A Social Business Platform, What it Can’t Do…

This post is for those thinking about, beginning, or having issues regarding their company’s Social Business Transformation. 

unmet-expectations

Putting aside the platitudes of expectations heaped among the companies that embrace and strive to become more “Social”, there are some realities bound to the actual Social Business Platform (SBP) that you need to know in terms of managing expectations both upstream and downstream within the organization.

You probably heard of the “Do’s &  Dont’s” regarding Social Business Platforms and Transformations.  Those “Do’s & Dont’s” are focused on the “how” a SBP is designed and deployed, but I want to get more specific and talk about what a SBP CAN’T do for your organization, your people, your business on its own merits, and how you can effectively manage thru them.

I will break these down along 2 major pillars:
1. Organizational & Cultural
2. Technology-Related

Organizational & Cultural Changes:

A Social Business Platform (SBP) CAN’T:

  • Force people to Collaborate, Listen, and Trust
  • Force the changing of entrenched Corporate Stereotypes
  • Force breakdown of negative Information Silos
  • Retain existing Employees and attract new Talent
  • Change the way Strategic Planning is done
  • Guarantee Executional Readiness for Business Transformations
  • Build engaging Online Communities of Practice and Experts
  • Make Business Decisions for you
  • Make you a better employee, manager, or leader
  • Improve Customer Service
  • Improve Organizational Politics
  • Change Company Culture for the better

Technology-Related

A Social Business Platform (SBP) CAN’T:

  • Fix the lack of a structured organizational Knowledge Capturing processes
  • Consolidate your company’s multiple and separate Employee Directories
  • Provide Single-Sign-On (SSO) capabilities to users
  • Fix your company’s lack of Content Management/Retention Policies
  • Replace your company’s Email (both as a platform and collaboration channel)
  • Replace the best practice of implementing a Mobile Device Mgmt. platform for BYOD initiatives
  • Replace EVERY Document Repository already in your company
  • Replace your current Intranet right “out of the box”
  • Reduce Network Bandwidth issues between remote sites, Corporate HQ,  and your company’s datacenter

So in looking at these 2 lists, it is important to remember a SBP by itself is somewhat limited to what it can achieve.  If you do not resolve some of these expectations around Social Business benefits and existing Technology challenges currently within your enterprise, you will find your transformation exceptionally difficult to undertake.

Remember, the “outputs”.  a.k.a. The BENEFITS of the Social Business Transformation depend on the “Inputs”.

I have seen and heard so many claims to what a SBP can do for the company, then sitting thru many Enterprise architecture meetings and requirement gathering efforts, to where Business and IT come to find the actual platform by itself only offers OPPORTUNITIES to improve the company experiences, rationalize specific technologies, and provide positive Business Outcomes.

Organizations must be primed in multiple dimensions before undertaking a Social Business Transformation. Choosing the Social Business Platform is an important element of that transformation, but without the Change Management Program, the SBP will not solve the existing issues prevalent in the enterprise.

A Proper Change Management Program CAN:

  • Align the Social Business Transformation to overarching company strategy.
  • Ongoing Communication & Commitment by Leadership to support the Social Business Transformation.
  • Creation of the necessary Organizational Structures with detailed Roles and Responsibilities in order to support the Social Business Transformation.
  • Create a Communication Strategy to craft a robust and specific message to the segments of the company so each employee understands the “WIIFM” scenarios
  • Build appropriate Steering Committees comprised of business and operational stakeholders so decisions can be taken on how the Social Business Transformation affects current and future business processes.
  • Ensure the Social Business Transformation has “Sustainable Saturation” to permeate multiple phases of the organization to achieve intended effect.
  • Measure the change and adapt where necessary to maintain alignment with company’s strategy and evolving business demands.

Only with a carefully designed, planned, supported, and executed Change Management Program will a company be able to capitalize on the value a Social Business Transformation can provide and positively impact Business Outcomes.

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Social Business Change Management…this won’t hurt a bit!

I recently read a good post from Matt Ridings @techguerilla called Social Business: The Right Way, Or The Way That Works?  who was discussing the nuances of how Social Business transformations are impacted by and impact the prevailing culture of an organization.   His point that while Social Business Practioners audit technologies and the various resources\skills off the company in preparing for this transformation, it is critical to also audit the personality, attitudes, and overall culture of a company in preparing for the Social Business Change Management Program.
I totally agree.

Auditing the personality, attitudes, and overall culture of a company before you build such a wide sweeping Change Management Program can be the differentiator in the long-term success of how Social Business is accepted and provides benefits to the organization.

As people can be highly emotional, and have natural hesitation to changing behaviors, it is key to understand how people perceive these changes could affect them.  Social Business transformations touch on components such as Trust, Relationships, Notoriety, Skill Exposure, and Individual’s Perceived Value, so you have to think differently about how your build the Social Business Change Management Program.

But before that, it is important to understand how we build the Change Management program based on what we define that Change Management program to be.  We often hear and use the word “Penetrate” when talking about Change Management effecting the Business Processes of an company, and we know this directly impacts the prevailing culture.

On the surface, the word “Penetrate” is fine, but look deeper into the nuance of the word, and you will find a link between how the Change Management Program is embraced by stakeholders versus how the program is built and executed.

I have heard company leaders speak how the Social Business Change Management program is to “Penetrate” the company to unleash new age of collaboration, innovation, etc….To me that is not the right word to use and provokes a dangerous mindset, although the end result is correctly desired.

“Penetrate” to me means using an aggressive change management style, seemingly meant to bulldoze through any preexisting cultural fabric. This is a mistake in my opinion, and it results in a “active” and worse, a “passive” type resistance to the change!

As every company’s culture defines how to go about building and executing the Social Business Change Management program, we need to think along multiple dimensions if we are going to achieve the long-term benefits of becoming a Social Business.  This does require an initial “penetration” to kick-start the Social Business transformation, but then the Social Business Change Management Program must shift to looking at the level of short and long-term “Saturation” the organization can achieve as it becomes more of a Social Business.

Again, there is a degree of “Penetration”, but that is needed to get started…But we as Social Business Strategist and Consultants need to think more of “Saturation” then overarching “Penetration” when building our Social Business Change Management Programs.

I liken the Social Business “Saturation/Penetration” POV to receiving an injection at the Doctors Office:

– As the “Doctor” (CEO) approaches you with the “needle” (Communicating the desire and need to change the company), you get nervous (resistant, unsure what to do, anxious).

– The “initial pain” of the penetration (involved in meetings, seeing lots of communication, having your current business process modified) of the needle going into your arm hurts.

– Then the “Nurses” (Change Mgmt Leaders, Advocates in the organization) massage your arm, and the pain subsides, but the spot still feels “sore” (unsure what to do next, how it effects me long-term)

– Then the “medicine” (Seeing actual benefits to individuals, teams, departments, etc) begins to saturate your body slowly over time, and

-you begin to see more “benefits & value” (able to work out loud, more engaged, improving your personal brand, etc)..

So in this somewhat silly but effective example, you can begin to understand how the Social Business Change Management Program needs to be crafted.  Each company’s culture is different, but proportionally speaking, the anxiety in changing entrenched processes is common across almost all people, hence the difference is how the “Nurses” triage that “anxiety and pain”.

Building Online Communities? – FAQs on Why-What-Who-How

CoP-FAQYou cannot always do it alone.  Whether you are trying to learn some new concepts, improve your existing knowledge, or feed into your desire to teach others.  Communities can be one of, if not the most comprehensive tool a company has to transition to a Learning Organization, which is part of the transformation to becoming a Social Business.

Building useful, thriving Communities requires dedication and understanding from all areas of the organization.  As you go around your company and promote the concepts of Online Communities, you will find people will not totally understand what this is all about or how to get started.

So here are some FAQs you can share to help provide some clarity to why Online Communities can benefit your Organization:

1. Why Should I become a Community Member?

Answer:

  1. Build Strong Relationships. If you’re a new or existing employee, joining various Communities are a good way to connect with people and to build strong professional and political relationships across organizational boundaries.
  2. Have a question or a problem specific to your company? You can ask the Community for information or suggestions, and work together to solve your problems.
  3. Got a great idea? Then why not share it with the Community who can help to get that idea recognized and even improve it.
  4. Think yourself an expert? Join a Community and share your knowledge, receive affirmation from peers, and improve your personal brand.
  5. Feel connected to the company.  In my experience, strong community program can help build & sustain an emotional connection to your organization.

2. What is the main purposes of the Community?

Answer

  1. Expand your knowledgeof the Organization’s Business or Domain of Expertise.  This can help you in your career path by learning from multiple areas of the business.
  2. Develop new skills. As part of your career-learning process, Being a contributing Community Member can help in your Team-Work skills, while a Community Manager role can provide excellent leadership and problem solving skills
  3. Improve professional relationships.  Build your professional network within the Organization in order to help solve new problems or find new solutions to old problems.
  4. Speed up innovation.  Innovation within a limited pool of resources is limiting.  Build out your network to stimulate new ideas and Point-of-View, leveraging the Collective Intelligence of the Organization.
  5. Manage our business more effectively.  Ask advice on key decisions to positively influence Business Outcomes.

3. Am I really ready to start a Community?

Answer

  1. I know what this Community will be about and what topic[s] will be discussed.
  2. I can articulate how this Community and its output[s] are linked to the Organization’s Business needs?
  3. I know what type of people will be in this Community, and can articulate to potential members how they can benefit from membership.
  4. I am ready for the long hours and hard work necessary to build, cultivate, and foster the Community.
  5. I am ready to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.
  6. I will not QUIT, I will not WAIVER from building a valuable Community for the company.

4. How do I get Started?

Answer

  1. Get in touch with the Organization’s Enterprise Community Manager[ECM} and discuss your desires to build a Community.
  2. The ECM should have a “Community Toolkit”. This “toolkit” will have at a minimum:
    1. Defined Business objectives of ALL Communities within the organization.
    2. Rules of Engagement & Governance for ALL Communities
    3. Details on the technologies used for ALL Communities
    4. Community Leader’s and Member’s training documents on how to be more effective.
    5. Approved Community Folksonomies
    6. Community Leader’s and Member’s Roles & Responsibilities
    7. Resources on how to learn to be a better Community leader and Community Member.
  3. The overall benefit of the “Community Toolkit” is to assist you in the process of:
    1. Planning, Building, & Launching your Community
    2. Managing & Measuring your Community
    3. Promoting & Expanding your Community

5. How is a Community Built?

Answer

There are several steps in the process:

  1. Establish the Objectives, which can assist in building the Identity of the Community
  2. Create the Roster.  Identify potential members, advocates, and recruit those top talent for membership.
  3. Set the ground rules and formalize expectations for the Community.  This is also known as the “Working-Mode”
  4. Obtain formal Sponsorship.  Gathering financial resources and political cover is key in ensuring your Community has the ability to execute on its mission.
  5. Formalize the “Launch Day” of your Community.
    1. Make sure as many members attend as possible
    2. Promote the Launch to leadership
    3. Have your Community Sponsor kick off the Launch by clearly communicating to members the Community will be an open forum, free from threats of retaliation, free from negative criticism, and members contributions are expected.
    4. Make sure you have Content already seeded in the Community.

6. Who are the Crucial Players in the Community?

Answer

  1. Community Leaders (also referred to as Community Mentors or Managers).  This person[s] drives engagement, sets the tone for the Community, creates the agenda and schedules various Community events.  They are responsible for all actions that take place in the Community.  The primary goal is to build TRUST amongst the members.
  2. Community Members.  As with all Communities, members will have different roles.  Some members will post feverously, while others will simply consume the information, and still others will be somewhere in-between.   While there is value in all types of Community engagement, it is important to have a varied membership to ensure a good balance.
  3. Community Advocates. This role is key towards the success of the Community.  Advocates are people who drive much of the animation for your Community.  They are highly motivated, and typically enjoy knowing their participation and efforts are widely known in the organization.  There are several types of Advocates.  Some like to drive conversations, some like to challenge conventional thought, and other like to act like librarians within the Community;  sorting, organizing, and tagging information.  Identify the types of Advocates you need, and reward their contributions.
  4. Community Sponsors.  The Community Sponsor role is one that is important for the positioning of the Community within the organizational culture.  The sponsor should be at a minimum, at the VP-Level so the Community’s importance is visible to others in the organization and can be demonstratively linked to Business strategy.  The Community Sponsor’s role is to provide political, cultural, and financial support.

7. As a Community Member, how do I get the most of my membership?

Answer

  1. Be Brave.  It can be difficult for some to be open and ask questions for fear of ridicule and/or retaliation.
  2. Listen.  You have a chance to learn from others in the Community.
  3. Reuse & Share with pride. The whole idea of a Community is to propose, synthesis, share ideas, concepts, and information.
  4. Challenge with Respect.  If you are not getting the answers you need, push back and ask for more clarity.  Ask the Community Leaders about taking the questions outside to other Communities in order to obtain the answers you seek.  This can lead to increased utilization and value for the Community.
  5. Feedback would be nice.  Provide feedback to members and mentors.  My motto is “You cannot fix it you don’t know what’s broken”  Everyone needs to put forth their POV to improve the Community experience & value.
  6. Ask the Community Leaders how you can help build a better Community.

8. As a Community Leader, are there some important considerations to keep in mind?

Answer

  1. Building Trust. This is your primary goal.  Without trust you have a Community of Nothing.
  2. Mistakes are not bad.  Making mistakes are part of the learning process.  Encourage open participation, and remind members that there are no mistakes…only learning opportunities yet discovered.
  3. Slow down & Start small.  Do not overwhelm members with too much content and direction at once.  Start with 1 event, and a few posts, then encourage participation.  Let the Community grow, don’t force-feed, but cultivate and encourage.
  4. Birds of a Feather.  Ask the Enterprise Community Manager about starting a community for Community Leaders.  This way you share best practices and help each other.
  5. I see you.  Publish the locations for all members in the community, and encourage face-to-face office meetings & perhaps after hour casual gatherings when possible. 
  6. People.  Remember Communities are not technology or tools, but are people.  Respect the attitudes, emotions, and behaviors of all members.

So there you have it.  Hopefully these tips will help you as you build your Communities. 

Remote Workers take heed…a Social Business platform could help you avoid “disappearing”

“I wish I could work from home…” 

How many of us have said those exact words from time to time when sitting in our offices or cubes?  Working_from_home-wild

According to a Wall Street Journal article, corporate workers are working more from home than they did before. Vice President at market-research company IDC, Raymond Boggs told the WSJ that “the number of corporate employees who work from home at least one day a month has been growing by an average of 23% a year since 2007. Those working from home only one or two days a month are leading the trend: This pool grew by nearly 70% each year.”

Thinking how great it would be to work from home, saving money on gas, not having to get dressed in business attire every morning, and being there when your kids get home from school. At my current and for a short time my previous company, I was able to work from home, and I readily took advantage of the opportunity.

But…, I have to say I am NOT a fan of working from home.  In fact I will admit that when I worked in the corporate office and heard of someone who works from home or has an “alternative work arrangement”, my first thought was how much value could that person have if they are never in the office building working on building face-to-face relationships. “Out-of-sight, out-of-mind” is how I defined these Remote Workers.

It turns out, I might be right. A recent study by researchers at MIT-Sloan, called “Why Showing Your Face Matters”, authored by Kimberly Elsbach and Daniel Cable, shows that the lack of “Passive Face Time” negatively impacts the performance evaluations of virtual or remote employees. The premise is that managers do not even realize that they are negatively rating remote workers, but these perceptions have real impact on promotions, pay raises, layoffs, etc.

The perception stems from two (2) types of “Passive Face Time”. The first type is called “Expected Face Time”. Employees physically being in the office during normal working hours; interacting with their peers and managers.

The second type is called “Extracurricular Face Time”. This is when employees come in early, stay late, work weekends, and beyond normal business hours. According to the study, it turns out that your peers and managers DO notice that effort, and it impacts the overall perception of your work.

Make sure you attend all Company-Sponsored events, like cookouts and holiday parties so the employees can match your name with your face.  Also I highly recommend putting your profile picture on all of your presentations and documents so those reading them can link your face to your work.  This makes for a powerful connection in the organization.

Can a Social Business Platform can help alter these perceptions?

When I read this story, I had mixed emotions.  Since I work from home full time now, I realized I am susceptible to these perceptions from my manager(s) that I do not work the long hours commensurate with my profession.  Now, since I do Social Collaboration for a living, I already follow some basic tenets to ensure my peers and managers have positive “Passive Face Time” interactions with me.   

Those of you who are Remote Workers, new to Social Collaboration,  and your company has deployed a Social Business Platform, you have the opportunity to increase your “Passive Face Time” with others in the company. If your company does not have a Social Business Platform, you can still utilize some of the tips below, but it might be more difficult as the various tools and technologies won’t be centralized and linked together.

So here are some of my tips to make sure you Remote Workers remain visible and on the mind of your peers, manager(s), and company leadership:

Intranet & Key Personal

  1. Find out who the Corporate Communications personal are that are responsible for internal communications. “FOLLOW” them on the Social Software Platform.
  2. If Corporate Communications are not using the Social Business Platform, ask how you can receive as many email alerts and notifications as possible pertaining to internal communications. This way you stay aware and can comment on corporate news and events.
  3. Ask how your Blog posts can be prominently featured on the corporate Intranet.
  4. Suggest starting a featured Blog, Video Blog or Newsletter on the corporate Intranet so your thought-leadership can be seen by the masses.

Corporate Profiles

  1. Make sure you put a current picture on your corporate profile.
  2. Fill out as much information on your profile; Projects, skills, interests, etc.
  3. Search out and “Follow” as many of the leadership in the company so in the event they post, you will be notified and can comment on their postings

Groups, Communities, Spaces, etc.

  1. Learn how to be a valuable Community Manager & Community Member.
  2. Use non-working time to learn these skills from sources on the Internet, and ask the Enterprise Community Manager and other Community Managers for resources on learning this key organizational skill.
  3. Create Communities and Groups that focus on important topics.  Invite others to join from beyond your immediate peer group.
  4. Make sure your manager is either part of the community or knows of your efforts.
  5. Join other communities, being able to participate and provide value.  Post frequently various stories, videos, and images that are important to the community or group members, soliciting discussions and conversations.
  6. Ask your manager how the role of Community Manager and organizational contributor can be part of your annual performance objectives.
  7. DOCUMENT all your efforts and provide Quarterly status reports to your manager.

Discussions, Posts, Walls, Videos, Q&A

  1. Post Questions on important topics, topics that impact the company, and solicit large numbers of peers to answer and comment.
  2. Do NOT settle for 1 or 2 reply answers. Keep pushing for more participation, even if you have to ask for additional verification of answers to questions posted by your peers.
  3. Once the thread has some good content, share the thread and email your manager(s), inserting the link to the discussion. Ask for additional POV, advice and opinions on the topic and thread.
  4. Author and contribute in as many business-centric discussion threads as possible.
  5. Engage with other managers as well as your peers in order to build a reputation as someone who has knowledge on multiple topics.
  6. Post answers and comments often, making sure to share your POV with as many peers as possible.
  7. Be slightly provocative in your engagements. Be highly respectful and make sure your points are well sourced, but CHALLENGE conventional points of view, and admit when you’re wrong.  This will build your thought leadership skills, and the perceptions from leadership is you are always looking to improve on conventional thought.
  8. When posting, answering, and commenting…use [@]Mention as much as possible and link back to previous posts from other managers and Sr. Leadership. Do not just mention them to mention them…make sure the mentions are in context to the conversation, otherwise you will be seen in a negative manner (aka, butt kisser)
  9. Ensure the TIMESTAMPS of your posts indicate your sharing, learning, collaborating is taking place throughout the day.
  10. Email those who are not using the Social Business Platform about the discussions, invoking their participation and feedback.
  11. Create and Post Videos about relevant company topics, making sure to use your face somewhere in the video. If possible have peers contribute their POV to the video too, perhaps even create departmental videos.
  12. Mark all of your valuable and important discussions as “favorites” in the Social Business Platform so you can find them quickly when it comes time to prepare for your Performance Reviews.

In Closing…

Now I know this seems like tons of extra work, and it is, but if you agree with the findings of the MIT-Sloan study, the rewards will be worth the time invested. One key finding from the MIT-Sloan study indicated:

“Managers were 9% more likely to unconsciously attribute the traits “dependable” and “responsible” to people who put in expected face time and 25% more likely to unconsciously attribute the traits “committed” and “dedicated” to people who put in extracurricular face time”

They key point is; if you work remotely and want to improve your value within the company, being digitally visible will make a difference.  I think if you’re able to demonstrate your participation to the overall organizational knowledge pool, then you might find yourself tagged a “High Valued Employee”, even if you are hardly in the office.

So good luck and remember it can pay to…  “WORK OUT LOUD”

*If anyone has other tips and tricks, please put them in the comments section, and I will expand the list accordingly.

Today’s Social Business, we need “SIMPLE” and all about the “Me”

Social Business Programs have not penetrated the enterprise to many factions outside of Global Marketing and perhaps segments of the IT organization. In fact what aspects of Social Business tenets penetrate, does not remain a sustainable and viable usage over time. Early excitement gives way to frustration and a sense that to be more collaborative, open, sharing requires far too many complex processes, and seemingly lacks focus on the “Me”. My needs, my desires to make work simpler, to be able to “Work out Loud”[1]

SocialBiz_roadsign-1In almost every company, Social Business or Social Collaboration was brought into the enterprise through the IT department. Since IT is seen as an operating function or worse a utility, all new technologies must undergo financial scrutiny to ensure there is a Return on Investment for the efforts. For early Social practitioner such as myself, we were forced to tell a story how Social could provide productivity gains or some other cost cutting effort in order to get business case approvals and have a chance to sell the organizational strategy CxO and various leadership teams.

Thankfully, that has now changed to some degree. With all the press coverage and analysts coverage on the anticipated and recognized value of Social Media inside and outside the enterprise, perceptions for financial ROI as the sole benefit for deploying Social Business programs have slowly evolved.  The leadership in many companies are more willing to invest in Social Software and Social Programs without that explicit ROI.  However Social Software and Social programs have still not penetrated enterprises like many thought would happen by this time.

I think part of that is due to the IT organization leading the charge, and thus Social is thought of as another tool in the arsenal of which too many tools already exists. IT is infamous for solving problems with tools, and not solutions. That argument however is for another post. Smile

In my opinion Social Software Vendors have NOT introduced holistic solution to the enterprise which makes it SIMPLE to collaborate across the entire organization or within smaller groups. Nor have they focused the efforts of the “Me”.

The “Me” is to tailor the Social Platform solution to really make it easy and simple to reach out to “You”, to then expand that to the “We”, and maybe to all of “Us” in terms of providing an easy way to collaborate from the one to the many inside and outside the enterprise.

For a Social Business it all starts with the “Me”

As I have built Social Business Programs, the repeatable observation is that the individual begins the process:

of sharing,

of informing,

of teaching,

of learning,

of collaborating,

of trusting,

of innovating

of working out loud..

I look at this as the “ME”-“YOU”-“WE”-“US” effect Social has in the human process of building and cultivating relationships.

As the individual cannot accomplish much on their own, the “Me” expands to include “You”, helping to build those connections, those emotional ties to the co-worker. As I build the relationship with another individual, I start to share ideas, opinions are formed, reformed, and if the relationship flourishes, trust begins to grow. This can be multiplied over and over throughout many areas of the organization as I build out my network.

The next level expands to include “We”, those of us in the team, or department, or business unit or function. Our building of trust is the key in establishing relationships which become the foundation of a Social Business. Expanding my network to include new persons to which I must build relationships to get work done.  I look to form close working ties in order to accomplish tasks, but still want to build trusting bonds to be able to share my ideas, to inform, teach, learn, and hopefully improve myself and my stature in the organization.

In the “We” stage, leadership is absolutely critical to set the tone for how employees can work together, and how a positive culture is cultivated that rewards sharing, learning, teaching, mentoring and overall acceptance of new ideas.

The co-creation for the “Us” can occur across the enterprise when individual stakeholders feel a level of comfort in espousing their opinions, facts, and points-of-view to internal and external stakeholders. The “Us” looks to build a culture that exhibits rapid and accurate decision-making processes, while leveraging the collective energy and efforts of the organization. Be creating these feedback channels can then be inserted into the co-creation process, this reinforces the “Me” to continually look to improve my value to the company knowing my efforts to improve myself, my peers, and my organization are not going to result in negative reactions and pressures from peers and leadership.

Social is not SIMPLE

In the early days we had several niche vendors selling the concepts of Social Software. Emergent software and technologies that paved the way to building the more well-known vendors we have today; Yammer, Salesforce, Jive, SocialCast, IBM, etc. These vendors have taken the software model to an introductory level and have all done a good job of promoting the ideas that Social Software could provide. We now see the consolidation of social platform vendors being gobbled up by bigger fish to empower their own offerings as the Social Software space matures. These vendors as I said did a good job, but something is still missing. Vendors have been building software, but what they need to build are “Solutions” that provide a simple method to co-create !

Recall how we heard all this talk on how email was going away. How a few companies banned email, how social was better than email (it is!), or how email really depressed the collaboration energies inside companies (it can)…  But no one addressed the obvious…email is easy. Email is a tool that you know exactly what you can do and expect from its use. The fact is Email just works!

So why have the masses not moved on from using email?

Because being Social is NOT SIMPLE!

The sheer amount of social software from vendors is pretty extensive, but the overall ease of which a single employee can simply extract value from socially collaborating with others is still challenging. This can attributed to the lack of standards in how Social Software works, and NOT enough focus on the Social Program’s Solutionin terms of impacting the set of processes necessary to produce collaborative relationships.

Where is the concept of integrating the elements of social into the day-in-the-life processes for the sole worker to solve a problem, aka Social Program Solution? Really focusing on how workers completed tasks, collaborated, shared information in a very simple descriptive way will be the way to bring wide scale adoption and profound use of these Social Programs.

SIMPLE - graphic

I think there is a lack of focus on solving the physical and mental efforts required by individuals to change the way they work. Social Software vendors have missed out on this, but hopefully, vendors are going to be quick to catch-up. They need to make things SIMPLE. 

“Social platforms need to be fully integrated into the employees processes to provide less effort in being collaborative.”

How Social is not SIMPLE today

Why Social is Not Simple

So this has employees asking

What is the deal?” …..”I thought Social technology/platforms was to solve all this finding stuff, being able to reach out to people stuff and make my life easier…?”

“This Is So FrustratingBetter to just send the email in the first cryingasianbabyplace, or maybe just call them on the phone, assuming they answer…Why does IT keep sticking tools out there that don’t work like I need them to?”

So again I have to ask in looking at the above real world scenarios, where is having and using Social Software making anything really that much easier?

From my point of view, email is still the best, fastest, and most secure method to collaborate, even if it has many limitations.

Now don’t just think putting some email plugin is the answer.  I think the ability to be “Social”, sharing information, content, whatever you want to share, comment, post needs to be available from any application, any browser session, anyplace, on any device. For Social to become part of the DNA of the corporate worker, Social needs to be easy, needs to be simple, have almost no boundaries.  Long term changes in behaviors are often accelerated from the path of least resistence…although reward and recognition are just as important.

Making it SIMPLE for “Me”

The time has come for Social Software Vendors to rethink their strategy to make the Social platforms SIMPLE and easy to use, and focusing that simplification for “Me”. Speaking to employees, they continually are frustrated as the communication on how this new way to collaborate would improve their work lives, increase their ability to participate with new ideas, and help the company. After a short time however, the shine is replaced with tarnish as the reality sinks in that this new way to work increases their efforts, can be confusing, and in the end really changes little across the organization.


[1] Bryce Williams, Eli Lilly

“Social Business – You have a “Glass Floor” in Your Organization…does it matter?

With the tremendous excitement around Social Media and Social Business, there are pressures on organizations to embrace “all things social”, on how Social tenets can transform a business; citing agility, empowerment, employee engagement, increased market reputation, improving customer relationships, and providing an overall competitive advantage.
Clearly the benefits are visible and even the most conservative organizations are now looking at incorporating a Social Business strategy within their enterprise fabric.

But one area of study within Enterprise social strategy there has been little analysis on is what I have seen to be a “Social Glass Floor” within organizations.

While Social Business Evangelists preach to the masses in educating organizations about the business benefits of socializing business processes; creating an agile, sharing, and more open company culture, is there a “Social Glass Floor” where executives and top-level decision simply refuse to take part in this new paradigm shift?

  • So if this glass floor exists, is it bad? good? necessary?
  • Does their need to be an insulating social layer between employees, middle management, and top executive leadership?
  • Can a company strategy really be developed using crowd dynamics?
  • As the speed of business increases, can critical Strategic level business decisions be formulated without input from social business processes?

To answer these questions we need to look at management decision-making processes and models.

 

Common Decision Models

The model for decision-making has a very intuitive approach.  In effect however this model does not work well, as it fails to take into account some key constraints prevalent today. 

decisionmodel

The decreasing time in business cycle(s), lack of trusted sources of empirical data, and decisions can be rendered moot due to speed of changing conditions which impacts the data used in the decision-making process to begin with. 

As access to information accelerated with the Internet, and people are able to share that information with the push of a button, it is critical for business leaders to have a more fluid decision-making model, one primed for the deluge of Information affecting business cycles.  This impacts the predictability of the decision-making. 

These forces would make one think that Social capabilities in the enterprise would provide a great lubrication towards agile and comprehensive Strategic decisions.  We’ll get back to that last statement in a bit…

The decision-making models needs to also have allowances for the types of decisions within the company.  Strategic, Tactical, and Operational decisions are frequently made across the organizational hierarchy at different levels:

Decsion_Levels

The strategic decisions level is where the executives in organizations concentrate their efforts.  While operational and tactical decisions seemingly impact the business on a daily or quarterly basis, strategic decisions were historically made by Senior Executives.

I think Operational Decision Processes can be greatly improved by leveraging Social tenets.  For example, by using Social Listening and Social Conversations, a.k.a Social CRM (sCRM), Sales and Marketing teams can rapidly address individual customer issues to improve the satisfaction metrics and reduce attrition rates. Engineering Teams can use Social collaborative public-facing platforms to solve specific product problems or test new ideas.  Using internal Social platforms, HR departments can monitor employee satisfaction (Net Promoter Score), employee sentiment, and engagement levels using polling, surveys and other social listening tools.  

Tactical Decision Processes can also be enhanced using Social tenets.  Using Crowd DynamicsHR could advertise some employee benefit options to the company, and collect, synthesis, and report on the feedback and then make the appropriate decisions.  Global Supply Chain teams could leverage public-facing Social Platforms to engage with customers & partners to improve product and solutions offering by accelerating the company’s ability to react to market conditions.  Engineering Teams can use Social collaborative public-facing platforms using Crowd Innovation processes to improve product innovation without incurring additional headcount

Before I discuss Strategic Decision processes, let’s look at how decisions are spread based on a survey done by SmartBlog on Leadership organization

Org decision Hierarchy

Within a Social Business, an often mentioned component is the flattening of the organization, in how information can flow across the company.  Greatly diminishing or outright eliminating of the “command & control” forces would logically lead to better decision due to the using Crowd Dynamics to make informed, educated decisions.  Again, Operational and Tactical decision processes do benefit from a more distributed Decision-making process.

So if most of the Strategic Decision-Making is done at the top of the organization, is there value in re-distributing that strategic decision-making power to the lower levels? 

In my experience with executives using Social Media\Social Collaboration, they are either terrified to use it as the openness at that level can often translate into political crowbars used exact negative pressures on each other. Executives will commonly promote Social Media or Social Collaboration for the organization, espouse its benefits, but you’ll NEVER catch them posting anything of true value.  Why?  Too risky they can be exposed or called to task for their comments.  The only executive who I have seen post regularly is the CEO, probably due to some measure of insulation to the political forces at that level.

So lets say there is a “Social Glass Foor” within the company.  Is that a bad thing? Is it necessary? 

Lets go back to the Strategic Decision-making processes.  There are clearly reasons to avoid Socializing those processes.  Mergers & Acquisition strategies need to be done completely in private, downsizing or organizational transformations leading to RIFs (Reduction-in-Force), entering or leaving specific markets or industries, outsourcing and off-shoring decisions, various financial strategies on investing company short-term financial assets….these are just a few of the Strategic Decisions that probably could not be done in the openness of a Social Business. 

I could not imagine Strategic Decisions like those mentioned above being publicly discussed with the larger organization. Who would want to work in such an open culture?  Some Strategy is never going to be invoked, but simply discussed.  CrowdSourcing Strategic decisions could lead to anarchy within the company.  I think there needs to be an insulating layer in order to keep the company from disrupting into chaos.

I say there should be a clear line where the openness and free-flow of information poses greater risks to the organization.  Often there are discussions on the “Top-Down and “Bottom-Up” forces required when transforming the organization’s culture towards a Social Business. The “Top-Down” executive support is needed to begin and support the transformation, but as for those executives actually posting content that has real value or using the Social capabilities to make Strategic Decisions will probably never happen in such an open construct.  Leadership is about making decisions, and while many decision-making processes can be augmented using Social Business tenets, I think Strategic Decisions within the enterprise is not one of them. 

So I say it DOES NOT MATTER if there is a “Social Glass Floor”, just as long as the executives can LOOK DOWN and support the rest of us in how we “Work Out Loud”

What “Social…From the Trenches” will be about

Social Trenches touches everything

This blog will be providing viewpoints on how Social Networking, Social Collaboration, Social what-ever-you-want-to-call-it is being received in enterprises, and how the progress is going,

Potential Topics:

1. Social glass ceiling? or necessary insulation? (coming soon)

2. If you become a Social Business, how does that affect your IT Department?

3. Selling in a social world… it is not your daddy’s sales cycle anymore!

4. Social CRM (sCRM)..it is all about the Relationships, or is it?

5. Social ERP, more than just approvals and shipping.

6. “Culture eats Strategy for lunch”  and Culture is very hungry

7. We’re not herding cats: we’re herding tigers..and they bite! (my own saying)