For many organizations, collaboration requires a rethinking of management strategy. Providing an Enterprise Social Network that allows employees to share, discuss and influence opinions covering the performance of the company and its products or services is only going to work if there’s trust from inception. For most of us, we are comfortable conversing with friends and family using social networks. But how does this open conversation work at work?
Quoting Jack Nicholson from the film As Good As It Gets, “you make me want to be a better man”, in many ways Enterprise Social Networks enable those organizations who seek to “want to be a better organization”. This can be realized when people are encouraged to participate, converse without the fear of retribution, and can see progressive change occur when good ideas are adopted. Management needs to consider the type of conversations they want to have, and with whom across the organization. For most managers, the idea of having open conversations with anyone from across the organization can be a little alarming, but for those who choose to engage and listen, the direct result can be positive influence.
We’ve previously questioned whether Enterprise Social Networks will completely replace Intranet Software, and if incumbents like Microsoft SharePoint are simply the current trend in Intranet platforms which ultimately will give way to more nimble, micro service driven mobile apps that employees can choose to consume like social media services; subscribe to the Projects Channel and be served project information based on your security. The HR channel will present your payroll information, and the Sales channel will present current and closed deals. And it will all happen on your phone first.
Charlene Li from Altimeter Group wrote in 2015 about the stark reality that Enterprise Social Networks don't work, and that ‘it's a world spun by people pushing collaboration platforms’. We agree that it’s not uncommon to find enterprise collaboration projects that have failed within the enterprise, and that less than half of employees actually use them. But here’s the thing. User experience matters. When you consider the landscape of many established technology vendors in the collaboration space, their product offerings are far from desirable to use. They are rigid, complex and conservative. They reek of a corporate mandate far removed from encouraging social participation. Now consider the success of Slack as a comparison. It’s like watching a child laugh as they are playing. It’s fun, enjoyable and comfortable to use. It feels like a natural extension of our playful selves. Why is this important in the serious world of work? Because opinionated software like Slack reminds us that we learn when we’re relaxed and enjoying what we’re doing. This positive reinforcement encourages discovery, and when a greater number of people feel comfortable using something, then it’s more likely to become the default for how things will happen from that point onwards. Now Slack isn’t a complete bed of roses, but its global adoption signifies that it hits the emotional mark with a lot of people worldwide.
Another common excuse is that everyone is too busy with work to be using these tools, but fail to recognize that collaboration platforms like Enterprise Social Networks can actually assist with reducing the work overhead through leveraging functions like the following;
Search and Discovery
For the majority of knowledge workers, the act of work is defined through the accumulation of tasks that are content and data driven. Preparing proposals, creating reports, reviewing and interpreting data, and so on. Enterprise Social Networks can alleviate some of this repetition through search and discovery. Staff are unproductive and frustrated when they spend time hunting down discrete information. They know it must exist because what they are attempting to solve has been done before. Enterprise Social Networks provide tools for discovering this discrete content through conversation around work; searching within conversations and discovering new content through the people they are connected with. While knowing what to search for might be a challenge, searching across conversations around the topic is likely to garner a more relevant result.
Traditional Intranet’s fail in allowing staff to easily associate content, where most Intranet authors publish in isolation from one other. ESN’s like Stream enable staff to tag content as they publish it. Tagging provides simple and powerful methods for building collections of content that are related to one or many topics. Adding #design #interiors #westcoast #downtowndevelopment add personality to what you’re publishing and provide context for other users to quickly determine what your content relates to. Searching by tags will also surface content that is deemed relevant by the author, and not by the way the software will index and interpret the relevancy of the content. This provides new ways of discovering content that users may not necessarily find through searching. Tags can also provide work automation methods; creating a project based on the tags #westcoast #downtowndevelopment will automatically aggregate all content within the network and present it on one page for viewing.
Imagine for a moment you’re an architect. You work for a large, national firm and there are more than one thousand associates within the organization. You’ve recently completed a new commercial bid and referenced a new fabrication process using pre-cast concrete. You know if others within the firm knew of the fabrication process, which saves time and money during construction, then you’ll look like a rock star for discovering it. Within a traditional intranet, how would you share this information with your colleagues? You could add a new page and hope people will search for ‘new concrete fabrication methods’ over time, or you could add the new page and then email everyone you know a link to the information. But that will only reach the people you personally know within your own network. The fact is, it won’t reach the people who will find the new information beneficial to their design work. With an Enterprise Social Network you could make a new post, tag it with a series of tags that people are watching and reach considerably more people within the organization as people across different groups like and comment on your post. Sharing has just made you the new pre-cast concrete expert across the entire business.