Sunday, May 29, 2011

The 8Cs of Enterprise 2.0

While business use of social media has flourished over the past few years, there still is a hesitation on the part of many small and medium sized organizations in adopting enterprise 2.0 tools. I usually get asked about my recommendations for such firms who are interested in getting started with enterprise 2.0 but don’t know where to begin. Based on a recent conversation with a CIO of a medium sized enterprise, here are a few suggestions that I provided. While writing this blog post, I’ve tried to categorize my recommendations a little better into what I can refer to as the 8Cs of Enterprise 2.0.

1. Content:

Most people I’ve talked to already know the importance of good content, but it’s always worth repeating and emphasizing again. My own research on social media has shown high quality information to be a very strong predictor of use of these tools. Whether it is structured or unstructured content, it needs to be readily accessible, relevant to the person who needs it, and current and accurate to be of practical value. In the context of collaboration, if your employees trust the information to be relevant and useful for analysis and insights, they are much more likely to use the tools that you provide them to collaborate using these tools.

2. Context:

I’ve seen my fair share of enterprise 2.0 evasion due to a lack of context with the use of technology. Organizations need to train and encourage users to associate as much context as possible with various knowledge resources as they create and use them over time. For example, an up-to-date index of files in a document management system and discussion posts in an online forum tagged with the correct labels can help improve the use of these systems considerably. Similarly, having tools that create visibility into what their colleagues are working on can be beneficial to a workgroup’s collective functioning.

3. Connection: 

Efficient Connection tools are needed by employees to link with others across the organization and leverage the knowledge and expertise of their colleagues. Interactive employee profiles, org charts and company directories are a good starting point for this, but organizations can look at streamlining their knowledge flows by integrating these databases with other applications such as email, messaging services, and approval workflows.

4. Communication:

Suitable Communication tools should be in place to enable employees to send and receive information in a timely fashion. These tools need to go beyond enabling simple consumption of content and allow individuals to create their own content and personalize their preferences for receiving updates from various sources that are relevant to their jobs. In addition to email and messaging applications, tools such as blogs, microblogs, newsfeeds and notification spaces provide a useful starting point for communication functions.

5. Collaboration:

Collaboration tools are required to enhance organizational productivity by providing platforms that enable constructive knowledge sharing and information synthesis. Organizations have experienced success with employing tools such as wikis and community discussion forums, and many have also explored the crowdsourcing applications such as ideation platforms, polling, and surveys that facilitate convergence on strategies and actions (more on this next).

6. Convergence:

In my mind, a major reason why organizations struggle with the use of social media tools is that these tools are primarily used as a medium for divergent conversations around issues and concerns, and settling on specific decisions is often tricky. What needs to be understood is that collaboration is more than discussion. It’s also about converging on actionable conclusions to enhance the decision-making capability of the organization as a whole. Toward this, tools and applications such as polling, surveys and ideation platforms can support and facilitate the collective intelligence of the participants, consequently ensuring greater value from collaborative online interactions.

7. Control:

In addition to building the digital toolbox for social media, organizations also need to develop a governance model that supports their enterprise 2.0 strategy. In the initial stage, organizations can set out guiding principles for the use of social media by communicating their technology use objectives to employees. This may be followed by more formal policy training on issues such as the types of information that may or may not be shared through social media, and policies on the management of  personal data and the organizational brand.

A caveat about controlling the use of social media is to ensure that you don’t go overboard. Certainly, some oversight and policies are needed, but excess regulation can also discourage users from open discussions. The key is to foster organic growth of social media use in the organization while trying to curb the adverse effects associated with the unseemly use of these tools.

8. Culture:

Perhaps, the most difficult issue to address in the effective institutionalization of enterprise 2.0 is the that of fostering an open culture and a collective mindset that is conducive to collaboration. By leading by example, higher management needs to set the tone for experimenting with new tools and ideas and welcoming innovative attitudes. By encouraging information sharing and rewarding group efforts rather than individual problem solving capabilities, organizations can help overcome problems associated with knowledge hoarding. A culture of trust where employees feels secure and encouraged to propose new ideas and take collective ownership of successes and failures can provide an effective scaffold for the adoption of enterprise 2.0.

There probably are a couple of more recommendations that can be listed here... I can probably get up to 10 Cs if I think hard enough... but these were the top of mind during my talk. Please feel free to share your opinions and comments.