Someday we’ll find it, the corporate connection… the workers, the dreamers and me.

In this post we will continue looking at Niall Cook’s 4Cs. Last time we looked at ‘Communication’ and how it can be used in an Enterprise sense. Today we will look Connection. It has the same level of interaction but in a more formal setting. Here we see functions such as tagging, mash-ups and social networking. So what do all these things actually mean to a business owner or professional? What value can these consumer ‘toys’ possibly add?

Lets start with tagging. We already see this in Knowledge Management (KM) systems and it has been around for a while. The internal owner of the system will create a taxonomy that is meaningful and tag these keywords onto the records to aid in the retrieval of documents, files or other items. What we quite often see though is a set of words that hold meaning for the creator and maybe a handful of other people only. The average employee doesn’t necessarily relate to the chosen tags. When we post items to say del.icio.us or flickr in our private lives we get to choose the tags that mean something to us right so why not in our work lives too. We are now starting to see this trend emerge in social KM systems. Known as folksonomy, its sits in tandem with the traditional ‘top-down’ taxonomy and allows users to tag records with words that mean something to them. I use SharePoint Server 2007  in my professional life and one of the big drivers for me to upgrade to SharePoint 2010 is the ability for users to create their own tags. The desire to search and locate knowledge easily based on what they relate to the item as has been a loud and constant message from the staff – I say lets move them from search and allow discovery with folksonomy tagging.

So what about mash-ups. Generally speaking a mash-up is as the name suggests a coming together of disparate or loosely-linked data sources into one that has added value. For example if I am a national sales manager I can access my sales volume from my CRM system in a number of different ways. I can also access the Statistics NZ website and get population densities across cities or regions. Both sources of information are valuable in their own right, but if I mash them together and visually show on a map the population AND the sales I can immediately see areas of opportunities or areas of concern. John Crupi over at TechNewsWorld sums up Enterprise mashups really well

Like anything that wants to have the moniker of “Web 2.0,” mashups are about the user and by the user. Mashups allow users to self-connect the proverbial data dots to create information that answers their questions.

Finally Social networking. The two words that are likely to send CEOs running to secure the firewall. When you mention Social Media, this is what people think of. Yes, this is the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. So what place do they have in an organisation? The same place they have outside it. Its all about connecting people with people and giving them a place to share ideas. Companies such as Social Text, Yammer and even Microsoft with SharePoint 2010 have created these ‘Facebook-like’ applications that sit inside an organisation, can be secured by IT policy and managed like any other Enterprise-grade platform. With them people can micro-blog, share photos, status updates and connect with like-minded colleagues.

 I  am a strong advocate for these platforms as I believe it gives a safe entrance into using the same type of technology externally for extremely risk-adverse businesses. Love to hear your thoughts on how you see them working inside an organisation, or why you think they have no place being deployed.

An interview with @telecomnz

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Richard Irvine, Online Community Communication Manager at Telecom about how they engage with consumers on Social Media. Telecom have a strong presence on Twitter and Facebook and from personal experience respond rapidly to queries and tweets involving them, as well as promoting new products and services. I was interested to understand a bit more about how they manage the different networks.

How long has the social media team been operational for?

The team has existed since 2008, and my role has been in place for just over a year.

What is the make-up of the team?
We have people from all across Telecom participating in our Online Response Team, i.e. Retail, Gen-i, Technology and Shared Services, and corporate. The wide, cross functional spread of our personnel is one of the team’s strengths.

The team currently numbers 11, with five or six currently actively participating, and the others playing more of an advisory role.

ORT members are chosen because they are experienced online and comfortable operating in that sphere. They know the protocol, acronyms and expectations of behaviour etc, both as individuals and are aware of the risks and responsibilities of speaking for Telecom online.

Do you have dedicated resource or do they all have ‘day-jobs’ too?

The sole dedicated resource is me, I’m Telecom’s Online Community Communication Manager, and I sit in the corporate media relations team. The other ORT members all have ‘day jobs’ too, and this balance is working for us at the moment.

Do you have people that just monitor Twitter and people just working FB or do they sit across all platforms?

Twitter, Facebook and Geekzone are the big three for us, and the team tend to keep an eye on one or two of those platforms each, depending on their preference, but there’s no formal allocation of platform monitoring duties.

What tools do you use to aid in the monitoring? I am aware of sites such as Social Mention, Ice Rocket, Trackur and Radian6 – do you use any of these?

We use CoTweet to manage Twitter, and Facebook and Geekzone themselves to monitor those sites, if you get me. Google alerts and RSS helps us keep across anything further. I’m not prepared to invest in anything that claims to measure sentiment, I don’t think they work just yet without human intervention. If I need to track sentiment on any campaign or issue, I do it myself.

Do you have ROI goals or targets to meet, and if so how do you define them?

No formal ROI targets have been set yet. We feel our level of investment has paid off so far in reputation and issue management terms, everything else is a bonus. That’s not to say this won’t change in the future.

For me there are a couple of interesting points out of this interview.

Firstly they have a cross-functional team working part-time on the ORT. This is a really good idea as it allows internal experts to answer questions that are in their sphere of knowledge directly, meaning faster responses back to the customer.

They focus on the key platforms that their customers use and then let technology alert them to anything else that may be happening. A focussed approach again allows prompt attention to queries. And they are where their customers are!

No ROI targets. In my mind is the biggy. It would appear as though they have succeeded in getting their heads around the fact it isn’t just about revenue, that brand reputation and customer satisfaction is just as, if not more so, important.

Enterprise 2.0 – Beam me up Scotty!

So in the last few posts we have looked at (primarily) externally facing social media tools that businesses can use. Now I would like to explore internal social media platforms, that is software that is behind the corporate firewall. As we journey through these internal applications I will relate them back to the 4Cs that Niall Cook describes in his book ‘Enterprise 2.0‘ – Communication, Connection, Cooperation and Collaboration. Before we begin though, I came across an interesting pyramid description of  social media and Enterprise 2.0 in a book called ‘The Executives Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy“:

Social networking: Humans sharing knowledge with other humans outside of their immediate pair-bond families

Social computing: Systems of hardware, software and firmware that enable social networking in a digital environment

Social media: Platforms specifically designed to make social computing available to anyone with a device capable of connecting to the Internet

Enterprise 2.0: A term coined by Andrew McAfee, a professor at the Harvard School of Business, to describe the impact of social networking, social computing, and social media on business organisations

For me this really highlights how the underlying process of humans communicating is still there in the digital age, only now it is done over the medium of the Internet.

In this post we will focus on the category of ‘Communication’. On Cooks technology framework communication software sits in the lower left quadrant – low interaction and low formality. Platforms such as social presence, blogs, Instant Messaging (IM), virtual worlds and discussion forums all sit here. So what value can these different software platforms add? There are as many answers as there are organisations. For some social presence or the ability to see if your colleagues are free or busy will add no value at all, for others it will be a game-changer. Same applies to blogs, to IM, to forums and virtual worlds.

In a previous post I commented on Virtual Worlds and their application in business so I will not re-hash it here. In my opinion, the key platforms are blogs and discussion forums for the majority of organisations and can offer the biggest bang for your buck. Social presence and IM is useful if you operate in a business with multiple offices and/or across time zones as it can be a real time-saver (who hasn’t played phone tag with a colleague!)

Lets start by looking at blogs.  Simply put, a blog is, well this. It is an online log of thoughts, ideas and suggestions. You are reading my blog because (hopefully) you are interested in what I have to say and have the opportunity to comment on it. In an enterprise setting it means I can communicate with those that are interested, and those that aren’t interested are not spammed. It also allows two-way conversations to take place based on the message/s being sent. To give a real-world example the company I work for has a fortnightly internal email newsletter that is sent to around 900 staff. It is created by one person (the Communications Manager) and has brief articles about things that have been happening in the business. Starting last week there is now a CEO’s report section where he gives a top-level view of what he has been up to over the past couple of weeks. This is all good stuff but I wonder if more value can be added by allowing two-way communication about some of the points he raised. If it were a blog posting instead of a static email message then staff would at least have an opportunity to contribute directly and interact on another level with both him and other colleagues.

Forums are similar to blogs insofar as they actively promote users to comment on and discuss the topic at hand. It creates a virtual water cooler if you like, a place where people can do what people to best, communicate. The key difference being on a forum a single point of view or discussion topic is raised by anyone and the ensuing dialog is generally about that alone. This from Wikipedia A discussion forum is hierarchical or tree-like in structure: a forum can contain a number of subforums, each of which may have several topics. Within a forum’s topic, each new discussion started is called a thread, and can be replied to by as many people as so wish.

So which is the better tool in the Enterprise? The answer is which ever suits your needs best. Probably both maybe? Has anyone had first-hand experience in a business environment with either or both and would like to share those experiences? Drop me a note below, love to hear your experiences. And as always, if you like this post, please take a quick moment to share it with your network.