Archive for June, 2009

The ‘informal’ web

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on June 26th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

So much of the strength of web 2.0 tools is the ability to connect and communicate that they provide to the individual. That’s right, the individual. Leiseberkhelpthi So is that a natural conflict right there, with many of the objectives and policies in most organisations?

LunchBytes1 Web 2.0 June09_059

When you look at how most intranets (and one could argue, organisations) are structured and managed, there’s a common theme.

Control.

Sure, there are risk and compliance elements to that formality, but much of it stems from the best of intentions to manage messages carefully and well. Organisations like to minimise chaos and that extends to information and communication.

But the fundamental element of a social network is the individual. Being an individual. Funnily enough, that’s really how we work as well, but it seems that once it’s captured, written down, shared, stored and so on, everyone gets nervous.

So in an organisation with a fairly conservative culture, there’s your first challenge in proposing any social networking tools.

There are ways to carve out space to raise the level of comfort about what the tools will really do, and demonstrate how to manage the risk. But it’s not really about the tools. Not to start with at least.

Why would employees want web 2.0 tools?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on June 26th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Adopting the Microsoft ‘eat your own dogfood’ motto, I presented to our Frame partners on Web 2.0 yesterday. The focus of the presentation was whether business really needs to take notice of Web 2.0 – or Enterprise 2.0 – tools. Raftimucebe . Does the hype and activity on the internet translate to corporate environments?

One of the key questions that came after the session was ‘is this just one more thing we need to do?’

I’ve been in line management roles, working long hours and wondering how I’m going to get it all done. So pronouncements from 60,000 feet about a new way of working never excited me. And if they lacked real detail, more often than not they were simply irritating.

Understanding this quite common perspective was fundamental to delivering a knowledge management solution to a client. We communicated an important guiding principle: knowledge management activities had to be part of the way we worked. Not additional. Not an afterthought. Embedded. Replacing some other way of working, to real advantage for the individual.

Of course this means that your customer base is highly segmented. No one size fits all solution. And that’s where many of the web 2.0 tools assist – they are hugely flexible in how they can be used.

So a customer service team might agree to move most of their updates, previously emailed out to team members – onto a blog.

A team leader might blog answers to any questions they are asked. There are several benefits to this: they are stopping the email trail (which would probably only grow and pull in more people), they are capturing valuable knowledge about an issue – their response – and putting it somewhere searchable, they are providing the answer to a wider audience than just the person who asked the question.

Our answer to our audience then was no, adopting web 2.0 tools was not one more thing they needed to do. The tools open up new ways of working, but care and effort needs to be expended on designing those new ways.

Collaboration, content management and Enterprise 2.0 in the public sector

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on June 11th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Interesting article from Steve Hodgkinson in MIS Australia this month, on what’s new in public sector IT.

He documents the ‘storms’ he sees coming in public sector IT.  There are eight in total, but it is interesting to see two in particular: Collaboration and content management, and Enterprise 2.0.

The first is about providing better, more integrated tools to ‘knowledge workers’ for creating, storing and sharing information.

This is one of the key issues that knowledge management has struggled with. When a great deal of effort is spent working out what should be captured, who should be connected and what should be shared, the result is often a detailed business case proposing a highly structured KM solution. This needs substantial time and effort to engage people in using it and drive the right behaviours.

We talk about breaking down organisational silos for our employees, and yet we give them tools such as KM repositories, shared drives and email that place all their information into, guess what, silos!

The second is the opportunity of Enterprise 2.0. Enterprise 2.0 tools are very strong for a number of reasons – they are democratic, have a low or non-existent barrier to entry, are quick for the user to engage with and contribute to, can be economical to deploy even within the firewall, are very agile (can grow and change quickly) and are easily embedded in the users’ desktop, ie one click away on the corporate web.

Properly deployed and supported, they democratise information, making more of it more widely available. So they can play a key role in connecting people up and down hierarchies and across organisational teams.

So for any organisation looking to cut costs, they provide great potential. But as we’ve cautioned before, deploying them is not primarily a technology project.

Organisational blogging is all about communication

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on June 1st, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

It’s the old ‘what am I buying when I go to the hardware’ example. I might look like I’m buying a drill, but what I’m really purchasing is a ‘drilled hole’.

Blogs are a bit like that.  And your company implementation might fail if you don’t address why they are really being used, and what needs to be in place to nurture them.

Westpac-er David Backley, speaking at the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum, was candid about web 2.0 initiatives in his organisation. In relation to blogging, he noted that the technology was too new and management too risk averse at the time.

“Parts of the organisation were too scared to put comments in because they didn’t know what the consequences were,” he said.

So that’s all about culture, isn’t it? And the underlying purpose of a blog. Which is to communicate.

So maybe rolling out blogs is a new communication project, not a technology one?

Bloggers on the web have something they want to say (ego), something they want to share (altruistic), or something they want to sell (commercial). They learn by mistakes and the lack of regulation gives them lots of latitude.

Those models might map to people within a business. But in organisations communication is generally divided, deliberately, into formal and informal.

Formal communication within organisations is handled by a skilled team, and there are good reasons for that. They know how to write and they know what to write. They are in tune with those in the organisation who make the news.

Generally, at worker bee level, I communicate with my team, the people I report to, partners, and maybe some customers. Most of that is done face to face, by phone or by email.

But suddenly you are providing me with a blog that not only captures and retains my communication, but gives me a much wider audience? But I may not be given any more communication training about what I should/can/might/shouldn’t say. And I might not have a very receptive audience, especially in these early days.

This is why the implementation of many web 2.0 tools in organisations continues to challenge. A lot needs to be in place before take-up will be successful.