By Matthew Lees, VP and Consultant, Patricia Seybold Group
While the term “Enterprise 2.0” looks like what the rebuilt Star Trek space ship might be called, it’s also the name of this week’s just-concluded conference in Boston on the sociological, operational, and technological changes in the way people are working and companies are conducting business.
Although the focus of our work at the Patricia Seybold Group is on engaging and collaborating with customers, partners, and others outside your organizational walls, most of the sessions at the Enterprise 2.0 conference were geared toward internal collaboration and productivity…how “social tools” can be used to help employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, make information and knowledge more available and findable, and increase innovation.
Most Compelling Application—Socialtext’s new wiki-based, collaborative spreadsheet, SocialCalc, developed with Dan Bricklin, co-creator of the blast-from-the-past spreadsheet VisiCalc (http://www.socialtext.com). The SocialCalc spreadsheet engine is also a project on the One Laptop per Child Program.
Most Astute Observation on How People Use Social Tools—Paraphrased from David Marshak, Program Director at IBM / Lotus (and a former PSGroup colleague): “Most instant messages in the workplace are like this: We want to say ‘Can you please help me with this problem, which is important to me, but probably not important to you, although I’m hoping you’ll stop doing what you’re doing to do this for me?’ But we don’t want to type all that, so we just abbreviate it by writing ‘Hi.’”
• Enterprise vs. Consumer Space: Just because something took off in the consumer, public-facing Web doesn’t mean it will work within companies. The use case in work life is different from that in personal life.
• Generational Differences: There are four generations in the work force, each with different approaches to work, collaboration, and tools. But the fundamentals of management haven’t changed in 40-50 years. However, we’re now living in a time where change is occurring at a pace within the lifespan of individuals. Some working people grew up before computers existed (and they’re now in power positions), and Gen-Yers never knew what it was like before/without computers.
• Transparency and Candor: Some individuals in organizations who have all the information don’t value the social dialogue. But many people crave it. Companies spend millions of dollars a year bringing in consultants from McKenzie and Accenture to find out the truth, because we don’t know how to get it from our employees. Social tools naturally bring out that honest dialogue.
• Collaboration and Decision Making: Keep in mind the difference between collaborative work and collaborative decision making. Just because you give people a voice—which you should absolutely do, and the tools are now there to make this easier and easier—it doesn’t mean they are making the decision based on the considerations they bring up. As long as you’re clear that you’ll be making the decision, but you want it to be informed and guided by all appropriate stakeholders, most people are fine with this.
• Adoption: Corporate workers have a lot of IT thrown at them. For many of them, wikis and blogs and other social tools are just more stuff for them to learn. Early adopters in an organization want to be there (i.e., using these tools). For social media initiatives within the enterprise to be successful, though, you need to go beyond the early adopters to generate an “early majority.” And these people need to be convinced to be there. Or, more accurately, they need to convince themselves they need to be there.
• Practical Advice from the Sessions
- Just do it. You can learn a lot from standing back and analyzing, but it’s not as scary and anarchic as you think.
- Find the right people and projects, and use them as your launch pad. Once people see that the best minds in the company are using social networking and enterprise 2.0, they’ll jump on board.
- The hardest thing to do is to give up control. But give up control, and your employees will do you right.
- Fight from the start against locked-down spaces.
- Study your inbox. Look to see where the most email volleyball is being played, and try to move those things to wikis and other collaborative tools.
- If you start changing where people get information, they’ll go to it. IM took a few years to catch on. But eventually the bosses were on it, so everyone else started to use it, since that because the best way to reach them.
- Take employees aside one by one, and tell them how they’re making a difference.
- Think about what success looks like. Don’t expect 100%. Even 10% is probably better than where you were yesterday.