Collaboration

In this last post in the series on Niall Cooks 4Cs of Enterprise 2.0 we look at ‘Collaboration’. Software platforms in this category are high in formality and high in interaction, with the key technology in here for enterprises being the wiki in my opinion (the other technology being human-based computation). The best-known deployment of a wiki is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that is created and maintained by those with a specific interest in one or more sections. This allows for rapid content creation but can also lead to inaccurate or biased information being posted. This is due to the structure Wikipedia employ as opposed to the technology under-pinning it though, as there is no single ‘gate-keeper’ of authenticity.

Niall details in his book the differences between cooperation and collaboration as they are often used in the same sense and interchangeably:

For the enterprise, wikis offer the ability to quickly create and update information stores pertinent to a long term project or objective. This may be as an online helpdesk, where users can see the solutions to issues and contribute to these solutions as they encounter them. Another common function is to create the organisational policies and procedures in a wiki format to allow quick updating as the needs of the business change or as new disruptive technologies are implemented. For those that worry about control over these documents, relax; a lot of enterprise wiki software platforms allow for change approval processes before changes are accepted.

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.

Risky Business?

No, this is not a posting about Tom Cruise in a 1980’s movie but about the perceived risks in implementing social media in the enterprise. So what are the risks that people think of when social media implementation is suggested? The main issues as I seem them can be categorised into a couple of over-arching themes, but far & away the biggest risk I hear about is staff abusing it and wasting time.

Security, Loss of (perceived) control, reputation management and productivity are the key risk areas that business owners raise as the reason why they are not embracing social media. Are they real risks, or just managers being overly conservative? I think it is a mix of both, certainly there is a general misunderstanding of what social media is and what it isn’t. I conducted a very unscientific poll of my co-workers and posed the question ‘What is social media?’. Over half said it is sites like Facebook and Twitter. A couple said it is websites that let people communicate and share news. One person did say it is Web 2.0 and it is sites that allow collaboration and communication – in fairness he has been at a Social Media for Business seminar recently.

So if the majority think social media is Facebook is it any wonder that people are adverse to implementing?

I am not going to go over all the risks in this post, The 2.0 Adoption Council have a really good presentation over on SlideShare that goes through the issues mentioned above and other issues and offers up some suggestions on ways to counter the risks.

Perhaps the way to bypass a lot of these objections is to stop referring to it as ‘social media’ with the negative connotations it brings. Maybe it is time to focus on the business value the underlying platform can bring instead.

Let me know your thoughts below.