Social Collaboration without Social Communication?(*)

(*) Not to be mixed up with one of the previous blog post ‘Social Communication without Social Collaboration’

 

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Every employee in an organization is an individual who works in one or more teams or groups: project team(s), workgroup(s), committee(s) and/or business process(es). The common denominator of all these groups is that the members of the group have a collective objective to deliver something[1].

Part of the ‘working together’ in these groups is the sharing of information and working on that information together:

  • Documents
  • Tasks / to do’s
  • Calendar(s)
  • Other sources of information.

Not very long ago, this information was exchanged by mailing it around to the group members (note that the wording is different: ‘exchanging information’ in stead of ‘sharing information’). Nowadays the information is shared: this means that it is stored centrally in one location where all team members can find and update it. By doing so, everyone knows where to find the latest version of the information, and works on the same information That is certainly already true for documents, but not always the case for task lists, to do’s, calendars, etc. – there’s still some work to do on these.

The key words are: centralized and shared.

 

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However, one piece of information that is missing from the list above is: internal communication. Team members still communicate with each other using e-mail. But e-mail is stored in local, personal mail folders. E-mails are still ‘exchanged’, not ‘shared’. This means e.g. that the communication about the project is invisible for team members that might join the group later on, and that the communication is lost when people leave the group (or when the group is ended, as is the case for project teams). So although communication very often contains useful information, it is not part of the shared information pool of the group.

This is where Social Communication steps in. Social Communication is ‘Facebook-like’ communication where a conversation is initiated by one person in a central location, and other people react and respond to it publicly . All people ‘following’ or ‘be-friending’ the person who initiated the conversation can participate in the communication. In other words: those conversations are centralized and shared!

Many people will argue that Facebook conversations are meaningless and futile, but that doesn’t mean that the mechanism isn’t very powerful. First of all: imagine that you cannot only follow people, but also ‘’groups” (like in ‘Project Team’). Imagine that you can subscribe to the conversations of the project(s) your are working on, the workgroup(s) you are participating in, etc. This would mean that you can follow the conversations that are held in these groups, and participate in them, openly. All the communication in a group can now be centralized and shared, and become part of the collective memory of the group.

But there are more advantages: by openly communicating in a group, answers to questions are often received more quickly, have a higher quality, and/or are more innovative. The whole team would benefit from this.

Another ‘reactive’ reason to start working with Social Communication is the fact that a new generation of knowledge workers is entering the job market for which this type of communication is the only natural way to communicate in a network.

REMARK: once you get the hang of it, you will learn that all this is not only true for ‘internal communication , but that you can also invite customers, suppliers or other external parties to these conversations (as long as they subscribe to the collective objectives of the group).

The tooling is there: SharePoint and Yammer

SharePoint and Yammer How can you achieve this? Probably the best tools to use are Yammer (www.yammer.com) for the conversations, and SharePoint for all the other group content. The trick is to create a team site in SharePoint for each project team, work group, etc. to store the shared documents, shared tasks, calendars, and to create a corresponding group in Yammer to hold the social conversations. Then you embed the Yammer conversation on the home page of your team site, and voilà, you have a shared and centralized environment that comprises documents and conversations.

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Comments? Questions? Reactions?

Marc Vanderheyden - Picture

E-mail: marc.vanderheyden@spikes.be

Twitter: @mceev11

LinkedIn: http://be.linkedin.com/in/marcvanderheyden/ 

Website:

www.spikes.be

And for Lotus Notes users:

http://www.spikes.be/oplossingen/Office-365-O365-Lotus-Notes-Domino-Migration (in Dutch)

 

[1] This is different from communities, which don’t have an objective to produce something collectively other than ‘helping each other’

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