I’ve been engaged in Social Business initiatives way, way before the term was even first coined. A rather sweeping statement I know, but one in hindsight I can certainly justify right from my time in the mid 1980’s with IBM’s Software Group focusing upon, what was then termed “Office Automation”.
With all the talk these days (and tomes of management literature) around the need to drive employee engagement using gamification techniques, “yammering” away at each other via micro-blogging and status updates, and self promotion and reputation building through internal bogs and wiki’s, the benefits of social business practices and the rapid and sustained delivery of tangible ROI gets down to one thing.
Here are the undisputed facts of today’s corporate environment.
28% - The percentage of time spent in a working week managing email communications
19% - The percentage of time individual spend looking for the information required to do their job
29% - The percentage of emails that are used to distribute files to others
That’s a lot of time spent communicating (ineffectively), seeking information (also ineffectively) and a lot of information that becomes immediately redundant once it is distributed via email (as it does not reflect any of the latest changes or enhancements made since being distributed)
What are the Basic’s in Building a Social Business
Step 1 – Modify the set-up for your corporate email platform so that people can no longer send attachments to others within the company. An immediate drop (to zero) of the number of files distributed as redundant information from day 1.
So why don’t corporations do this?
Easy, because they do not have easy, user acceptable alternatives for sharing information via files other than emails. So in conjunction with Step 1, our next component
Step 2 – Implement a central file storage facility. Simple enough in theory, but we have had centralised folders for storage of files for years and years (whether displayed as a tree structure on a server or via an ‘intranet”) and it hasn't proved effective.
So what’s missing?
To effectively replace the way people use email inappropriately as a collaboration system, a centralized file storage capability also needs to provide;
An easy to navigate, dare I say, intuitive UI.
An even more intuitive way of working, such as ‘dragging and dropping” files into it, or being able to post and immediately share access (and automatically notify people - via email as a notification tool) to the centralised storage facility from where they are created – (Microsoft Office, or Open Source alternatives)
Now here is the ‘winning’ capability. The ability to collaborate “upon” the knowledge record it self. Now by that I don’t mean the ability to edit, add comments and feedback within the file. That has been around for years. What I mean is the ability to view the content’s, then add comments and feedback on a "cover page" that provides everything relevant to the file, such as;
What version it is
Who created it
Key words (tags)
All comments and feedback received
Who has downloaded, who has collaborated on it, who found it useful
And if you consider what the impact of these knowledge records and collaborative feedback will have in the short term, consider the impact of having this information available on historical records as well, and in having all content indexed and searchable – Net effect, we have a collaboration platform that will then evolve (without effort in fact) into the basis of a Knowledge Management environment that we all spent to much time in the 1990’s seeking.
Do these capabilities have the ability to make a significant positive impact to productivity? – Yes!
Do you need constant yammering distracting you via microblogs, communities of practice, wiki’s, blogs, personal profiles yada, yada, yada? – Not yet!
Is it easy to implement, easy to use, simple to understand & readily accepted? – Definitely!
Do you need huge project teams, the need for complex, cultural specific change programs and expensive consultancies?– No!
Remember– if you can stop a dog from licking a sore leg by putting a bucket on it’s head, you can effectively move people beyond the non-productive use of email through similar processes. First stop the behaviour. Then provide access to the way you want things to happen.
Block attachments in internal mails,
Provide central file storage capability, that is easy to use, in an intuitive manner in which people (not just the corporation) will gain benefit through collaboration(not within) centrally stored knowledge records.
After all, buckets are cheap.