Skip to main content

IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Project: Costs and Benefits of Communities of Practice

Researcher: David R. Millen, Michael Fontaine (IKM)

A Collaborative User Experience Project:

As part of a joint research project with the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, researchers have been studying the nature and structure of communities of practice and how they contribute to effective knowledge transfer and creation. The project has resulted in practical tools to assist organizations in the early stages of community development.

One part of this project is focused on developing metrics for the measurement of the Total Cost of Ownership and the Benefits for Communities of Practice. Based on a study of communities of practice in nine companies, the research team has developed a model of the Total Cost of Ownership that included measurement of investments made in technology, community events, community roles (human resources), and community content (assets). This model was explored and evaluated at a workshop attended by 35 members of the Institute for Knowledge Management in Dublin in May of 2001.

A multi-company survey is currently underway to explore in more detail the individual, community, and organizational benefits that result from communities of practice. We aim to identify the kinds of community activities that provide the greatest return (ROI) to the various organizational constituencies (or beneficiaries).

For more information about the Institute for Knowledge Management and related research projects, please contact Michael Fontaine ( or visit (