Everybody these days is prefixing stuff with “social”. Even being social needs to be socialized these days. It’s not enough to actually go out and meet your friends, but you have to tweet and Facebook-post about it too – presumably so that your less social friends can feel socially-inadequate. Anyway, being as I am an advocate for social business, I have been thinking about what the BUSINESS bit actually relates to.
There are many descriptions out there. My favourite is that from Sandy Carter‘s “Get Bold” book:
“A social business is one that is engaged, transparent and nimble”.
But how do you put this into practice? What does a social business do at a practical level?
There is an excellent series of videos on YouTube called “The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections” which go some way to describe common business scenarios and how the guy could have solved them better and more easily using a social business tool.
I have expounded on this blog and elsewhere about using the various aspects of IBM Connections to achieve social business outcomes. I am passionate about the use of Activities as a business process automation tool, but would like to take a look at the under use of Wikis in a social business.
We’re virtually all familiar with Wikipedia. It’s the online encyclopaedia built and reviewed and edited by people like you and me. It’s social business at its essence – it’s engaged because the people who are involved are committed to its success. It’s transparent because everyone can see what’s been changed and when it was changed and by whom. It’s also nimble – content can be created, reviewed, edited and removed quickly and adjustments to suit new circumstances are easily made. Just check out the page on Syria as an example.
Most businesses don’t use Wikis for anything other than being an online handbook, however. In these scenarios the people are hardly engaged, the changes may be transparent, but nimbleness doesn’t really apply. In many respects the use of a wiki for, say, a staff handbook, or knowledgebase while convenient, is not the best use of technology.
I would like to see organisations making much more use of wikis as a way of managing knowledge. The wiki can become an organic “brain” of information which represents the collective intelligence of the organisation. Consider for a moment creating a wiki page about each client your business deals with. You’d then create sub-pages for, say, proposals, help desk issues, background information, meetings, and the likes. Each of these pages would have sub-pages for each occurrence, e.g. a page for that new proposal, or a page for the meeting report for the project review meeting.
The contents are easily searched, easily constructed. The wiki supports rich text editing and attachments and promotes the interlinking of content. By its very nature it’s intended to be transparent, nimble and engaging. By its very nature it’s designed to be flexible and adjust to suit the needs of the situation.
Instead of enforcing a rigid CRM-style structure on the end users, why not allow a structure to be built for each customer which suits that customer? You’ll find that the information is just as accessible, just as meaningful and, I believe, will help develop the creativity of the users to encourage them to capture more and more information. By removing many of the structures around traditional CRM solutions and replacing them with a wiki structure the needs of the information can be accommodated without loss of fidelity or affecting your ability to find stuff.
The wiki software itself needs to be improved, I’ll concede. It needs better exporting and importing ability and some mechanism to recognize terms and automagically link them to existing pages describing that topic, but that’s my pet hobby-horse (anyone who ever used Lotus Agenda will know what I’m talking about).
Other than these caveats, I would strongly recommend that you take another look at the wiki and consider if you could use it as a means of building a social content management solution to unlock the knowledge in your organisation.