A while back I posted on Chuck Hollis’s journey in introducing Communities of Practice to EMC. My previous post was a digest of what I think are the best parts of Chuck’s blog where he is documenting his experience, called A Journey in Social Media. Well now he has summarized all those blog posts into a white paper of the same name.
Even though his social media journey has started out with Communities, this report covers a whole social media strategy, the strategy and approach can be used as a basis to cover any social media implementation. Sure, it’s based on Communities, but the methodology and process is about dealing with people and organisational behaviour.
I’m also impressed that he alludes to, in the executive summary, that this white paper is not a recipe for other organisations, every organisation has a different culture and context, yet it can be handy to get some takeaways that relate to your situation, or that you can remix to your context…and lessons learned are always handy (context does matter here, but not as much as the potential disaster of following a best practice religiously).
The introduction should be taken into consideration (for those who like following recipes), as it describes EMC and their culture (number of people, industry, senior management culture, knowledge worker culture). From this we can take away differences between our own companies and EMC’s, and utlilise Chuck’s content in the context of our own businesses.
This is a really great case and achievement as Chuck had many obstacles ahead of him, mostly organisational culture, as social computing technology is cheap relative to most content management systems of the past (a safe-fail approach is acceptable).
- conservative adopting new productivity technologies
- business stems from intellectual capital (security risks)
- command and control
- highly controlled internal flows of information
- uncomfortable with transparency (risks of open conversation)
- web 2.0 popularity and net gen way of working
- retain boomer knowledge
- keep up with competitors in this space
- IT rogues (tech populists) people are using these tools anyway, so it’s a good idea to offer similar tools to ensure security and consolidation
- the need for email detox
- increase cooperation, awareness, coordination, communication, collaboration, discovery
- finding information online like we do ofline, people as our filter (ambient awareness)
"…the framing of the problem (and the proposed solution) was seen as a matter of business strategy, and not the domain of a single function, such as IT or Marketing"
Need I say more…our implementation is under KM, which I feel is OK, as the KM team has always been about sense-making.
"Our belief was that our primary organizational challenge was changing behaviors and perceptions, rather than implementing a specific technology platform."
"…social media proficiency has very little to do with technology, and almost everything to do with organizational change."
Sponsorship from HR, marketing and senior management was a help as a driver and support
"… internal organizational sponsorship turned out to be key to our success."
"We believed we had to resist the temptation to run this project like any other project: small teams, regular meeting, action item lists, decisions made behind closed doors and similar"
Instead they used the very tools they were implementing (blog and forums), and an open approach of inviting a cross section of passionate people to have some discussion, and keeping a list of notes, and then ordering it by importance and relationships between these points eg. we have to do A in order to do B.
"This refinement of discussion eventually led to a reasonably short set of concepts and ideas that became the basis for an overall strategy that was manageable in size and scope, could be communicated in a few minutes, and could form the basis for a straight forward execution path."
Here’s just a few.
"Focus on proficiency, skills and behaviors – rather than tools, process and measurement."
"Recruit and identify volunteers who demonstrated proficiency throughout the organization, and have them recruit and support others in turn."
"Create a lightweight governance model and use it sparingly. No governance would be dangerous in many regards; heavy governance would hamper progress and spontaneity."
"Resist our natural corporate tendency to organize, control, measure and monitor each and every aspect of this initiative."
"Assume that if people know how to behave in the real world, they‟ll figure out how to behave in the online world as well."
"…note focus on proficiency vs. tools or platform. As with most productivity initiatives, the tools are of relatively low value unless people know how to apply them to the business."
As mentioned earlier the tools are cheaper compared to the past, I think buy-in is more of a hard sell as in the end it’s not about social computing, it’s the behaviour landscape this leads to, called "enterprise 2.0"
Another usual qualm is about people wasting their time on non-work, but then wasting time is a current problem anyway, at least this way people will be connected and have conversations which leads to everything else.
I guess the best way to put it is, the ROI is not on the tool itself, but using that tool in a process, that way it doesn’t matter, as long as it makes things more effective as well as reduce costs.
But Chuck mentions not to make this your only ROI, as you don’t want to focus all your effort on one process, to the neglect of others.
I want to do an ROI roundup post one day, but the premise is if people are connected and converse we will become more effective and efficient, we will get real knowledge sharing (people to people).
Chuck used the community itself to get anecdotes and success stories.
"Few tools exist for measuring qualitative value: it‟s difficult to assess the value of a well-written document, or a productive discussion with someone you didn‟t know existed, or an open discussion that avoids an expensive mistake. Traditional measurement and justification frameworks turned out to be woefully inadequate for measuring what we thought was ultimately important – improved interaction and conversation."
"We convinced the business that our measurement would be anecdotal – we would turn to the community for examples of how the platform is adding value, improving productivity,"
"Our goal was to make users of the social platform more productive in how they did their job – who better to judge our success or failure than our users? If you had built a community to solve a business problem, how did it go? Or, if you turned to the social platform to find answers, how has it helped?"
"As an example, after three months of operation, we conducted an informal survey (using the platform, of course) where we asked users to share how the platform had improved their productivity, brought value to their work, or some other benefit."
You will have to read the report for examples of various types of impacts and value.
"Dozens and dozens of anecdotes were submitted by the user community. These turned out to be far more impactful than any chart or formal analysis could be."
"When people questioned us on justification, we would send them the link to the discussion area where the responses were posted."
Answer to a frequent question "why do we need yet another collaboration tool?"
Some of the points covered are
- Synchronous vs Asyncronous (ambient awareness)
- email silos and conversation disability
- open vs closed (transparency, awareness, cooperation)
- document centric vs conversation centric (read more here)
The main difference is “discover, connect, converse”, this leads to new relationships, community formation, collaboration, etc… Plus of course we have emerging patterns that reveal as a macropicture from our micromotives. Regular document collaboration tools don’t really create a way for you to see the pulse of the business that’s hiding behind the hierarchy. Participation tools allow you to see the real business…what are people thinking, what do they know, what our our concerns, who are our experts, and how do we really work (informal practices where process don’t go).
So what I like about this is not only are we collaborating, but we are discovering conversing, learning, etc…so we gain this personal benefit, and the organisation also gets to gain by feeling the mood of the organisation, and tapping into know-how that never makes it through or above the hierarchy wall. This is innovation without even trying.
I wait for the day that I see this as first hand experience, but at the moment, we don’t use a social network or tag clouds.
"“building tools for the efficient hiding of information and discussions” was not our core goal – we wanted to expose as many people as possible to as many sources of information and as many discussions as possible."
- Platform Manager
- User Evangelist
- Management Outreach
- Executive Sponsor
"Conduct should not be overly proscribed – think in terms of “guidelines” rather than “policies”."
"Proper handling of sensitive information is an employee responsibility regardless of forum or mechanism."
"Proper conduct in a business setting is an employee responsibility regardless of medium."
"There may be a natural temptation for the social media team to play a role in conflict resolution.
We would strongly recommend that encouraging people to work out their own issues (peer-to-peer and in an open environment vs. through management chains behind closed doors) is a valuable corporate behavior."
See here for others.
Pilot - Viral Rollout
We are currently doing this with our communities, and coordinating it via a Facilitators community.
The pilot group makes known bugs, usability issues, people dynamics, ways to use the community, early success stories…so when it comes to roll out we have a system that is more readably usable for our organisation. Plus, with help from the pilot users we have all become proficient at using the tools and community dynamics.
The pilot has given us plenty of content for our help guides, and plenty of FAQ.
The pilot group is slowly growing as word of mouth is spreading. It’s our hope that people will be interested as they are influenced by the peers (people they trust). It’s a good idea to concentrate and focus your attention on a few communities, as thriving communities can attract others to a new way of working (viral adoption).
Chuck mentioned they also used departmental newsletters to get to specific crowds.
He also mentions growing together by using a transparent approach of feedback/suggestion forums, and a bug wiki.
An important aspect is that by roll-out, you have existing communities populated with content and some engaging conversation…plenty of places to visit…we want a stickiness factor right off the bat.
Chuck mentions that some people were not sure if they could participate unless they had approval by their manager.
Hmm…if we need approval then we really don’t understand what enterprise 2.0 is about.
As mentioned earlier, at the moment we have Top-Down creation method as a starting point. For more of my thoughts on this, here is my comment on Chuck’s blog post.
Better still, Chuck published a new post as a reply to my comment, go check it out.