Communicate / Collaborate

How do you ‘sell’ social tools to the enterprise?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on January 18th, 2010 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

This blog post from Cecil Dijoux at Social Computing Journal  sets out some guidance on how to introduce the concept of social media tools into an organisation (in the Enterprise 2.0 sense). It references another post by Bertrand Duperrin that cautions against using 7 specific web 2.0 words with business managers.  Both authors posit that the words ‘conversation’ and ‘social’, among others, will very likely scare managers, creating visions of endless chats and online surfing.

Our suggestion: Use business language.

While we often lament the nature and extent of meetings, meetings are essentially conversations. But they’re not defined that way, because whether they are well run or not their primary purpose is to provide an outcome. We remarked in a previous post that you wouldn’t find ‘conversations’ as a line item on a project plan, even when they might be a necessary part of changing the culture or the context.  That’s because business works hard to define activities, and a conversation is an activity in search of an outcome.

So if I was still in line management and someone tried to sell me a tool on the basis that it would improve, encourage or facilitate internal conversations, I’d give them a look too.

We organise ourselves into social groups defined by interest, interaction and function. Business relies on people working together, talking together and making decisions together. We are social beings, and so at the purest level the word ‘social’ in ‘social media’ shouldn’t put us off.  But I suspect also that the word itself might have inhibited the leap into the enterprise. We use it colloquially (as in ‘my social life’), and it is seen in a highly visible form online in what are primarily friendship and connection sites like Facebook.

So facilitating or improving conversations is not the business outcome. That’s part of the benefit, but what’s needed is establishing exactly what conversations will do for the business. Will they facilitate decision making and so speed up time to market? Will they strengthen the corporate culture by communicating and embedding core values? Will they aid compliance through greater knowledge, gained from the ability to discuss and question? Will they help a business manage risk through improved transparency?

Put simply:

Collaboration tools → One output is conversation → Outcome=?

It seems to me that there is a whole lexicon not yet created around web 2.0 tools in the enterprise. We still talk in terms of social media marketing outcomes, externally to customers, when within the organisation it is about decision making, information management and culture.

The use of web 2.0 tools is a more complex transaction within an organisation. Perhaps this is because the relationships are more complex or multi-faceted. The tools themselves are so flexible that one size does often fit all, and are all the more meaningless because of it. You need to articulate the business case for business people, and to do that you need to speak business language and understand its outcomes.

Can you ‘control’ your brand online?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on January 13th, 2010 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Imagine this.

You are the VP of marketing. Your new product line is a series of children’s t-shirts, with edgy and quite controversial slogans on the front. Soon after launch, an influential blogger and media personality slams the t-shirts. She charges that they are in extremely poor taste in a world struggling to cope with the early sexualisation of children and an increasing online problem with child pornography.

Almost immediately, the online news media picks up the story. The reports are quite factual but mention the blogger by name and in some instances link to her article. It doesn’t take long for the issue to become a trending topic on Twitter.

Or you are a fast food company. You create an ad for the Australian market, which shows a lone Aussie cricket fan, at the cricket (which is playing at the time in Australia), surrounded by exuberant West Indies fans barracking loudly for their team. After a comment about an uncomfortable situation, he hands out fast food to his fellow spectators to break the ice and settle things down.

The ad is one of a series where the main protagonist uses the same tactic with a number of other cricket attendees. While it is not released outside Australia, in no time it has been posted on You Tube (in breach of the company’s copyright btw), and is picked up by the US internet commentators. It is slammed as racist, perpetuating a stereotype, and the company withdraws it from broadcast.

These are real stories. There are many more organisations that have had similar experiences.

Social media gurus will tell you that if you don’t engage in response to these circumstances, then you risk losing control of your brand and/or your message.

The challenge for senior management in organisations today is that the concept of ‘control’, in relation to brand and message online, is a dramatically different beast than it used to be.  Once upon a time there was authorised content, put out by a company. We relied on the traditional news media to ferret out the stories and bring them to light. The timing was controlled by the channels used. Now anyone can raise the issues. While there is still legal protections in the case of defamation, opinion and factual experience can be freely shared by a great many more people.  

If you have described social media participation to your senior management as controlling your brand and message, then I’d suggest you might be in for a surprise.

I would offer that it comes in several parts:

  1. We should participate online to build our knowledge of and capability in social media.
  2. We must build our knowledge and capability of social media to enable us to act appropriately should there be an issue, or a reaction involving our organisation.
  3. Our branding and advertising must take account of the fact that the market or channel we are targeting is not the only one that will see it, participate in it, or comment on it.

It’s the new version of the old crisis management plan. Only now the speed with which it may happen will astound you.

Interaction is key for BPM and web 2.0

Posted in Business Process Consulting, Communicate / Collaborate, Practice Areas on December 11th, 2009 by Stephanie Chung – Be the first to comment

As a passionate practitioner of BPM and web 2.0, the question is whether both worlds can interact. It was good to see that a discussion has been started regarding “Will new social capabilities drive the next wave of BPM adoption or is social not a good fit for BPM?”

In my view, the social capabilities of web 2.0 are not the driver for BPM adoption. Rather, it is how they are implemented that makes them an enabler of BPM adoption. If we implement web 2.0 the right way, then it is a great fit for BPM!

I harp on about process understanding, not re-engineering, and a critical part of that is opening the doors of communication and honesty. For instance, what has been the impact to the people of a process change implemented? Via web 2.0 tools, you can easily gather the feedback on the fly. And how about the key concept of getting buy in from the people involved? Have the workshops and the face-to-face interviews to start with, and then enable further dialogue through blogs.

It comes down to our belief that it is not about the tool, it is about the behaviour. Business process at the end of the day is about finding out what someone’s behaviour is on a day to day basis in their work (what do they do and why do they do it). web services Successful Enterprise 2.0 is determining how to guide people’s behaviour to get the most out of the knowledge captured, and to nurture the collaborative nature of our interactions. So really it comes as no surprise that BPM and Web 2.0 can work as two peas in a pod!

Is change or transformation viewed as a ‘problem’ to be ‘solved’?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on December 7th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – 2 Comments

I subscribe to the Gurteen Knowledge-Letter, which never disappoints.  Issue 113 – November quoted from and linked to an online booklet from David Block .

 This quote caught my attention:

We cannot problem solve our way into fundamental change, or transformation.

David Gurteen raised it in context of the Knowledge Cafes he runs, where people often expect ‘tangible outcomes’ and don’t appear to see the value in conversation.

The quote relates to what the author identifies as a deeply held belief that the way we make a difference is by defining problems and then finding solutions.  The overall aim of the article is to define the toolsets communities can use to bring a vision into being. It’s about how to create that future for communities.

It rings true for the enterprise as well. So many aspects of corporate operation have a strong problem solving function and culture. But we can’t define change or transformation in the same terms we use to define a problem, and then recommend actions to solve it. If the underlying context hasn’t changed, then nothing much really changes.

‘Authentic transformation is about a shift in context and a shift in language and conversation.’ The author notes that to achieve a change in context, a rethinking of roles, accountability, partnering, and commitment is required. When you think about successful change programs, they have genuinely changed the context within which people operate, think, connect and converse.

My strongest experience of this is action was when I led a strategy program for a major organisation. It involved core services and touched every single aspect of the business. It required a new way of thinking and viewing the services. And it required revisiting roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. Some of those conversations were challenging. But we started shifting the context from the minute the project started, with the people who would play a key role in the future. We did this a number of ways, both formal and informal, and a key characteristic of both was conversation. We designed a new future that became much more than just diagrams and powerpoint presentations.

There are plenty of intangible benefits to be had from conversations within business, but they are rarely measured and often unacknowledged.  It’s easy to gloss over the conversations a team might have to clarify an issue, to come up with a new product or service, to offer a truly innovative approach to a business service. When business seeks to formalise activities so that everyone is clear about what is needed, it’s not surprising that project plans rarely contain activities under the following headings: conversation, syndication, socialisation. You might tell me they are part of a communication and engagement plan, but the primary approach of many communication and engagement plans remains broadcast.

So many of our day to day business tools are still firmly anchored in the desktop suite, which has as its primary purpose packaging information and interaction neatly up into clear buckets and clear pathways. So it’s not surprising that unstructured web 2.0 tools come with quite a barrier to adoption. When it can be hard to identify tangible, financial outcomes from say, an active internal blogging community, web 2.0 struggles at the hurdle.

But perhaps, in an organisation that wants to learn how to value conversation, they provide a very real opportunity to start shifting the context. The strength in a number of the enterprise 2.0 toolsets is in the fact that they sit outside traditional corporate hierarchies. It’s all about the content and the conversation.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 6

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

I worked in an organisation that had ‘the three phone call rule’. It went something like this: within three phone calls, you will find someone who can help you with your problem. No one ever carried out a study at that time to ascertain whether or not it held true or was simply apocryphal (in the dubious authenticity sense). But it was a well known part of a very strong culture of informal collaboration.

Working in a central senior role, I knew many people and had knowledge of most major initiatives. And so nearly every day I would receive an unsolicited phone call from someone that would begin ‘I know you won’t know the answer to this question, but you might know the person who will…’

Think about email. Your email network in an organisation is usually limited to people you know or engage with on a regular basis. Of course, if you are game you can send an email to @All_staff, but that usually meets with severe disapproval from the IT and Communications teams.

What you really need is to find people who know. You already know who you know.

I also recall, with a shudder, being expected to update a skills profile within a people management tool. Regularly. I’m not a big fan of that as a solution – it’s always an additional task, there is no context around the skills update to link it to a project or activity (and if I want to go that extra mile it means substantially more work), and quite frankly, if I am searching for assistance then context is important. For that I need dynamic information.

So will moving interaction into social networking tools broaden your contact list? Absolutely.

Social networking tools let you broadcast a request for information in a non-threatening and non-spamming way. You might not get much of a response the first time, but as the community grows the returns will improve.

Wiki knowledge repositories link content and author, so the first step of the three phone call rule could ideally be replaced by an intranet search.

There is a great deal of discussion in many forums about the value of social networking and engagement externally for organisations and government. But there are huge advantages internally, within teams, business divisions or across departments.

And in case you think it’s just a nice to have, consider this article today reporting the NSW Ombudsman, about the failure of the Joint Guarantee of Service for People with Mental Health Problems (JGOS). It stated ‘a NSW Ombudsman’s investigation has found the scheme has not worked because of poor communication between organisations.’

A key reason was confusion over when client information is able to be shared.  And not sharing information has put people at risk. Your risks or objectives might not have such dramatic results, but they are important to your business.

A jury system that caters for the computer generation?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on October 22nd, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

When so many enthusiasts are tweeting, blogging, conferencing and opining on social media and social networking, we really like to see an article taking a very specific issue, reviewing the influence of new technology, and raising some important questions.

So it is with an article from TimesOnline about jury trials and new technology.

‘The jury system is threatened by the internet generation, who no longer get their information from listening to people speaking, the Lord Chief Justice warned yesterday.’

When I did my law degree, an examination at The College of Law was often a ‘viva’, or oral examination.  Add to that moot courts and you can see it was all about learning to order your thoughts, to get up on your feet and speak.

It presupposed that the audience for your brilliance – the judge, your opponents, and in some cases a jury – was used to or able to sit and listen. But as a UK Bar Council member noted, our propensity to sit and listen to sermons, or oratory, has declined over the years.

Not only is information online packaged differently (from bite sized chunks to huge amounts of core data), it comes in so many more forms, from so many more sources.

If we have a whole generation that is used to obtaining information from technology, what does that mean for jury trials? The article suggests that ‘Evidence might be presented on screens; jurors could be given screens to take away; they might then press buttons to obtain the information they wanted.’

And why not? If a new generation is used to sourcing, thinking, analysing and reviewing information in a different way, should we cling to the ‘old’ ways of doing things? Why can’t jurors access more ‘source’ material? Why should I listen to a spoken submission, when a well written paper or pre-recorded session allows me to listen/read at my own pace and return to it when I need clarification?

Perhaps what is confronting about this issue is the assumptions, and the culture, that sit beneath the current model. That’s true for any organisation contemplating social media and web 2.0 tools. But here we have the history of the jury trial, and the role of all the players in it.

As the Lord Chief Justice notes – ‘what we don’t want to have is what we sometimes do have — the acknowledgment of the crisis long after it’s in existence and then efforts to plaster over it.’ Hear hear. When licensing and copyright issues still create very real barriers for organisations in making information available online and retaining some control over it, it would be gratifying to see the profession start to address this issue now.

It’s a fundamental shift, in a complex environment, that has serious ramifications for us all if changes don’t serve us well. Legal practitioners need to be familiar with the technological changes and tools, and legal convention and rules need to be reviewed to see whether they can encompass new approaches.

The Federal Court recently saw live Twitter feeds from journalists following the iiNet case. While that is quite a step forward in transparency, there is a great deal more to do.

Channels and context in Web 2.0

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

A couple of recent instances have reminded me of how much communication has changed. (And some will read this post and say ‘so tell me something I don’t know’.)

But they represent such a challenge, to some of the assumptions underpinning  the communication function in organisations, that I want to highlight them.

You can’t keep a message in just one ‘channel’

I have a very close involvement in children’s services, so follow any issues touching on the welfare of children closely. So when a recent radio stunt set a dangerous precedent regarding the welfare of a child, I rattled off a response to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

They rang me, and the first question they asked was ‘had I heard the broadcast’? I didn’t need to. The message, and the offending interview, was all over the web.

There’s a real issue here for regulatory authorities who monitor and have authority over particular channels. And a real issue for organisations that think they can still ‘control’ the message. If the topic is interesting enough, someone will take it, tweet it, link to it, bookmark it, discuss it and comment on it.

If you have a role in managing (note that I don’t say ‘controlling’) that message in any way, you need to be engaged in all those possible channels.

The new order has fewer contextual guides

Context in communication is provided by the format, the channel, and the relationship. We have had a myriad of well understood rules that sit around what we read each day. But new channels and user generated content change those rules.

On one of my Twitter accounts, I frequently link to interesting articles online. I will always add the shortened url to my first tweet. But after that, it there are several tweets, I am reluctant to give up 30 characters of my 140 to repeating the url. I’ll usually finish up by putting the url in again, sort of like a bookend.

I am assuming that my followers, knowing what I usually tweet about, will understand the ‘set’. A great number of them, with whom I actively communicate, will also know ‘my voice’. They’ll have a fair idea as to what is opinion, and what is reportage.

So the contextual guides are there for experienced players. Many of those contextual guides rely on the fact that it is a transaction, not a one way broadcast. If every single tweet has to stand alone, then I’ve lost the conversation. Or 140 characters is simply not enough.

There is still control in the new order, but it is of a different shape and hue now.

Risk, control and trust in Enterprise 2.0

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on September 28th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Risk, control and trust. Add any of these words to a business proposal, as issues to be addressed, and you can guarantee someone is going to be nervous.

Dion Hinchcliffe recently highlighted how these three issues were starting to push their way through the excitement of Enterprise 2.0 to become potential show-stoppers. For many organisations they may be already.

He was responding to blogs by Andrew McAfee and Dennis Howlett on what, precisely, Enterprise 2.0 was trying to solve.

In the context of products, customers, services, processes and governance, those three elements – risk, control and trust – are fundamental to a successful business.

And Enterprise 2.0 proponents should also keep in mind that for certain organisations, the penalties for failing to manage risk, to control what needs to be controlled or for breaching trust are significant and substantial. For some organisations operating in a highly regulated environment, brand or reputation damage from a You Tube video or Facebook group may be just the start of the problem.

Risk, control and trust in business aren’t bad. In fact, when you think about it, they are assumptions that underpin a customer’s willingness to engage with you. speed test website Aren’t they?

As McAfee observes, it is unhelpful and wrong to ‘… portray hierarchy, standardization, and management as enemies of innovation, creativity, and value creation.’ I’ve worked in organisations where a finely tuned balance of all of those elements made for a rich, rewarding and successful business.

As I see it, the challenge for Enterprise 2.0 is that the way it achieves things – the process, the interaction, the players and the speed – is so different to an organisation’s current risk/control/trust paradigm. And that happens at both the corporate level, where Ent 2.0 slams up against process, sign-off, hierarchy, and regulation, and at the personal level, where workers function every day using control, knowledge, and well trodden paths of interaction.

There are now numerous examples of Enterprise 2.0 tools facilitating the core business of an organisation, and McAfee lists many in his post.

So the objectives, and rationale, and expected outcomes must be clearly defined, at both corporate and personal levels. And all the enablers (people, process, culture, organisational) must be understood and either in place, or able to be dealt with. Which probably means that Enterprise 2.0 initiatives in many organisations should start as discrete, self contained, well thought out pieces of work. The degree of change required to fully leverage them is broad, and touches on so many important aspects of an organisation. Given the ROI of Enterprise 2.0 could be argued as in its infancy, for many organisations the risks will continue to outweigh the benefits.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 5

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on September 21st, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Compliance. Compliance. Compliance.

When it really comes down to it, how much do you know about the conversations your people are having on email? Long before the highly visible ‘wish I hadn’t said that’ contributions on Facebook, Twitter and numerous other social networking sites, all manner of jokes, personal conversations and transactions were humming back and forth on email.

And for a significant number of people in most organisations, they still are.

Generally organisations have an acceptable use policy, and recognise that tools such as the phone and email will be used for personal matters at some stage. For many people and organisations, email is still the primary tool for transactional interchanges.

But because so many of those email conversations are not generally visible to the world at large, organisations don’t appear to attach the same risk profile to them as we are seeing with employee contributions on social networking sites (although emails can still go viral – here’s a recent example). Maybe that’s because the fallout to brand and reputation is so visibly dramatic with social networking. And perhaps because the email genie is already long out of the bottle.

Leaving aside the knowledge implications of all that information wallowing in email boxes there may also be compliance reasons to investigate the toolset your organisation is using.

Consider this. Your organisation contracts with customers or suppliers. The contract is captured in a word or pdf document. It is usually filed on a server. And then everyone gets on with the business of working under that contract.

The people involved may well email back and forth on many aspects of the contract – interpretation, delivery, terms, service levels. That people understand their limits of authority is critical (that is, what they are entitled to offer or agree to on behalf of the company), and the potential to state something in the email that will alter the terms of the contract and bind the company is high.

Representations will bind an organisation even when an email has been deleted. We’re talking here about emails, but document management protocols – or lack thereof – in a company can cause grief for a very long time, as evidenced by the Rolah McCabe case.

For many organisations, document management systems that link all transactions or conversations with the contract, or primary agreement, are essential. It provides both visibility of the entire transaction, over time, with an audit capability to ensure compliance. Toolsets won’t solve a compliance issue, but as part of a solution they will dramatically increase the visibility of the process.

How to make sure people access information?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on September 16th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

‘Even if you provide the right information, to the right place at the right time, how do we [knowledge workers] make sure people access information and have power to action information?’ Manson Yew, Project Manager, NASA Engineering Network, NASA. at KM Australia 2009

How do you make sure people access information?

Manson Yew’s comment at the KM Australia conference posed the question: what if, as a knowledge worker, you’ve done everything right. You have the systems and processes in place to analyse and decide what information is the ‘right’ information, you have worked out the process and workflow for where that information is needed, and you know the timing required to deliver it to people when it is needed.

As part of any knowledge management initiative we start with people’s roles – the ‘what do you come to work to achieve each day’ – and determine the information that is critical to them being able to get those jobs done. Only then do we work out what needs to be captured, found, saved, stored, shared and reused.

The ‘what’s in it for me’ factor is critical.  So if the information is not what they think is important, strike one.

But assuming you have hit the mark with the information, and you’ve solved the delivery issues around time and place, what if they ignore it?

What if your project managers aren’t interested in your templates? What if they’d rather work off the materials from the previous project they managed?

What if your bid managers start from scratch every time they put a proposal together? Even though you have put together a detailed database of best-practice clauses or templates?

One reason may be that you still haven’t convinced them. You haven’t given them the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor.

We have some basic measurable criteria that we use for information and knowledge management objectives. Saving time, cutting costs, reducing errors, and simplifying activities. One of those will usually hit the mark with people. One of those is usually an issue or objective that matters to the person. Not the team. Not the corporation. Not the department. The person.

So there might be a process of engagement and persuasion missing, at the right level. I’ll change my behaviour when you give me a reason to do so. And unless that reason is strong, established practices and other priorities, or simply the familiarity of how I always do it (which gets the job done you know) will prevail.

Just remember that there are two definitions of the ‘right information’ – the information that the organisation or management think is critical (to capture, to control, to replicate), and the information that people need to do their work.  They are two different things and they drive two different behaviours.