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Do you know the CEI for your co-operative?

Following up on our blog on “Collaborate online or your co-op will lose its competitive edge” we wanted to talk about a very important Key Performance Indicator for co-operatives – the Co-operative Engagement Index (CEI) – this is something that we have developed after nearly 20 years of working with co-operatives, building strategic software and shaping operations for co-operatives that have resulted in multiple growth spurts for these groups.

So what is this CEI and why should your co-operative measure and improve this over time?

Most co-operatives exist to leverage the collective buying & selling power of its members and vendors and build strong partnerships across their ecosystem. The leverage happens only when members and vendors participate and engage in dialog, business, transactions and contracts through the co-operative. The more the engagement, the stronger the co-operative. So if this engagement can be measured in a managed way, we can start to identify patterns and factors that build deeper engagements, or find patterns and factors that corrode engagements across members, vendors, co-operative employees and partners. So how can this be done?

In almost every co-operative in the world, this engagement today happens in an unmanaged space through emails, websites, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, road-shows, trade-shows, committee and board meetings. Unmanaged dialog creates a weaker co-operative and co-operatives do not have big funds to build an entire social network for themselves that have deep analytics like LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter. There are membership management tools but they do not measure engagements and definitely do not provide insights on what is working and what is not.

How we came up with the CEI

This lead us to work with some of the large co-operatives that we have worked with to create the CEI. CEI in its most basic form measures the amount of dialog that happens in a “managed” space between all the parties of a co-operative over time. Using intelligent algorithms patterns are identified to then classify the dialog. A unit score is tagged to each dialog across different parties. For example, dialog that results in an inquiry to a vendor from a member may score 90% while a dialog about the weather today may score 10%. No dialog for 1 month can score -10%.

Early Challenges

There were challenges that we had to overcome. First, co-operatives have different by-laws and operate differently. Secondly, co-operatives across different industries have different levels of engagement. Thirdly, co-operative across different countries and cultures will also have different classification of dialog and engagement. Lastly, how can all of the dialog across 100s of companies, 1000s of people be “managed”?

How it worked

We attacked the problem from the last to the first. We created a Social Network for Co-operatives that connected members, vendors and the co-operative into a managed space for all dialog. After implementing at one of our clients we soon learned that it was challenging to have everyone join at first. But over time there was good adoption, especially when the co-operative admins were deeply involved and believed in the engagement.

Next we tackled the differences across cultures, countries, industries and by-laws. We realized that is was a big task to normalize the CEI across all of these elements. So we create a “flexible” CEI that is adaptable for each co-operative with benchmarks to “similar” co-operatives.

The process starts with assessing all the communication, collaboration and engagement channels of a co-operative. Based on this the co-operative social network is implemented and the co-operative’s very own CEI is ascertained by tagging unit scores to each dialog type and pairs. Finally, the CEI is measured, reported and improved over time by bringing out patterns of what is working and what is not.

We have recently implemented this at one our customers, IDCO – they are an industrial hose co-operative.  The co-operative’s CEI is getting measured through our Co-operative Social Network implementation at IDCO. In 3 months engagement has gone up. IDCO is poised for exponential growth in the next few years.

Why you need to get your CEI

In the end, it is all about bringing value to a co-operative’s members and vendors and allowing all co-operative employees to feel as part of a giant ecosystem that marches to the same drum-beat and echoes the same sentiments of the collective buying and selling power. To that, the CEI is going to become one of the most important KPIs for the co-operative business.

Interested in learning more and getting a free assessment of all- your collaboration channels? You can reach out to us anytime at or just call us at 845-271-6030.

Blog post by: Roni Banerjee. Reach Roni @

Roni heads Marketing & Sales for Medullus and is the Practice Lead for Blockchain Solutions. Roni has nearly 20 years of CIO/CTO experience with orgs across industries. Roni architected the world’s 1st true purchasing group ERP/BPM system for a billion $ org. Roni has implemented large workflow systems, recently for a public-traded pharma. Roni holds an MBA from Warwick Business School in the UK and several certification in PM, Agility, Blockchain and software.

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Collaborate online or your co-op will lose its competitive edge

The Social Co-op

The social collaboration

There are several types of co-ops and member-owned organizations – buying or purchasing groups, food co-ops, housing co-ops, consumer co-ops are among the most popular. But one thing that connects the dots among all these types of co-ops is that co-ops exist as a means to bring businesses, entities, people and groups together to leverage their collective buying or selling power. The word that resonates among these organizations is “collective” and the only way individuals, groups and entities can come together to create this entity is through collaboration.

In the years leading up to social networking, organizations were primarily communicating and through traditional media like phones, emails and collaboration was primarily done through business meetings, lunches, dinners, road shows, business conventions, trade shows and the likes. While these channels still exist and are extremely successful in fostering the “collaborative co-op”, the day-to-day collaboration across all parties of a co-op is happening over the wire and through the digital world. Gone are the days where contracts are drawn up once a year and negotiated at national account meetings or, strategic discussions are held at board rooms twice a year. Businesses are eroding their walls and being more flexible in how they transact with each other on a daily and sometimes even on an hourly basis. And while email became the go-to collaboration tool, inboxes started filling up quickly and important communication got lost under the rubble – we have all known this phenomenon called “email hell” where we spend most of our day trying to figure who to answer to when and spend hours unarchiving mailboxes to find a 1st draft of a contract where we had some good ideas that are missing on the final version!

And this is where “social” collaboration comes in. Social media has taken over the way we communicate. There are millions of hours of research into who this media is good or bad for society and business in general. But the point that resonates is that it is here to stay and businesses will have to figure out how to use this effectively so that they can control the dialog before the dialog controls them and their ecosystem. So how can the “collaborative co-op” build upon this new way of transacting business and use it to their advantage?


The problem with Facebook & LinkedIn Groups

One quick way to build a social collaboration channel is through a Facebook group or a LinkedIn group. Both are free and is quite easy to setup. There are many online posts about how to use Facebook & LinkedIn groups for business – I personally recommend the post from Social Media Examiner for Facebook– you can read it here. For LinkedIn, you can check out the post from Buffer App by clicking here.

However, for a co-op there are some very unique collaboration channels. First, suppliers and co-op employees need to collaborate in a space where members may or may not have access. A lot of these collaborations could be about rebates programs, co-op growth programs through sponsorships and promotions and contracts for products and services. In some cases, a select few members (board, national accounts committee or special committees) might be part of specific collaboration channel.

Second, members and co-op employees need private spaces and collaboration channels to discuss membership topics, co-op by-laws, growth and penetration into new and existing markets or just day to day trade and business.

Third, members and vendors should find “safe spaces” where they can collaborate freely about specials, promotions and contracts with the co-op’s ability to moderate and administer as it feels necessary.

Finally, there should be the main “social floor” where everyone collaborates and discusses industry news, co-op news or anything that anyone wants to share with the group.

Where traditional social channels fail is that these channels are not designed to foster all of these types of co-op collaborations under one umbrella where all discussions, posts, videos, pictures, files and social interaction across public and private groups can be managed. A simple collaboration channel where a vendor announces a new product to the entire membership but discusses annual contracts only with the co-op employees cannot be done easily with social channels available today and in most cases it cannot be done at all – maybe if your co-op owned LinkedIn!


The Social Co-op Network

This is where a social network design and implemented with a co-op’s business model in mind, can be one of the most important tools of your group. Here are the elements of the social network.

Vendors & Members should have the ability to create their own company pages with as many sub-pages, posts, videos, photos as they like – just as in Facebook or LinkedIn you can create your own company’s page. As the co-op you should be able to manage and create these pages on behalf of your members and vendors as well just in case they do not have the time to do so. In either case, it should be extremely easy to do – if you know how to use a word processing software (like Word or Pages) you should be able to build your company’s pages.

Vendors should be able to promote their products and services to the members with the co-op moderating and administering these promotions. These promotions could in the form of posts, videos or training webinars.

Members should be able to communicate with vendors, collaborate with other members and discuss in forums within the social network.

Members should be able to inquire about different products and services and vendors and co-op employees should have the ability to help members with these inquiries.

Vendors should be able to get reports about who has visited their pages, inquired about products and services they market and also get sales leads through the channels.

There should be options to build sub-groups with select members, vendors, contacts or any combination of users across all organizations (vendor, member and co-op). These may or may not have the co-op as the moderator but the co-op should have the ability to administer them as needed.

There needs to the “co-op general wall” where any member, vendor or co-op can post comments, links, videos, photos, articles or a simple thought-of-the-day with the ability to like, comment, share or simply view.

As the social network gets more traction and more data is entered the network should have the intelligence to show trending topics, discussions, have the ability to do profile completeness scores to promote more interactions and collaborations and create a more connected co-op.


Where can you start

At Medullus we have helped buying groups, purchasing co-ops and member-owned organizations become more connected and interactive through our proprietary “social co-op” software. We are happy to discuss with you and learn your co-ops structure, collaborative environments and interactions. Why not reach out to us to join in on the conversation and collaboration?



Blog post by: Roni Banerjee. Reach Roni @

Roni heads Marketing & Sales for Medullus and is the Practice Lead for Blockchain Solutions. Roni has nearly 20 years of CIO/CTO experience with orgs across industries. Roni architected the world’s 1st true purchasing group ERP/BPM system for a billion $ org. Roni has implemented large workflow systems, recently for a public-traded pharma. Roni holds an MBA from Warwick Business School in the UK and several certification in PM, Agility, Blockchain and software.