I am presenting a webinar on BRM and Social Media on June 20, Friday at 11am EDT. To get a chance to discuss this topic with me and learn more, register here.
I am an avid user of social media sites that exist out there, I blog, tweet, and I use Facebook. These social applications have been really useful to me personally. Facebook, for instance, is my way to connect with my family who live in the Philippines. Every time I post a picture of my kids on Facebook, I always have my family in the Philippines in mind. This is how I can share moments of my kids’ life with them. Through Facebook, I also keep track of my nephew and nieces. Early on, I realized the value of social networking to my personal life so I started thinking how such platforms extend to the enterprise. Even before the existence of full-strength Enterprise Network Tools available today, I wondered how such collaborative practices extend beyond personal use and find their way to become an integrated set of functional offerings that delivers business value.
Think about an “enterprise Facebook”. What’s the equivalent of posting a status or photo? If I post about a project I am working on, blog about a business problem I am trying to resolve, or share a screen of a user interface mobile application I designed – what will it take for my peers in the office to be able to access, read and see them? To usher in adoption of the tools seamlessly is a challenge for those who have blazed the trail. If you can’t convince employees that using it will make their job easier or if you can’t convince business leaders that using it will create business value, it is tough to succeed.
According to Forrester Research, organizations will increase their spending on enterprise social collaboration software at a compound annual growth rate of 61% through 2016. With the social software market now looking to be a hefty $6.4 billion part of the industry, every big player from IBM, to Oracle, to SAP are busy developing their offer. If you look at this amount of investment and demand, obviously the companies are seeing competitive advantage and value of social tools in their organization now and in the future.
The Benefits of Social Enterprise Technology
There are essentially three categories of benefits that can be derived from using social enterprise technology. So, broadly, we see that in order for social enterprise technology to create business value, it should not only provide strong content-centric features but also must extend social capabilities in execution of business processes and facilitating innovation through collaboration in the company.
Companies who have embarked in the early adoption of social tools in the enterprise have done so to capture one or more of these business benefits. CEMEX, a multi-billion building materials company, initially began in 2009 to develop an internal social network which called Shift. Shift was designed to innovate and help make the company more efficient and agile by empowering employees to implement the new best practices they learn by collaborating globally in their business units. By building a collaboration platform accessible to employees throughout the company and around the world, CEMEX is empowering employees in new and important ways that go beyond traditional titles and roles. From the SAPPHIRENOW event in Orlando this June, I learned about how Kaeser Kompressoren uses SAP’s social enterprise application SAP Jam to streamline their sales and customer service processes and build a bridge from the first client contact through to the offer improving information and communications quality. They are leveraging integration between SAP Jam with seamless integration with SAP CRM module to join social capabilities and traditional work stream.
Implementing a social tool for collaboration is just the first step. To get employees to use it collectively enough to change the way they collaborate is the much bigger challenge. Adoption of social tools in the workplace setting requires more than compliance and a management mandate. It is about culture transformation from within and for all employees, from top to bottom. I think the part of enabling the Social Enterprise application is the easy part of the process, the challenge is adoption. Benefits are realized when:
- You successfully change the culture, the way employees in a company collaborate, and you break geographical and political barriers.
- You optimize your enterprise work stream by having business processes accessible and executable through social interactions happening in the collaboration space.
- You bring innovation by empowering employees to organize around ideas that develop organically during social interaction.
According to Forrester research, organizations will increase their spending on enterprise social collaboration software at a compound annual growth rate of 61% through 2016. Forrester estimates enterprise social software will become a $6.4 billion market in 2016. This is based on their assumption that a new generation of social enterprise apps is, and will be, delivering on business needs. If this is the trend today and more so in the near future, how do you the plan to integrate social media to your work streams?
There are many integration points and it all depends on the needs of the business. Those needs can be classified into two types: (1) mass engagements: involvement of wider audience with open-ended boundaries; and (2) internal and external collaboration: engagement of specific audience, with defined boundaries.
In this article, we will focus on improving collaboration as integration points.
Collaboration through social tools usually entails the implementation of a collaborative decision management solution that encourages change in the way businesses collaborate to facilitate innovations. Saying that, two critical factors emerge:
(1) change in culture, ie, the way employees in a company collaborate, and
(2) the need to select and adopt an effective, collaborative-type tool
Companies that use collaboration as an integration point to adopting social tools face the following challenges:
(a) How do we get beyond e-mail, traditional meetings, conference calling, etc, to these new social platforms that include an industrial-strength social network?
(b) How do we change the way we work?
(c) How do we integrate social tools in our enterprise work stream?
(d) How do we become more innovative as a company because of it?
The answer is not Facebook nor Twitter – not for this type of business need. There are, however, applications for these purposes available in the market. They are referred to as collaborative decision management applications that provide functionalities like wikis, blogs, project management, community building, idea creation, etc.
Implementing a social tool for collaboration is just the first step, or I should say, the easy step. To get employees to use it collectively enough to change the way they collaborate is the much bigger challenge. Adoption of social tools in the workplace setting requires more than compliance and a management mandate. It is about culture transformation from within and for all employees, from top to bottom.
So, what’s the point?
Today, if an employee has an idea, he or she goes to their boss to discuss it, or goes to the board to present it as a proposal, or sends an idea narrative by email. Consider the alternative of posting ideas as wikis, and letting everyone else read, comment and even change them.An effective approach is a grassroots adoption through structured learning experiences, involving adoption champions from different levels of the organization. The communication and implementation of the grassroots approach must be focused on the benefits to the users first, and promotion of the value creation for the company next.
It’s easier to convince employees to change the way they work if they understand that this will make their job easier.
Social media adoption in the workplace is harder than your traditional ERP implementation, here is why
Just about everyone is very familiar with social media nowadays. People using it are increasing by the millions. It was the same with books and television decades ago. Today, in a very short time, social media has become an intrinsic part of our daily life.
With that thought, will adopting social tools (that we are familiar with) in the workplace— be easier considering the people’s familiarity with social media?
The answer is no. Enterprise application of social media has been a serious challenge for those who have tried. Many companies have tried and failed. It is nothing like implementing (for example) an ERP system where you define the roles, processes, guidelines and then ask employees to follow. In this ERP system scenario, your focus is actions, compliance and results. If you have strong executive support, you will make it happen.
Adoption of social tools in the workplace setting requires more than compliance and a management mandate. It is about culture transformation from within and for everyone– nothing less. For example, today if an employee has an idea, he goes to his boss to discuss an idea or goes to the board to present it as a proposal, or send an idea narrative by email. Now, consider the alternative of posting ideas as wiki and letting everyone else read, comment and even change them.
The point is, social media adoption or enterprise 2.0 implementation is not easy because it is about changing how people interact, collaborate and work. It is about changing the organizational culture. It is nothing that can be mandated (otherwise, all you get is shallow compliance). For you to have a meaningful transformation that is sustainable you have to work at the level of people’s experiences to influence their beliefs and behaviors. Only then can you have them change how they act and work. Experiences foster beliefs, and if you have enough of those to change the mindset of your employees you will slowly see adoption happen.
My advice is grassroots adoption through structured learning experiences. The communication and implementation of the grassroots approach must be focused on the benefits to the users first and then promotion of the value creation for the company next. It is easier to convince employees to change the way they work if they understand that this will make their job easier. This approach is important. It will fuel slow but self-reinforcing transformation.
Photo courtesy of Ponsuwan
“One attribute of true learning is a sense of curiosity and wonder. A second is an experience of openness to new possibilities. A third is that the process of searching for an answer is more important that having an answer. Finally, it is necessary to have an approach to one’s environment characterized by experimentation: accessing information, analyzing that information, and looking for connection and relationships.”- John W. Thompson
Blogging and Online Learning
Why do you maintain a blog? You seem to spend so much time making sure that there is a continuous flow of relevant contents- what do you get from it? These are common questions friends and colleagues ask me. For me, writing is all about sharing knowledge (even the little that I know in my profession) and learning in the process by interacting with my readers. We learn in all kinds of ways, whether through conversation, reading books, attending formal training, and even writing. By doing those things we are taking in and processing new ideas. If you are an Internet user who is accessing websites for your regular news, using social media to interact with friends, reading Wikipedia, doing routine searches– you are bombarded with tons of information. Whether you like it or not, you are already absorbing a lot of information online. You are learning in one way or another. Come to think of it, the jump to more formal learning – using online teaching platform with the latest computer applications – is not such a big leap. We are already familiar with finding, sharing and processing information online.
My former boss, mentor and friend Tony Molares – who recently joined Profexor.com, an online learning platform, as their CEO – talks passionately about his amazing opportunity, to lead a company that leverages technology to provide knowledge through web platforms. He explained to me that online learning tools, because they are so accessible and affordable now, eliminate barriers to learning. They improve the knowledge and competitiveness of people who use them. In the long run they contribute to a better learning society. Providing learning opportunities is the most important mission of Profexor.com — a company providing online training programs. The website caters to the Spanish-speaking market. Profexor.com brings together the knowledge of many professionals worldwide, including experts in computer media applications, process engineers, editors, web designers, marketers, and researchers. Profexor.com is current developing learning contents related to self improvements, leadership, and other competencies that will enable professionals to be competitive in the business environment. It is the company’s goal to offer via this alternative online educational platform an ongoing, rewarding personal experience that fosters growth, self improvement and innovation.
Social Responsibility by Providing Learning Platform
What’s so noteworthy about Profexor.com is its target audience—the Spanish-speaking market. I know most, if not all of the courses in Profexor.com are delivered in Spanish. I remember when Tony showed me the website; the first thing I asked him was, why not offer the courses in English as well? I thought that for sure they will have a wider reach and much larger customer segment. When Tony explained to me that one of the company’s purposes is to bring more learning opportunities to Spanish-speaking people and provide them access to information and more contents (otherwise available only in English), I understood right there that the company has a deeper mission. The individual’s ability to learn and innovate is a direct driver of his capability to compete and succeed. Tony is right, there are countless websites offering online courses in English but only handful that provide the same level of quality of content in Spanish and competitiveness in pricing as Profexor.com. I think it is very inspiring and remarkable for a start-up company to have that sense of social responsibility from the beginning.
Just as the world has changed, so too has the platform for learning. I am not saying online learning tools like Profexor.com replaces the traditional and formal education provided in schools and universities. Also, I am not saying that blogs and other forms of online clutter should replace the traditional forms of knowledge media like journals, magazines and books. Both platforms: old and new, traditional and modern, are applicable to the learning process of today’s world. The great parallelism that I see between Profexor.com’s mission (be it the platform of learning for Spanish speakers) and my personal purpose for blogging (sharing knowledge) are the acts that benefit society at large—call it “Social Responsibility“.
On my article about Social Shared Services, I examined the possibilities of adopting social media practices and social collaboration toolsets as part of the shared services offering and communication channel. The “social media adoption model” I referred to does not apply only to shared services organizations but also to any other services organizations looking to harness social media.
If you read my article on Social Shared Services, I cited “external collaborative research” as one of the six components of the social shared services model. It refers to the interaction of organization’s members with peers in other companies through “social” media and collaborative channels. This interaction results in collaborative research, benchmarking, enriched studies and shared best practices. This artcle aims to give a concrete example of how organizations can participate in forums and collaborate with external parties.
Peeriosity, an Example and Success Story
There are existing platforms in the internet that allows “social” or collaborative engagement using advanced Web 2.0 toolsets. Take for example, the website Peeriosity. It is already used by many shared services organizations and companies worldwide. Peeriosity uses innovative platforms to enable collaborative communities and facilitates the sharing of experiences and best practices. This type of collaboration brings together a broad number of individuals with different areas and levels of expertise. When collaborating with peers, you want a wide selection of qualified individuals to work with. This platform allows organizations to engage peers beyond their internal ecosystem and to participate in forums, webcasts and research. Each research area includes live webcasts featuring leading experts and recognized peers on key topics. Participants can actively ask questions and share their perspectives and experiences.
The tool in Peeriosity that I best like is iPolling. If you have an idea or a problem in your office environment, you typically look for co-workers within the company to discuss it. It is the same with iPolling except that you can confer not only with your co-workers but also your peers in other companies. With iPolling you can create your own poll in just a few minutes. Peeriosity then professional reviews it and distributes it to peers who have the most interest and experience in your specific topic. Poll results include a summary chart and the underlying detailed results. I think it’s a great way to get feedback from your peers about topics you care about and engage them in direct poll discussion and comments.
Benefits of Peer Networking and Collaboration:
Here are some benefits that I see for companies participating in cross-company and cross industry collaboration:
- Organizations can construct and enrich innovative ideas by leveraging the diverse and expansive expertise of the collaborative network.
- Attain benefits of scale through effective collaboration with peers across geographies and across industries concerning a topic of interest.
- Drive continuous learning in the organization by allowing its members to participate in webcasts and online forums.
- Maximize collaborative research efficiencies and reduce consulting costs.
- Drive employee engagement and performance by optimizing flow of good ideas.
Interaction with an “extended” peer network can have a profound impact on creating a learning organization that can adapt, collaborate and innovate. I view new collaborative platforms like Peeriosity and other similar services online as an extension to collaborative channels already available to you. This is the same type of engagement you would experience when attending annual industry conventons and personally meet professionals in the same industry or practice. I personally don’t believe these types of platforms are possible replacements for traditional conventions, forums and training programs but instead, it allows you to continue the same level of meaningful interaction with your peers long after the event.
I will leave you with the following questions: Is it time for your organization to adopt social networking practices and tools? How can you build a more collaborative and innovative organization? How can you promote patterns of collaborations that will allow your organization to become more efficient, innovative and engaging?
Image courtesy of www.peeriosity.com
“Self-organization, the most recent technology-fueled transformation. It’s employing technology to let people interact as they wish, with few or no workflows, rules, or hierarchy, then harvesting the good results that emerges.” – Andrew McAfee
Recently CEMEX was selected to participate in the Forrester Groundswell Awards for innovation in social media among employees. Learn more about what CEMEX is doing to leverage social tools for collaboration and its enabling platform called Shift. Participate in the Forrester Groundswell discussion online where you can vote, comment and learn more about Shift.
CEMEX has embraced this Collaborative Revolution. It shows the commitment of the company to continue innovating for its customers. It demonstrates how it values collaboration without boundaries. CEMEX has joined the Collaboration Revolution by introducing an internal collaboration platform called Shift, designed to innovate and help make the company more efficient and agile by letting employees or groups of employees with similar objectives share opinions, thoughts, information, experience, knowledge and best practices. Since its launch more than 200 communities have been created and employees are sharing best practices across all operative units. The collaboration platform is also helping CEMEX to create new value propositions in order to maintain and improve the company’s competitive edge.
There are over a billion users of social media sites on the Internet. Between Facebook and Twitter alone there are more than to 700 million unique user accounts. Companies have stepped up to leverage these new social tools to enable self organization teams in the business with the objective of encouraging more collaboration, information sharing and innovation. One of the defining principles of social media is collaboration. Groups of people and even virtual teams with members from different geographic locations and organizational levels can work together in a project. These new collaborative tools are designed to change the way we collaborate with our extended network. It is designed to provide less structure, simple mechanics, and allows users to lead the way. This approach requires employees to communicate, to share, to interact and to generate contents and value output.
Again, you can join in the ongoing Forrester Groundswell discussion online where you can read more about Shift, comment and submit your rating.
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