Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

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.

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.