Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why enterprise social networks matter

In an time where globalization, co-creation and cross-company cooperation is essential for a company’s survival it is quite strange to see why companies still hesitate to embrace enterprise social networks (See Trends impacting collaborative tools and platforms for more background information)

The fact that we are more and more working in different locations makes it more difficult to use our traditional means of communication and collaboration. Especially in organization where physical face-to-face meetings are less and less the norm you see a change in how people collaborate.

In the late 1970s Tom Allen (MIT) undertook a project to determine how the distance between engineers’ offices was related to the way that they communicated and collaborated. One of the key findings was the fact that the probability of communicating at least once a week drops significantly if people are more than 50 feet apart.

We also see that people are not only working on multiple locations (separation by space) but also more and more asynchronously. This might be caused by the fact that people work in different time zones but also by the rise of flex-working.

This separation in both distance and time provides for some specific challenges which are hard to resolve using traditional technologies. Typical intranet and email solutions are broadcasting and are push technologies. Especially with email you see that the sender chooses the recipients (push medium instead of pull) and replies overload mailboxes.

Another side effect of using email as a many-to-many async mechanism is that knowledge gets trapped in email clients with no easy means of discovery and searching for knowledge. When a new employee enters the company he will probably be subscribed to a large number of email distribution lists but he has no access to all of the conversations which were ongoing or which happened in the past.
It is however essential that to create an organization in which social is embedded, that you need something more than enabling software tools. It is critical to have a social computing strategy that aligns business objectives, required cultural change, supporting processes and technology.

Whether you will be using SocialCast (VMWare), Salesforce Chatter, Tibco Tibbr, Jive or SocialText – a succesful implementation implementation all boils down to these 5 critical components:
  • Clear executive sponsorship and cultural willingness of the organization. If management is not listening or does not show it is listening, change will not happen.
  • Explicitly define specific communities of users to target as well specific use cases.
  • Define desired results and/or objectives for the different use cases and continuously measure the output. Make sure that the output is aligned with the core key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Use an iterative approach – plan/experiment/learn – but make sure that the different learning experiences and use cases are aligned with your global social strategy.
  • Identify change agents (or champions or key users) who will get the social network started

1 comment:

Wedge Black said...

I find the difference between synchronous (phone), asynchronous (email), and quasi-synchronsous (ESN) communictaion is really important.

Separation by time and distance can be bridged by better use of communictaion channels and ESNs as you highlight.

People may need encouragement and even training to switch comm channels though; the success of an ESN is not guaranteed.