Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Breaking through Social Media Barriers: What and How?

I am speaking at this year's online information conference and really look forward to reconnecting with colleagues and friends. I feel bad that I have not update my blog for a while and I have a good excuse. It has been a very busy few months since I change job, and I have been going through a steep learning curve and I have had some great experience so far. The beauty of changing job from a learning perspective is that it throws me into a totally different and unfamiliar context, and makes me challenge my own thinking and practice. Luckily I have colleagues who are patience and tolerance of me asking silly questions and are willing to bring me up to speed and help me to understand the business.

I have to say I am amazed and delighted that businesses increasingly see the opportunity to use social media to help employees work smarter, to efficiently share knowledge to meet customers' needs, to spot opportunities and threats to shape business strategy and ultimately to drive top line and bottom line business results. Social media implementation increasingly becomes main stream projects.

On Nov 30, I plan to talk about "what" the barriers in introducing social media in the business context are and "how" we can overcome them. I will refer to some real world examples which challenge these grand statements:
1. We must align with the business strategy
2. It's about cultural change, it's about people, it's not about technology
3. Build it and they won't come, so we must drive user adoption and get to the tipping point

And I will conclude with two fatal barriers to implement social media in the business context, and stress the importance of Leadership 2.0 and "Knowledging" if we want to take social media implementation to the next level.

If you happen to read this blog post before the event, do let me know if there is anything specific you like me to cover by leaving me a comment or drop me a email.

If you have come to my session, I welcome the opportunity to connect with you and further the dialogue on this blog. Tell me how my presentation connects to your work? How did it help? Which part of the presentation did you struggle with or disagree with? I hope to learn from you.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Using LANES principles to introduce Web2.0 tools in the workplace

McAfee introduced the term Enterprise 2.0 as shorthand for the use of Web2.0 by businesses and especially on organizations’ intranets and extranets in pursuit of their goals.

For me, since 2006, I have been introducing Web2.0 in the workplace using the LANES principles (See reference below). A colleague recently asked me what LANES stand for, so I share with you all here:
· Lateral Communication, i.e. supports top-down, bottom-up and lateral communications
· All staff can participate if they want to, i.e. no specialized IT skills are required
· Networking, i.e. building of business and social networking across teams and geographies
· Expertise visualization, i.e. visualize the expertise that staff do not know exist
· Selfishness yet helping others, i.e. focusing on satisfying the ‘selfish’ immediate needs of a user and the by-product by highlighting the collective intelligence which creates more value to all staff

I think they are useful principles and reminders to guide the design of Enterprise2.0. What I think is implicit and should be made much more explicit is "Emergence" - i.e. acknowledging that the designer does not know what outcomes will emerge as a result of opening up the interaction/communication space. This introduces uncertainty (which can be scarry) and at the same time allows the designer, the management team and all employees to "see trends/topics we don't normally see or pay attention to". Do you agree with me? I wonder what you think.

In case you are interested, the LANES principles have been published in this book chapter:
Cheuk, W.Y.B & Dervin, B. (2009). Leadership 2.0 and Web2.0 at ERM: A Journey from Knowledge Management to "Knowledging". In Chu S., Ritter W. and Hawamdeh S. (Ed.), Series on Innovation and Knowledge Management - Vol. 8 Managing Knowledge for Global and Collaborative Innovations (pp. 233-254), Singapore: World Scientific.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Phone, E-mail, Enterprise2.0 Tools

I heard so many managers or even staff asking "Why should we let our staff waste time using social computing tools (or Enterprise2.0 tools)?" I wonder how would I respond to this question. Here is my attempt and I like to hear your thoughts. (Note: My inspiration comes from David Snowden's keynote at KMUK2010 and Euan Semple's blog.)

Social computing/Enterprise2.0 tools allow staff to be connected in new ways which are not possible in the past. Think about it, before we have phones, we need messager boys (or pigeons) passing on messages; before we have e-mails, we send paper memos around the office and use "real" carbon paper to produce duplicate copies; before we have social computing tools, we find out who's doing what out there through grapevine (if you do not work directly on that project/product) or by subscribing to multiple email alerts and suffering from email overload.

The new tools (phones, emails, social computing tools) - at different historical period - open up new ways of communication which are not possible in the past. They are just tools. (You can always waste time using all kind of tools.) How people could use these tools to increase work effectiveness and productivity is perhaps a more meaningful question.

I am sure that when phones and emails were introduced to the work setting, these questions have been asked:

1. How is my staff going to use the phone at work? Will they waste time talking to friends and doing personal stuff? Will they use the phone inappropriately?

2. How is my staff going to use E-mail at work? Will they send email only to the appropriate colleagues/clients? Will they use work email for personal purpose?

And not surprisingly, we are asking these questions today:

3. How is my staff going to use social computing tools at work? Will they waste their time chatting online/microblogging? Will they forget about work? Will they use them inappropriately?

They may or they may not waste their time. It depends on how work gets done current in your organization, and how work could be done in new/different ways as you embrace these tools.

Perhaps when someone asks "Why should we let our staff waste time using social computing tools (or Enterprise2.0 tools)?" I should say "They are just new tools - like phone or email when they first get introduced" and then ask "Do you see opportunities to create more value, move ahead of competitors and serve your customers better by allowing staff to more easily discover/scan what other talented colleagues in my company are doing, and allow new connections to emerge?"

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Farewell to my company, Environmental Resources Management (ERM)

After 4 years with ERM, I have decided it is time to move on at the end of June. It has been a really tough decision because ERM is serious about knowledge sharing and collaboration. I have got the CEO and senior executives buy-in and trust. I have built up a great team who are passionate and committed to making knowledge sharing real and delivering tangible benefits everyday. The company has built up a network of 200+ champions around the world. For me, it is like a dream come true. What else can I ask for? I feel like I have completed another PhD with ERM.

Other than updating my blog reader on my move, there is one point I like to make.

I am aware that some companies conduct exit interviews to "transfer knowledge" from the leaver to the successor, I am pleased to know within ERM, I do not need to "transfer knowledge" at the last minute just before I move on. The knowledge that I have brought to ERM is utilized every moment during the time I am with ERM - i.e. the company has given me flexibility and room to try out new ideas, develop my team and introduce new ways of working. Not only I have brought my knowledge to ERM, I have co-created new ideas with ERM. ERM has enriched my experience and horizon. The knowledge I have brought to (and enriched) by ERM is now embedded in every team member's workplan, the established processes in how the team operate, how the knowledge sharing platform is being managed, the team's culture in listening to and be responsive to the users' needs etc.

Personally, I like to utilize the knowledge and experience I have gained to take the Knowledge Sharing/Knowledge Management field - which is going to be even more multi-disciplinary in nature - to another level in this highly connected Web2.0 and Enterprise2.0 world.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Covergence of knowledge management, internal & external communications, staff engagement, marketing function?

It is definitely a very exciting time to see the potential for the knowledge management function blending seamlessly with internal communications, external communications and marketing to create new business value. I know I am scratching the surface here. I know this post can be controversial, and I would love to hear your views on this.

Knowledge management field traditionally starts with this question "what is the most critical knowledge that must flow internally (amongst employees) in order to best serve our clients and to win more contracts?" Different businesses may have different answers, e.g. professional service firms tend to say "proposals, project experience, consultant's skills and CVs, methodologies, tools, and propriety software". Knowledge base and intranets have been built to allow these types of knowledge to flow across silos. On a non-technical side, approaches such as after action review, communities of practices, practitioner's newsletter come into the picture to get people to learn from one another. These approaches can well be applied to share knowledge with clients.

Some knowledge management professionals (like me) start to digress and also ask this question "what is the most critical knowledge that must be shared externally with our clients to build our brand?". This touches on the PR and external communications field. Typical critical knowledge include "information about a company, media tool kit, annual reports, company news, CSR report, case studies, client compliments, good stories about a company etc." To facilitate the knowledge flow with clients, these type of knowledge get published in printed brochures, e-newsletters and on company website. This is the point where external communicators and KM professionals share similiar interest in the use of communication tools/channels to communicate with their target audience. (Note: With the rise of social media tools, there is recognition from both fields that sharing this kind of one-way corporate-speak polished knowledge is not good enough to impress clients. Both KM and communications fields are learning to embed social media to transform their service offerings to allow two-way dialogue.)

And to push it even further, one can ask "what is the most critical knowledge that must be shared amongst our clients in order to deliver most value for them?" This touches on the new marketing and external communications approach which look at adding value to clients by creating customer-networking platform (I mean, both face-to-face event and online networking forum). Within the KM field, we have been building communities of practice (COP) for ages, and the COP toolkit can be well applied to faciliate client communities. I think Richard McDermont will back me up on this point.

From the marketing professionals' perspective, one of their required critical knowledge is "knowledge about customers and markets". This is typically translated into market research activities, including conducting interviews and focus groups with clients to gain insights from them. Increasingly, and defintiely in the KM field, there is recognition that the employees who deal with clients day-in day-out have most clients/market insights and should be tapped into. Some marketing professionals agree. (Note: With the rise of social media tools, and the abundance of information on the internet, there is also recognition that traditional market research needs to be supplemented by insights gain from online conversation and near real-time information published on the internet).

From the internal communicators’, HR or staff engagement professionals' perspective, critical knowledge is defined as "a set of core values or messages about company direction and leaders' vision" which should be shared with all staff. This group tend to be interested in using what they call internal communications channels (e.g. intranet, newsletter, town hall meetings, flyers, souvenirs) to distribute the core messages and to interact (or what they call “engage”) with staff so the core messages sink in. If you read between the lines, you will notice that internal communicators and KM professionals share similar interest in the choice of channels and communication approaches.

I think there is a lot the knowledge management field has to offer by working closely with (or blend in seamlessly) with the internal communications, staff engagement, external communications and marketing functions, as we share common channels, communication approaches to get our work done. We all struggle to move from one-way communciation to two-way communciation. We all want to break down silos. We all face similiar challenges to figure out ways to fully exploit social media tools to facilitate meaaningful dialogue and to create new business value.

So this leaves us with a question: what does this knowledge management function really look like? Will it take on internal and external communications and/or the marketing function? Will it be absorbed into internal and external communications and/or the marketing function?

Perhaps these are meaningless questions. To me, a KM function which adds business value look something like this:

  1. Able to spot what critical knowledge must be shared in order to add value to the business (and able to get senior executive buy-in to do something about it).
  2. Able to partner with the business functions - whether it is internal or external communications, marketing, HR (which generate the knowledge or need the critical knowledge to function) and do something to make the critical knowledge flow.
  3. Able to offer innovative approaches, processes, two-way communication practices, online tools, channels, systems to facilitate the flow of critical knowledge (both face-to-face and online). This is where the KM landscape changes quickly over time as we move from 1st generation, 2nd generation to 3rd generation KM from data mining, database design, information management, story telling, facilitation techniques, after action review, communities of practice, intranet design to Web2.0, Enterprise 2.0, social media.
  4. Able to switch from partnering with one business function to another based on evolving business needs (i.e. don’t get complacent and too comfortable, keep moving with the changing business needs). Therefore, you may swiftly move from partnering with marketing, to strategy development team, to HR, to internal communications/staff engagement team over a short period of time. (Isn’t this exciting?)

Now, you should see why it is so difficult to scope out the knowledge management function for a company before you get to know the company and understand what knowledge is critical to deliver its business goals. This is why every knowledge management function is unique to each company.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The convergence of Knowledge Management and Internal Communications?

I presented at a Melcrum event titled "Fresh ideas for internal communicators" yesterday and shared with over 150 internal communicators how I have used a range of Web2.0 tools to engage with staff and use their collective insights to co-create ERM's new strategy. I talked about my experience acting as a DJ and hosted a CEO Jam for my company and resulted in lots of questions (and make many new friends). I stayed till the end of the day, and listened to a range of presentations. I have to say some presentations are much more cutting edge than the others.

Coming from the knowledge management field, what strike me is that internal communications and knowledge management professsionals have very common interests. We may use different jargon, but we talk about the same thing. For example, both fields talk about using story telling approach to transfer knowledge (or internal communications people will say "to communicate key messages"); both fields talk about how to build successful intranets to break down silos.

To me, the line between knowledge management/sharing and internal communications seems to be very blur. The reason being effective knowledge sharing has to be built on good two-way communication practices. Knowledge Sharing is good two-way communication in action (or what I call "Knowledging").

If you are interested to dig deeper, check out this paper:

Overall, it was great to know more vendors in the space, and met up with some ex-colleagues and old friends, and delighted to meet new ones who are interested in both communications and knowledge sharing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Andrew McFee's new book on Enterprise 2.0

I finish this new book written by Andrew McFee within 2 days Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges. It represents the culmination of research he has been doing since the spring of 2006, when he first coined the phrase “Enterprise 2.0″ in a Sloan Management Review article and started a blog. The book is about the business use and business impact of emergent social software platforms (ESSPs). These technologies, which include wikis, blogs, prediction markets, Facebook, and Twitter, have given rise to Web 2.0. Enterprise 2.0 relates how ESSPs are now being used within and between organizations, and are delivering novel capabilities and powerful results.

This is an easy book to read. I am familiar with E2.0 and read review that "there is nothing new for people who are in this area". I still find it enjoyable because it has given me new ideas how to introduce E2.0 to senior managers. As you know, if you start talking E2.0 or Web2.0 to senior executives, many of them find it a 'foreign language' and therefore I never use this phrase internally within my company, but I practice it by introducing it as new ways/tools to help our leaders address specific business needs.

I love the four case studies in this book, but I feel I want to read even more case studies. I especially like the chapter talking about the challenges for any enterprise to adopt E2.0 and they are related to leadership - which reinforce my own experience "to make Web2.0 work, we need Leadership 2.0".

He also talks about how difficult it is to get users to generate content regularly within an enterprise, because on the internet, there are many many more users, and even so, the active participants is a very small proportion of all the internet citizens.

My experience is telling me that aligning with business process/work process is key in terms of driving user-content contribution. Within an enterprise, I try to align the use of E2.0 with specific programs/campaigns which are time-bound. The leaders have to set a clear direction what kind of insight they want the staff to share, how they are going to use them, recognize contributors (not necessarily in monetary terms), and make the contribution part of the business process to deliver the program.

In other cases when voluntary contribution is called for, I noted that staff are busy, with a workforce of 3300 people, only 50 – 100 staff will actively contribute on a voluntary basis (and this rate has gone up from 10 – 30 people 3 years ago). This book has sparkled me to think of a couple of new ideas how to turn this situation around. I am going to experiment it. I do think more work needs to be done to allow emergence to happen.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Applying KM approaches and Intranet2.0 to develop a new strategy

In a recent cover story titled "Innovation Co-creation", I share how Environmental Resources Management (ERM) has been applying KM techniques and tools to develop its future strategy development. Rather than steaming ahead with decisions that would have an impact on its staff some time down the line, ERM leaders have actively encouraged them to become involved in the process. The knowledge management aspect here has been the provision of a multitude of communication channels within which staff can share their ideas and insights – and speak directly to senior level management. And more importantly, that information is then considered during the strategic decision-making phase. I talk about the entire process in detail in the cover feature on page 14 of Inside Knowledge Magazine Vol 13 Issue 5. If you are subscriber of the magazine, go to:

Get in touch if you like to discuss ideas. I love to hear your comments and experience, too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Questions regarding Minerva permission setting and site architecture

A colleague wrote to me today and asked for ideas to set permission for Minerva (ERM's knowledge sharing platform run on Sharepoint 2007). One of the things she was interested in learning more about was how the hierarchies are structured. I like to share the questions and my answers here.

The two questions are:

1. How do you assign user permissions, do you categorise users into groups and then assign blanket permissions and then individual permissions to those users who have more privileges?

My response is that you can do both. You can assign users to Active Directory group and then apply group blanket permission. Or you can allow users to join each site as individual member. You can give additional people additional rights to do more with the site. You have to think through the governance process and what you really need to make a decision on permission. In ERM, we started using Active Directory (AD) Group, but later move on to managing members individually, because our site managers want to have the flexibility to add/delete members themselves. Using AD will need to involve IT team and reduce the flexibility.

The core team defines the right a site manager has. Then, within that boundary, each site permission is managed by the site manager. We try to avoid giving out multiple levels of permission, because this will make the management of permission too complex – and you will soon forget who gets what right quickly. In the spirit of knowledge sharing, in most cases, we give 2 levels of permission, higher permission for site manager and another permission level for all site members.

2. Are the hierarchical structures of Minerva driven from a source system? Have you lifted these structures from this source and applied the directly to SharePoint?

My response is that we do not do this by default within ERM, especially how you structure your business does not necessarily mean how your users/employees look for information. The overall information architecture of the intranet is driven by a combination of 3 factors: current business priorities; user needs (based on indepth user studies) and business hierarchical structure. The art is to find a balance with the users' information needs in mind.