We will have to unlearn what we have learned over the past 33 (!) years. The biggest disaster for Enterprise Social Collaboration happened 33 years ago: in August 1981 exactly. At that moment IBM launched the Personal Computer, aka PC. (Please pay special attention to the word ‘personal’ in PC.)
Personal, as in: “Don’t touch”
By introducing personal computers in the Enterprise management basically told employees: “Here is your personal little corner in the organization. Use it as you like.”. And look how well we did exactly that. We created our personal kingdom that became stronger and stronger over the years resulting in a fortified fortress that we are not willing to give up. After 33 years we are still holding on strongly to our personal computing power and, more importantly, our personal computer storage. Even with the implementation of networks and shared network drives (yes there was a time when PCs worked stand-alone, without being interconnected in any way), even with shared network drives, files were mostly copied to a central location, after being created locally on the PC, to allow others to use them too. Copied, not moved, meaning that the ‘original’ copy remains on the personal computer of the creator.
You’re always member of a Group
Why on earth have we ever given a personal computer to employees when every organization is all about ‘working together’.
Every document in an organization belongs to a group, not to the individual who happened to create it.(1) ‘Group’ as in ‘people working together in the context of’: a business process, a department, a project team, a working group, a committee, a community’. There are more examples of documents that have to be shared with others, than there are examples of documents that are really personal:
- A Request For Proposal (RFP) is part of the Procurement Process
- An Offer is part of the Sales Process
- A Sales Presentation is part of the Sales Process
- An Employee Evaluation Form is part of the Employee Satisfaction Process
- A Expense Note is part of the Expense Process
So here’s the challenge: how can I allow the user to continue his ‘reflex’ of creating a new document on his PC and saving to a folder on his PC, while at the same time obtaining the benefits of saving documents centrally where they can be shared with others?
Microsoft recently announced that the capacity of OneDrive for Business is extended to 1 TB! So here again, the message is: “Dear user, this is all yours, use it as you please.”
Of course people can share documents on their OneDrive with others. But what will be the first thing that these others will do: exactly, they will COPY the file to their own private space. Bye, Bye Sharing!
And so, once again, 33 years after date, Social Collaboration is left in the cold.(2)
(1) Yes of course, I don’t want to publish the draft version of my presentation or Word document before it is sufficiently finished, but that doesn’t mean that it is ok to store ALL files in personal spaces.
(2) Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan and intensive user of OneDrive for Business, but it is a killer for Enterprise Social Collaboration…
– email@example.com / @mceev11
(*) Not to be mixed up with one of the previous blog post ‘Social Communication without Social Collaboration’
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.
Part of the ‘working together’ in these groups is the sharing of information and working on that information together:
- Tasks / to do’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.
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
|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.|
Comments? Questions? Reactions?
 This is different from communities, which don’t have an objective to produce something collectively other than ‘helping each other’
Talk is cheap, right? (Even when it is written down in social conversations.) Wrong!
As a manager I am afraid that people are spending too much time on meaningless conversations on social media. In a business, all communication should serve a purpose: it should be about the Business. And the Business is about tangible things: customers, offers, orders, products, etc. Therefore all communication in an organization should be directly related to these subjects. It helps people achieve specific targets with regards to these subjects: talk about a customers to serve them better, talk about an offer to make sure we offer the best, etc. And all this ‘talk’ can be written conversations in Enterprise Social Media like Yammer or SharePoint, but they must discuss these subjects. Right? Not entirely so.
Team versus Community
Every organization is a collection of overlapping groups of people. The primary structure of (almost) all organizations is the Hierarchy: the organisational chart of business units, departments, sub-departments, etc. Each (sub-)department in an orgchart represents a collection of people with a common objective: to produce or deliver something in line with the department’s mission.
But every organization also contains other groups of people having a common target to produce something tangible: project teams, committees, work groups, etc. These are examples of groups that are composed with people from different departments (i.e. ‘cross-hierarchy’), but still have a common objective.
On the other hand, every organization also contains groups of people having a common interest without having a common target to produce something. These groups are called Communities. Examples of Communities are: all users of a specific IT-application, all people involved in recruiting, all project managers, etc. And although every organization has them, they are not always defined explicitly, and therefore they are not always apparent. Members of Communities can help each other because they encounter the same problems in their daily work, without having to achieve the same objectives together.
Transversal Conversations are about discussions in Communities. The big advantage of conversations in Communities is that colleagues help each other (peer help), without needing a hierarchy. The fact is that a lot of this peer help is currently hidden in e-mails, or is non-existing at all. Because the cost of ‘organizing’ this is much too high (1), setting up Communities is a great way to increase the efficiency and the satisfaction of workers.
A lot of the real, daily questions people are confronted with are hidden. Conversations in Communities bring common problems to the surface.
Communities help to make use of the latent knowledge in an organization. By allowing people to start Communities, you give a voice to people that otherwise wouldn’t have one. There are numerous examples of help coming from an unexpected source when asked for in a Community. There are also numerous examples of questions that couldn’t get an answer ‘in the hierarchy’, or that would take much too long to get answered. Asking questions in open (i.e. transversal) Communities leads to faster, more qualitative and more innovative answers.
And although you might want to monitor the conversations in Communities to make sure that all questions get answered and answers are in line with the guidelines and procedures, the cost of this is much lower than trying to centralize questions in an internal helpdesk.
With Yammer, you can start Communities today
One of the best tools to get started with transversal conversations in open Communities is Yammer (www.yammer.com). You can start with the free version, get some experience, and then switch to the Enterprise version whenever you want.
You can start with 1 or more Communities and see how they evolve. You can experience what works and what doesn’t.
(And if you need advice on the fastest way to make it work, Spikes can help you.)
Comments? Questions? Contact data:
(1) Footnote: See Clay Shirky’s talk on TED: ‘Institutions versus Collaboration’ (http://bit.ly/15RcVJv )
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