do any organizations use forums or similar software "professionally" for "high value tasks"?

one example that pops to mind is elance and similar sites - the freelancer interacts with his client using a forum thread. So it becomes a forum of 2 people - not much of a forum, I guess. But at least the tasks involved (discussing project specs) are indeed “high value” within the context of the organization.

Are there other examples in the “real world” where a forum or something resembling a forum is used as an essential tool for communication between people, as part of their day-to-day job?

I don’t know. The first forum I ever took part in was www.Xpertsite.com, later AskMe. Eventually the administration announced their software was ready for commercial use and shut the site down. I don’t know that it was ever used. I understood they planned to sell it just for the sort of application you are suggesting. I have no idea how far they got.

My former employer, a manufacturing firm in Canton, has tech support forums on the internal website.
The company’s internal tech support interacts with field service technicians and provides guidance with troubleshooting and upgrade processes when the documentation for said processes is lacking. The system was getting up to 100 posts per day when I left, so I suppose that counts as production.

ETA: To guess where that was, SciFi dopers can reference the central occupation of the agency employing The Prefect in the Alastair Reynolds book of the same name.

I’ve heard of software companies setting up a forum for their beta-testers to report issues and discuss work-arounds, and for the techies to report when they’d been fixed.

I’ve seen corporations use forums to communicate with a large nationwide network of semi-autonomous sales people.

That was supposedly why IBM bought Lotus, so that Lotus Notes could take over business.

Didn’t happen. As I said at the time, everyone hates committee meetings, and Lotus Notes was a committee meeting that never ended.

A software company I used to work for maintained a forum site for its customers. The site was invite-only, with membership predicated on being an active, paying customer in good standing. This ensured a high quality of content in the forums.

It had all the standard forums you would expect… bug reporting, tech support, sharing tips with other users, etc., but the most popular forum on the site was for feature requests. Any customer could propose a new feature or revision for a future release. Moderators actively monitored threads to combine similar proposals, shut down those that weren’t feasible, etc. All customers were given a bucket of “votes” that they could then spread among the proposed features that they most wanted to see implemented. (I.e. if there were a feature I just had to have, I might drop all 50 of my votes on it, or maybe allocate 30 to feature A and 20 to feature B.)

This fed into the planning phase of each release, allowing us to focus on the features with the highest vote totals. We could then confidently mark a feature thread as “Will be implemented in version x.y”. The roadmap was published as well, so the customers would know exactly when “x.y” would be released, and could plan accordingly for the anticipated feature.

The customers absolutely loved this. It really enhanced the appeal of our software, and fostered a strong engagement with the customer base. I’ve seen a handful of similar forums since then (I think dropbox has one, and google does something similar with Android), but I’m surprised that this approach hasn’t become a common practice in the software industry.

the “committee meeting” angle is an interesting one. Perhaps that shows that online committee meetings can be just as mismanaged as the meatspace ones, if not much more so. I.e. it could be reflective of the overall underlying problem of lack of methodology for running productive meetings.

Dish network appears to have one of their CS persons regularly on dbstak.com who sometime takes up a problem when the participants on the forum cannot resolve the problem.

Oh, btw, Dish really needs help. There product is fairly good and their CS is often really bad, creating a very frustrating situation for persons who use the product.

Automattic Inc uses P2 for staff communication. It resembles a threaded forum.

A lot of video game publishers use forums for semi-official support; they’re mostly peer-to-peer, but company representatives will drop in from time to time to answer questions and shut down negative-sounding threads. Not sure if that qualifies as “high value”.

Back in 2008, the Obama administration used Google Moderator for the change.gov website to solicit questions. Whatever became of that, I have no idea, but it was neat publicity.

I’ve worked with small nonprofits that use Google Docs to collaboratively hash out meeting agendas, project notes, etc. in real-time. Those documents were certainly high-value to us, but probably not anyone else.

NASDAQ has a “Director’s Desk” forum used by company directors. It was recently breached.

Sharepoint. Anyone can set up a forum of sorts. We use it internally quite a bit. I work for a Fortune 10 company.

Yeah. We have hundreds of internal SharePoint sites. I regularly refer to around a half dozen where the discussion forum features are the main source of activity. Often they’re used as a means for interested parties to comment on technical requests.