KM on a dollar a day

Musing on knowledge management, aid and development with limited resources

Social media for enterprise collaboration: selling a tool or developing a competency?

with 6 comments

I’m pleased to feature my first guest post by KM fellow traveller Giulio Quaggiotto who is Knowledge Management Practice Leader in UNDP’s Bratislava Regional Centre. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNDP. You can follow Giulio on Twitter (@gquaggiotto).

In my experience, one of the big challenges that the introduction of social media presents for organizations is that of coming up with a coherent picture for time-strapped end users who did not drink the web 2.0 coolaid and are struggling to cope with information overload (see here for the latest, scary chart!).

Part of the problem has to do with the fragmentation of the social collaboration agenda: typically, external relations departments are concerned with “pushing the message” through the likes of Facebook and Twitter. KM folks are mostly concerned with internal collaboration platforms. IT departments promote tools for information management that increasingly have integrated social features. Enterpreneurial users experiment on their own with the likes of mobile phones or document management systems. No wonder business users can get lost!

To add to the pressure, an increasing number of commercial technologies are available on the market that staff typically adopt for work purposes. According to a recent piece of research, 95% of information workers use self-purchased technology for work. This not only adds to the tools overload, but generates expectations that the solutions available in-house are as user-friendly and rapidly evolving as the commercial tools (which is typically not the case).

A possible approach that, in my experience, can work to avoid the “religious wars” over tools and confusing end-users is to reframe the discussion from selling an IT solution to building a (social collaboration) competence/capability. The argument goes more or less like this: the problems our staff is facing are increasingly complex and demand real-time solutions. There is an overwhelming plethora of tools available (both within and outside the enterprise) and information overload is only going to increase. The ability to quickly network your way around to find answers to your questions and build a personal brand that stands out from the clutter is increasingly going to be a differentiator for good performance and career progression. How can we equip our colleagues with the skills to collaborate effectively in a networked, socially engaged. organization; establish effective filters against the info glut and understand which tool (among many) is the best solution for their business problem? In other words: can we build social collaboration capability across our organisation? (this is quite different from saying “let me tell you why my tool is the best solution for you”:-) ).

I’ve come across a number of organizations that have developed an internal social collaboration competency framework which they are using not only for professional development but also, increasingly, for recruitment purposes (the argument being – we want to hire new staff with this set of skills).

So, what would the building blocks of a social collaboration competence framework look like? Below is just a very initial set of ideas (in no particular order) – would be grateful for any comments/suggestions.

1) Building a personal brand online – staff take interest in maintaining their image online

  • Maintaining a profile on different tools
  • Finding one’s tone, personality online
  • Telling about oneself and one’s work
  • Associating oneself with groups
  • Being interesting -How to develop an audience
  • When and where to jump in the conversation

2) Effective online interactions/managing online conversations

  • Acknowledging others and their contributions
  • Asking the right questions
  • Rating, voting, digging, social bookmarking
  • Sharing other’s content and contributions
  • Managing conflict online

3) Online security and safety – staff are able to maintain a secure online presence:

  • Understanding security settings on various platforms
  • Feeling comfortable and in control with what you share online
  • Spamming, fishing, malware
  • Private vs professional
  • Corporate policies

4) Setting filters & Effective listening

  • Who to follow and where
  • How to monitor what is being said about you and your work
  • How to react to negative/positive comments
  • RSS, dashboards

5) Picking the right tool for the right job

  • Analysing the business need (routine?; complex? One-off?)
  • Internal vs external; confidential vs open
  • Being aware of the tools (blogs, wikis, facebook, twitter, teamworks, etc)

Written by Ian Thorpe

April 14, 2011 at 8:40 am

6 Responses

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  1. […] rest is here: Social media for enterprise collaboration: selling a tool or … Tags: brand-online, building–, different-tools, oneself-, profile-on-different, take-interest, […]

  2. I like your ‘personal branding’ approach for getting all those different KM platforms off the ground and beyond tons of pdf files uploaded by the youngest PO.

    I’m sure that the assumption that online presence will be rewarded is increasingly true. However, I tend to think of it as a long term investment. I’m not sure to what extent this is the situation now as compared to more traditional branding and networking.

    Any thoughts?

    Sceptical Secondo

    April 16, 2011 at 6:47 am

  3. @Scepsec I think this is increasingly the case, both within and outside the firewall. See for instance the recent FT article
    I also think that the impact is much higher within certain segments of an org’s staff. For instance, when I was at the IFC, we ran a social networking exercise to see how long it took to new staff and staff in country offices to get connected to the informal networks within the organisation. This has a major impact on performance and career progression. Social collab platforms can have a major, immediate (and, interestingly, quantifiable) impact in that respect

    giulio quaggiotto

    April 16, 2011 at 7:51 am

    • I can’t help but noticing that the expert witnesses in the FT piece are either people living of other people (not) thinking about there online presence, or IT industry people.

      I’m still sitting on the fence. Not with respect to whether social webworking is worth it or not but in the sense that the rewards are a bit more messy than a clear “differentiator for good performance and career progression”.

      Sceptical Secondo

      April 16, 2011 at 10:50 am

  4. Hi Ian,

    I was very interested to read Guiglio’s guest post on Social Media for enterprise collaboration as I am working on the foundations of a Knowledge Management and Collaborative Working project for a client. I am just beginning to get to grips with some of the business’ challenges around sharing information in diverse parts of the organisation, and the parallels with external social media do seem to apply within the corporate firewalls too.

    I agree strongly with the idea that too many initiatives are “led by tools”, and it is actually far more important to build a capabililty – to find ways to help people to use the simplest facilities that can help them overcome the day-to-day issues they face.

    I am currently beginning to build a picture of the problems that are faced by folk across the organisation, especially where diverse people are drawn together from disparate parts of the business for new projects, and they have the least common understand of what each other does. Also I feel that there is a great deal of opportuity where teams are geographically dispersed and technology can be a way to bind people together in ways that would otherwise be difficult.

    I look forward to reading more articles that can stimulate fresh thinking and alternative approaches – all too often I fear that knowledge and information management can end up being a stuffy and unexciting topic, but I think that’s only because it is often done badly. I think that what you show here is that it can actually be an way to enthuse people to speak up, and make a valuable contribution not only to the organisation, but also to their own personal development.

    Thanks for the inspiration

    PS: if you want to get an impression of some of my early ideas, why not have a quick look at a slideshow that I put together to show that even challenging projects like this can benefit from simple ideas that are easy to communicate.

    Arthur M. Gallagher

    May 8, 2011 at 9:16 am

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