Guest editorial by Andrea BakerLet's face it, it's probably true. Your business is deeply married to email. You never read a blog until the past year (at least with some regularity). And you probably don't know what a discussion page is on a wiki.
Don't feel bad. You are in the majority.
You are hearing buzz words like "Web 2.0" and "Facebook group" and "Twitter page" from social media or new media "experts". This leads you to believe you must be on or using these websites in order to be "with it" and be viable in your business. The common misconception is that you must embrace social media websites or Web 2.0 solutions out on the open internet to run a successful business or be "collaborative and transparent" to your stakeholders. This simply is just not the case. As the decision maker in your business, you need to take control of the internal aspects in order to have a successful external presence.
If you are a normal business, you live in the world that some would call "1.0". Note, that's not a bad thing per se. Actually, much of business requires the kind of collaboration that you have established over the past 15-20 years. Along comes "Web 2.0". If you are like most businesses, you have been ignoring it for the past few years. But it is harder to ignore these days. I bet you never thought of yourself as a "1.0" company and maybe you are upset if someone calls you old fashioned. After all, you probably spend(t) a lot of money on technology, and it would be upsetting if you found out that the technology is considered "old-fashioned".
I would tell you to not be upset with this assumption. You are now willing to learn about this buzzword that you have been overhearing at conferences and other social events. You are coming in at the right time where early adopters have tested the waters for you and its time to test the waters yourself, starting at the shallow end. The shallow end is your Intranet and you are ready to hop in. You are now ready for Enterprise 2.0.
The focus of Enterprise 2.0 for business is not outward facing, it is mostly internal. I stress internal. I argue that in order to be successful on the outside of your business in the social media realm, you must practice what you preach internally. You don't just pick up your tennis racket and win Wimbledon, you have to practice for long hours with coaching along the way before you can step out on to center court. So you must apply the same behaviors to your Enterprise 2.0 for business approach.
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By now your company or organization should already be well on its way adopting technologies and new behaviors that enhance internal communication, collaboration, and productivity. If you are not, its OK. I am giving you the tools here to take that step. You are now aware you should be thinking about your workforce and the future of your business. Harvard Business School Professor Andrew McAfee’s re-visualization of Chris Argyris' work on moving from a Model 1 organization (where things are locked down and ordered), to a Model 2 (where an environment is conducive to collaboration) is a great example of where you should be looking. This transition to the Model 2 type of organization is what many businesses are still trying to achieve. No doubt your business is still a Model 1, but it wants so badly to be Model 2.
Your company or organization’s employees should embrace the Model 2 environment because the tools are social in nature; and as your business community adopts these tools, the old ways of doing business will be replaced with more efficient behaviors. Chain emails sent hours earlier in the day are replied to all, and most of the time not salient to an individual, can be moved away from email and into a wiki or blog platform. Letting those who it is applicable, subscribe to the feed as desired.
This allows for one hand should know what the other is doing without having to clutter your inbox with noise. For example, if you are a large business and you were putting out a press release about a major development, the information should be vetted through your outreach staff and come from official feeds pulled from internal sources. This information should not be released from just anyone in the company or — *gasp* — someone not in the company at all. You need to be in control of the information that is out there about your business.
When adopting internal collaboration and productivity tools you must include your Public Affairs, Public Relations, or content management team; essentially your outreach office. If your outreach office is in the know about the work that is being done at all levels and by whom, it is more apparent what can be released, and in a timely manner. This gets the story out to the market with more accuracy and currency. Your outreach office should be the ones managing your public brand on these social networking sites. This does not replace the current content management process that is published to your external sites; this is an enhanced supplemental process. Bottom line: take control of your brand before someone else does it for you.
You would also be wise about putting up a blog on your public website before you have an understanding how to manage blogs and the comments they receive. You need to be prepared to deal with trolls, frequently asked questions, and spam. Not to mention, you should have a strategy formed to respond to legitimate comments or requests for more information. If you do not have a plan in place for this, then I suggest you pause a moment before you hit publish. I would encourage you to foster and internal environment for blogging on your intranet. Have your outreach team set up their own team blog and establish an open-door policy for questions. In practice, this team blog could pre-release any planned press releases for company comment.
With a platform to converse, your employees will ask and answer questions of one another. And you will start to see trends. This is where your organization must embrace the Enterprise 2.0 Life-Cycle internally to become a more collaborative workforce. The life-cycle is Evaluation, Implementation, User Management, Training, Evolution, and finally revolution.
Your workforce will help you evaluate what the needs are in order to grow from a pilot collaboration platform into the enterprise implementation of more tools to compliment their behaviors. As you bring on more tools you will be able to customize them to the needs of how your employees are using them. Overtime you will train your employees on how to replace their old behaviors with new ones using new collaborative tools. Not everyone in your organization knows how to deal with technology as you do, so you must prepare to work with your workforce to evolve them in to the new way.
Eventually this all becomes more natural and just how the way things are done. Leading to the revolution. This is not a new concept just a new way of interpreting what we all have seen happen. We have transitioned from typewriters to word processors to computers and from rotary desk phone to multi-line phones to VOIP, cellular, and smart phones. With the introduction of each, we had to learn a new behavior in how we used them to conduct business.
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Successful case studies for Enterprise 2.0 solutions for business are increasing (see here, here, here for some examples). It's not about doing something new for the sake of new, but it's about considering open source and non-traditional solutions as cost effective productivity and collaboration tools. It is also about creating new behaviors in the way we communicate with each other in the way we do business. And its also about not letting time or location be the driving force behind the work getting done.
At the same time, employees’ “water cooler” discussions are captured so that the time spent on the conversation, along with content is not only captured, but can be accounted. This infusion of new business practices increases the transparency of work accomplished. This is a breath of fresh air to the workforce as the technology and business practice catches up to the social nature of humans.
A Model 2 organization can also leverage working independent of their physical location, freeing up the workforce from having to rely on a single location in order to do their job. Enterprise 2.0 business practices allow for web-based collaboration rather than conduct business attached to computer drives or shared network folders. An employee could sign off for the day early to pick their kids up from school for an early dismissal, but know when they got home, they could continue their work, if need be, from their home computer. This is the beginning of freedom from the cubicle farm.
The ability to work flexible hours, makes the employee happier and more effective, working at their peak productive times. The employee might not feel like it is work, but rather something they actually love to do.I shuold note, this doesn't mean that your employee is going to start working 12-hour days. But if you foster the environment to work at more convenient locations and times, you will see more productivity from your employees.
As you move more into the Model 2 business culture you enable your workforce to adopt new ways of communicating such as podcasting conversations, instead of the long-winded emails. You might even find your colleagues using other internal social media tools as a productivity tool in an enterprise capacity like letting your team know you are late for a meeting using yammer or posting the meeting minutes you missed while on vacation on the team blog.
It is finally after you have put all these pieces into motion that you have reached "2.0" status. And you can start thinking about where you need to be in the social media space on the Internet. You can play out in the open courts feeling accomplished you have prepared to play a strong match. set. 2.0.
Andrea Baker is the Director of Enterprise 2.0 for Navstar, Inc, under which she is a consultant for the Federal Government and private industry. Andrea helps her customers utilize social media tools as Enterprise 2.0 solutions effectively. She specializes in the user community advocacy and an application developer liaison, through tools like wikis, blogs, and other social web tools. You can read her other writings on Enterprise 2.0 and the user-generated web on her personal website.