at least have small victories to measure success along the way.

These small victories lead to better team integration into the measurement of goals. Teams that understand there is an opportunity to find tiny wins along the way to success are more likely to engage and build programs and the mechanics to see those goals through.Bringing in ways to measure this success is also key. helps teams to focus on success and gives them the ability to share those success measurements over time. Additionally, as teams can see their small victories on clear dashboards, the idea of success can grow and evolve.

Discovering Success

Success should never be considered a static concept. Certain goals, like being the best in our industry or having the number one used application in our market are great overarching goals that may not change, but success in the near term is much more important to make those long term goals a reality.As we begin to meet or exceed our measures of success, it’s key to reexamine our success concept. It could be that our focus was entirely on getting contributors to our project but now we need end-users who may or may not be the same group of people. It could be that we need to change our tactics and engage the help of marketing and sales folks who have a different idea of success.


We sometimes hear things from leaders of the industry, cliches like “failure is not an option” or “success at the cost of all else”. It’s easy to get caught up in the words of eloquent speakers and metrics gurus stating what is right and prescribing a course of action that is too open-ended or so specific it can’t apply.

By defining your version of success as it applies to your organization, determining what the short goals are and how to measure them, and discovering how success evolves for you, your community, and your organization, you can become exactly the success you want to see in the world - or your corner of it!

Listen To the Full Episode

Listen to the Episodes