Friday, June 21, 2013

Are we entering the age of superficial Enterprise 2.0 adoption?

I have been leading and driving the use of Enterprise 2.0 in a large complex bank in the past three years, and I have been watching closely how my peers are doing this in similar and different industries. Everything seems going well, the picture seems rosy. 

  1. Research from McKinsey Research Institute titled The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies suggests a US$1.3 trillion of unlocked value for business to reap. 
  2. Many large multinational companies and vendors declare success and have been sharing impressive adoption rate within a short deployment timeframe (e.g. 10 social leaders for 2013)
  3. Others are starting their pilot and plan to move in the same direction. 

Compare to 2 years ago, I see we have come out of the "age of ignorance" when business leaders do not think they need to pay attention to the use of social media technologies within the firewall. We now enter the stage where business leaders want to do something about it, but not sure how best to do it so it is purposeful and embed it into the core business processes; and make it part of the employees' digital  workplace experience. 

With all the great examples/use cases I have orchestrated and many more examples implemented by others, I wonder are we heading into the right direction to use social technologies to transform business? or are we entering the age of superficial Enterprise 2.0 adoption? 

Some examples for you to consider:
  1. Business are using the social technologies, however,  they can be using the social technologies to do exactly what they have been doing in the past (e.g. product information or marketing brochures sitting on static intranet is moved into the social intranet with like-for-like functionality and navigation design; executives communications are posted onto the social platform as "blogs" which are written in exactly the same old way; online discussions are hosted inviting employees to have their say and the "usual suspects" have a lot to say and the quiet group stay silent). Yes, social platform allows more content to being shared and become much more searchable. However, the fundamentals as how work gets done have not changed. 
  2. Business want to leverage the power of their employees' network to gain insights, intelligence from people on the ground. Social platform are introduced to allow employees to easily provide comments, feedback, ideas. However, the perception is that as a result "there is just too much noise", and "we have to find the gems from the haystack". So who decide what are the "gems"? Most likely the seniors/subject matter experts who have the power, knowledge and who maintain the status quo. With all the good intention to drive efficiency and time savings, they want to eliminate the "noise" so our employees can find exactly what they want the employees to know quickly. So how is the business going to get any new insights when the experts already know what the "gems" are and also play a role to eliminate noise? 
  3. Business are using the social platform to organically form communities around strategic initiatives, clients, projects, industries, functions etc. Many communities sprung up, many may have similar names, some have similar purposes, and they are set up as separate communities with no intention to connect. The social platform surface these hidden issues, it does not mean all communities with similar purpose must come together, but who is going to help to build bridges and facilitate the connection. How would companies break down silos?
I worry we have entered the age of superficial Enterprise 2.0 adoption. Social platforms are being used, the adoption rate is going up, but we are using the social platform in a sub-optimal way. (Think about how we use current technologies in a sub-optimal way: how many time wasting meeting do you attend each week? How many cc emails you should not sent or received? how many conferences you have been to that push powerpoint slides at you and you wonder what have you learn at the end of the day?)

I see opportunities to take Enterprise 2.0 to the next level, and this requires leadership, discipline, courage to transform business processes (ie not just embed social in the the existing business processes), rethinking of the digital workplace experience and it is going to be hard work to get there. 

If, like me, you are trying to figure out how best to make the social platform purposeful to your business, I find it useful to remind myself the focus should not only be on driving user adoption of the social platform, instead, it should be on redefining some fundamental work practices ('habits') such as: 
  1. Reset communication protocols within your company: define what is considered appropriate to voice in public, what to share by email, make it clear to welcome dissent (public or private), invite views that contradicts the status quo, and treat them with respect (even if they are not taken up at the end)
  2. Facilitate online conversation and communities: if you throw 500 people in a meeting room and ask them to talk, you can imagine the chaos, the loud people shout loudest, people talking over one another. It is no different online, to open the space for online conversation, set ground rules for participants and for the facilitators, ensure hidden voices are expressed, help each individual to make sense of others' contribution. This does not happen by chance, it has to be designed. 
  3. Embrace change as the new constant, accept best practices can be outdated quickly (in weeks, not months): coach the subject matter experts/people who have a dominant voice in the organization to step back and listen, and have an open mind, watch the trends and activities in social ecosystem, make adjustment as they discover anytime new to refine existing best practices.  Social technologies when properly deployed provide agility, not just efficiency. 
  4. Redefine business processes: coach managers not to assume the current business process is the most efficient way to run a function. These processes are designed based on existing  communication tools (namely email, phone, shared drives, intranet, collaboration sites), the business process does not need to stay the same way in a networked world. When a team/function embrace social technologies, it is also redefining their current business processes. The outcome is not going to be a more efficient process, but a different process.
Are you ready for the transformation?

1 comment:

Bonnie Cheuk said...

After reading this post, I think it important to go back to revist our communication culture in order to get it right.