“One day soon, every employee, every retiree, every customer, every business partner, every investor and every neighbour associated with every company will be able to share an opinion about that company with everyone in the world, based on first hand experience. The only way we can be comfortable in that world is if every employee of the company is truly grounded in what their company values and stands for. Essentially the employee becomes an ambassador.”, John Iwata, IBM.
All organisations have IT systems in place. Most of these have grown organically over a number of years, through many budget cycles, through management impetus and short term requirements. Overall, however, IT’s strategy of enhancing the way people work through the appropriate application of technology is unchanged.
We will all these days be aware of Facebook. You may also be familiar with LinkedIn, Twitter and a multitude of other “social” networking systems like Pinterest, Instagram, Spotify and many more besides. What is behind the success of these systems is primarily the ability for users to connect with each other and discover something they didn’t already know. Secondly, these systems present information which, based on their previous actions, the system believes will be of interest to the user.
A social intranet is about harnessing these principles to unlock the tacit knowledge contained within the organisation (primarily in people’s heads) and combine it with the explicit knowledge held in documents, databases and other media, to aid better co-working, better efficiency, drive discovery of new information and generally be smarter about how to communicate and collaborate.
Many “Knowledge Management” solutions have been implemented over the years. Document Management, Email Management, Timesheet Management, Wikis, Intranets and all sorts of other knowledge repositories are available to us today. The key challenge is knowing where the information is and who to speak to about unlocking that information.
By linking expertise to information we can as an organisation leverage the abilities and skills we have in a better way. Think how a new member of staff gets up to speed with who to ask for about different aspects of their job and how difficult it is for them to figure out where things are and how to get what they need to get their job done. By linking people to knowledge and thereby allowing the new recruit to find someone who will know the answer we make this whole process easier and more efficient. If that “expert” records the information they have been asked on this occasion then they contribute to the body of knowledge and new recruits in the future can discover the information easily.
One of the most important aspects of implementing a social solution like this is involvement from the executive team. When staff see that the senior management are committed to an open, collaborative and communicative strategy, they will be motivated to take part. Such commitment need not, however, require executives to clear their diaries and sacrifice many hours of effort.
The best approach to unlocking the benefits to be obtained are based on a “little and often” approach. Regular 5-20 minute grazing of the information being posted and discussions going on with occasional participation is all that’s needed.
Like it or not most staff consider the executives in any organisation to be “celebrities”. They take a great interest in what they have to say and what they are doing. By communicating frequently in small doses about some of the things that they are involved in provides a very valuable connection for staff and helps to give their work further meaning and value.
I am not advocating a weekly blog post for every member of the executive team. Instead, status updates, responses to questions, feedback and other small insertions of your input will deliver the much needed energy the social system requires to be successful. The best analogy for this is the mood the “boss” is in when he comes into the office. The way he is sets the tone for the day. The longer a negative atmosphere pervades, the worse morale and the working environment becomes. Therefore, active positive participation in the system by executives can help ensure success.
Implementing IBM Connections as the social platform for collaboration and communication represents an important step forward in the integration of the many and various knowledge stores within the organisation. By investing some time by experts and engaging at a person-to-person level within the organisation, the information people need to do their jobs doesn’t remain the preserve of a few. To help unlock this knowledge and to drive adoption input from the executive team is needed. This need not be a time-consuming exercise, and in fact is best done on a little and often basis.