Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My new book "Social Strategies in Action: Driving Business Transformation"

I have not taken any vacation this summer because I want to take time to reflect. I want to pause and think and write down what I see, what I experience, and I hear from my peers as to how social media technologies have been utilised within companies to drive business transformation. The result is my new book (my publisher prefers to call it a report) titled "Social Business in Action: Driving Business Transformation" which has just been released. You can see the Table of Content and download a free chapter here.

When I read articles about social business, many of them focus on how marketing, PR or customer service team are using social media to reach and engage their target audience. This is not what my book is focussing on. There is not a lot of published examples as to how social media is being used within companies (behind the firewall). For those I am aware of, many are produced by consulting companies and they tend to be a bit high level. I know a lot of great work has been done within companies, but they are hidden and not easily accessible with the depth that is needed to guide practical actions. So I decide to put together 13 examples in this report. For each use case, I introduce what the business is trying to achieve,  what changes (sometimes quite unexpectedly and radical changes) are needed to drive a new way of working;  what worked and what did not work; and end with the lessons learned. 

These use cases, all showcasing how business transformation is happening from the inside out, cover a wider range of business areas and are all very very business focus. In other words, no social chit chatting, no sharing of grandma photos, and mostly not even the word "social" is being mentioned. I started reflected on practical examples around these 16 area, and eventually zoom down to 13 examples.
  1. Innovation – crowdsourcing ideas from employees, inviting them to build on one another’s ideas and voting for the best;
  2. Employee consultations – seeking input and ideas to drive improvement in business processes;
  3. Online internal communications – increasing staff engagement with a new style of newsletter and executive communications;
  4. Knowledge marketplaces – creating a place to allow people who do not know one another to interact, for example with a question and answer forum, or the ability to anyone a question at an ‘online water cooler’;
  5. Expert communities – connecting people who share subject matter expertise so they can learn, discuss ideas, and share best practices and mistakes with one another;
  6. Knowledge bases – using the social intranet to create and curate product and marketing materials and share them with the sales team. This can also include subject matter experts blogging their insights to reach a broader audience;
  7. Product innovation and life-cycle management – enabling product teams to gain insights from client-facing teams to enhance products and build employees’ excitement to share new product releases; 
  8. Expertise location – finding experts based on the content they share or comments the post; following experts so their updates and knowledge ‘follow’ the employees;
  9. Events management – building and continuing momentum for strategy meetings or employee events;
  10. Process improvement – streamlining business processes by bringing unconnected and fragmented processes, content, updates, meetings, all in one place, e.g. for account planning, safety logging, and risk management processes;
  11. Project management – enabling project managers to connect with project team members, sharing updates, meeting minutes, project documents, and facilitating discussions;
  12. Sales enablement – connecting the sales team to align priorities, developing account plans or pitch decks, connecting the global sales team to share client insights to spot opportunities (some call this ‘social CRM’), and sharing real time market and competitor insights;
  13. Operational efficiency – reducing support costs, building a dynamic knowledge base, and improving response time to support questions;
  14. Learning and development – enabling social learning to allow deeper self- reflection and learning from peers, enabling leaders to reflect and share leadership experience to help junior staff to learn, and improving job morale and job satisfaction by enabling employees to learn on-the-job in real-time;
  15. Onboarding new hires – enabling new colleagues to tap into the global network on day one; and
  16. Research and development – collecting market research and competitors’ insights from external sources and publishing latest research findings to reach followers.

    This is the first time I author a whole book, and the learning curve is huge for me. I welcome readers' comments (whether you resonate with the examples or not) and feedback (good or bad) to enhance my journey. Leave me a comment here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Are we entering the age of superficial Enterprise 2.0 adoption?

I have been leading and driving the use of Enterprise 2.0 in a large complex bank in the past three years, and I have been watching closely how my peers are doing this in similar and different industries. Everything seems going well, the picture seems rosy. 

  1. Research from McKinsey Research Institute titled The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies suggests a US$1.3 trillion of unlocked value for business to reap. 
  2. Many large multinational companies and vendors declare success and have been sharing impressive adoption rate within a short deployment timeframe (e.g. 10 social leaders for 2013)
  3. Others are starting their pilot and plan to move in the same direction. 

Compare to 2 years ago, I see we have come out of the "age of ignorance" when business leaders do not think they need to pay attention to the use of social media technologies within the firewall. We now enter the stage where business leaders want to do something about it, but not sure how best to do it so it is purposeful and embed it into the core business processes; and make it part of the employees' digital  workplace experience. 

With all the great examples/use cases I have orchestrated and many more examples implemented by others, I wonder are we heading into the right direction to use social technologies to transform business? or are we entering the age of superficial Enterprise 2.0 adoption? 

Some examples for you to consider:
  1. Business are using the social technologies, however,  they can be using the social technologies to do exactly what they have been doing in the past (e.g. product information or marketing brochures sitting on static intranet is moved into the social intranet with like-for-like functionality and navigation design; executives communications are posted onto the social platform as "blogs" which are written in exactly the same old way; online discussions are hosted inviting employees to have their say and the "usual suspects" have a lot to say and the quiet group stay silent). Yes, social platform allows more content to being shared and become much more searchable. However, the fundamentals as how work gets done have not changed. 
  2. Business want to leverage the power of their employees' network to gain insights, intelligence from people on the ground. Social platform are introduced to allow employees to easily provide comments, feedback, ideas. However, the perception is that as a result "there is just too much noise", and "we have to find the gems from the haystack". So who decide what are the "gems"? Most likely the seniors/subject matter experts who have the power, knowledge and who maintain the status quo. With all the good intention to drive efficiency and time savings, they want to eliminate the "noise" so our employees can find exactly what they want the employees to know quickly. So how is the business going to get any new insights when the experts already know what the "gems" are and also play a role to eliminate noise? 
  3. Business are using the social platform to organically form communities around strategic initiatives, clients, projects, industries, functions etc. Many communities sprung up, many may have similar names, some have similar purposes, and they are set up as separate communities with no intention to connect. The social platform surface these hidden issues, it does not mean all communities with similar purpose must come together, but who is going to help to build bridges and facilitate the connection. How would companies break down silos?
I worry we have entered the age of superficial Enterprise 2.0 adoption. Social platforms are being used, the adoption rate is going up, but we are using the social platform in a sub-optimal way. (Think about how we use current technologies in a sub-optimal way: how many time wasting meeting do you attend each week? How many cc emails you should not sent or received? how many conferences you have been to that push powerpoint slides at you and you wonder what have you learn at the end of the day?)

I see opportunities to take Enterprise 2.0 to the next level, and this requires leadership, discipline, courage to transform business processes (ie not just embed social in the the existing business processes), rethinking of the digital workplace experience and it is going to be hard work to get there. 

If, like me, you are trying to figure out how best to make the social platform purposeful to your business, I find it useful to remind myself the focus should not only be on driving user adoption of the social platform, instead, it should be on redefining some fundamental work practices ('habits') such as: 
  1. Reset communication protocols within your company: define what is considered appropriate to voice in public, what to share by email, make it clear to welcome dissent (public or private), invite views that contradicts the status quo, and treat them with respect (even if they are not taken up at the end)
  2. Facilitate online conversation and communities: if you throw 500 people in a meeting room and ask them to talk, you can imagine the chaos, the loud people shout loudest, people talking over one another. It is no different online, to open the space for online conversation, set ground rules for participants and for the facilitators, ensure hidden voices are expressed, help each individual to make sense of others' contribution. This does not happen by chance, it has to be designed. 
  3. Embrace change as the new constant, accept best practices can be outdated quickly (in weeks, not months): coach the subject matter experts/people who have a dominant voice in the organization to step back and listen, and have an open mind, watch the trends and activities in social ecosystem, make adjustment as they discover anytime new to refine existing best practices.  Social technologies when properly deployed provide agility, not just efficiency. 
  4. Redefine business processes: coach managers not to assume the current business process is the most efficient way to run a function. These processes are designed based on existing  communication tools (namely email, phone, shared drives, intranet, collaboration sites), the business process does not need to stay the same way in a networked world. When a team/function embrace social technologies, it is also redefining their current business processes. The outcome is not going to be a more efficient process, but a different process.
Are you ready for the transformation?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

This is not a recipe! What is the process to develop a knowledge management strategy?

I was recently asked to share my personal views on the process to develop a knowledge management strategy with some university students in 5 minutes. I have written up these thoughts so I thought I should post to my blog in case my blog readers are also interested in this topic.

Based on my experience formulating and executing KM strategy in the past 15+ years, here are my thoughts. Please do not take this as a recipe, use it to inform your thinking if it helps. 

Typical process to develop a KM strategy is as follow:

(a) seek senior executive's buy in, especially the CEO, the senior executive in charge of transforming the business model. Confirm the commitment to support the delivery of a KM vision, and recognise there are tons of resistance along the way.

(b) articulate in very simple terms (visually if possible) what KM means to the business. Companies define KM in different ways, from data/information management, collaboration, social business, communities of practice, business intelligence, market research to people development/human capital management. Most companies include a number of these components in the KM strategy. There is no one size fit all KM definition, so it needs to make clear what this KM vision is.

(c) align 100 percent with the business strategy and direction. KM is a means to an end, the end game is where the company wants to head towards. Any KM projects which derive from the KM strategy have to clearly enable the delivery of the business strategy whether it is to increase revenue, improve staff engagement, improve customer service, sales enablement or process improvement.  Work extremely closely with the senior executives who are in charge of these business goals. Show them the possibilities using internal and external use cases to get buy in.

(d) measure the success and report the success along the way. Set KM goals and targets which align with business goals, show the direct connections. this is easier said than done, capture and share stories to highlight early benefits along the way. Make these stories part of the reporting. Celebrate success to create buzz. In all my KM roles, I have collected numerous testimonials from employees to show how KM has benefited them and increase their work productivity.

(e) stay flexible with the KM strategy, business and external market conditions changes very quickly nowadays, stay align with any changing business directives. Be ready to drop certain initiatives and bring in new initiatives as the business needs arise.

(f) don't forget to build the bottom up groundswell. Buld personal engagement with staff of all levels, get to know them in person, understand their pain points and their information needs. Encourage them to participate, seek their feedback along the way, ask them to show others the way. Recognise their contribution. They are critical advocates to make any KM program works, ultimately they allow the top down strategy and the bottom up needs to be met. Most importantly, any KM program's ultimately empower every individual staff to work better (not just the senior executives).

What do you think? Do you share similar views? Are there things that I miss out? Let me know.

The end of business as usual: is it possible in the workplace? (Part 2)

Continuing from my last blog, I wonder if the 10 steps to use social media in the consumer world could work within the firewall. (Sorry for the long delay to publish this blog, I drafted it long way back, but have been finessing my thoughts for a long while).

1. Working as a team at work, it is about getting things done. If you are the team lead and you want the members to get their work done (enabled by social platform), do you consider why your team members want to engage with you (other than the fact you are the defacto leader). What would make your team willingly engage with you even if you are not in your position? Could it be working with a leader who cares, who is inspiring, who help their team members to develop and grow in their job.... Have you considered why your staff want to engage with you? Do you bother? Why should your staff bother? Do you invest in content and in engagement? (This also speaks to point number 9)

2. What brings people together at work is based on projects, functions, tasks to deliver specific business goals. Good conversation within a team help every team member to see their purpose, how they can play a part, and answer what's in it for me. How many managers and/or team members do this effectively offline in face-to-face events/meetings? Can we assume we can/will have great conversation online because your company is rolling out a new social platform....?  (This also speaks to point number 8)

3. Identify who are the influencial people in your organization who can make or break the initiative you are trying to roll out. Find out who they are, and then create a dialogue online (on the social platform) that is mutually beneficial. We know how to do this offline, go and talk to the key stakeholders, influence them, convince them, get them on your side, get them share their support in important meetings. Can we replicate this model online? Start a conversation, get the key stakeholders to comment postively to show "public" support. This is all about reinforcing existing power structure. What is interesting is to discover "influential people" who may not be in power, but attracts a lot of followers/interaction in a specific topical area but whom you do not know personally, they are the additional people to watch and engage.... They create the new rule of the game in a networked organization. How do you think the people in power would think/feel? Smart leaders will leverage the power of these hidden network.

4. Study what best practices other organisations are embracing internal social platform to transform their business model. McKinsey has published a great report on "unlocking the value of social networks", it is definitely worth reading. Also share early success examples to make it real for the late adopters (or people who do get it initially) to come on board.

5. Translate early learning into opportunities to share with business executive. Yes, this is so needed in any internal social platform roll out to continue to get senior support and buy in. Unfortunately, the measurement and reporting system in a traditional company does not help to present the value created by social business, I don't think we have a measurement and reporting model which can showcase the benefits of emergence yet! (David snowden certainly is doing great work in this area, I do not see any other examples. If you know of any, leave a comment here)

6. Listen to what the employees are saying to identify insights and opportunities. The social platform allow these voices to bubble up. Who's responsibility is it to listen to the voice of employees ( and I do not mean an annual HR survey)? Employees are chattering about business intelligence, competitors movement, latest wins and losses, customers' feedback, have your company invested in an approach to analyse and bring these intelligence shared into insights? Are these insights funnel to the right function for action? Who is in charge?

7. Observe what social tools are used by the employees. Give employees the tools they need to get their work done. This does not mean you force one single platform to do everything. Instead, make the social platform part of their day-to-day experience, make it part of their email, mobile experience.

8. See above

9. See above

10. Give employees value in using the social platform which they cannot get anywhere. It has to add value to each individual. And each individual will get something different out of it!

The conclusion is that these 10 steps are as relevant to introduce social platform internally within an enterprise. However, I would argue that the maturity level is so much lower than in the consumer world, and it is going to take a long time to change, especially in these area:
- invest in content and engagement with employees (We have managing employees in a "mechanistic" way since the industrial revolution. Here is an opportunity to go back to basic and treat each employee as valuable living breathing human beings with passion, dreams and emotions and listen to what they can offer)
- good dialogue (Good leaders do it all the time. Look around the workplace, and you notice that most dialogue is one-way, directional, with no give-and-take. Here is the opportunity to bring back two way dialogue and listening in the workplace)

This is tough. Not only seniors have to change, employees have to "unlearn" and take responsibility 

Companies are way ahead in the consumer world to embrace social technologies, including defining the processes and new roles to listen, engage and serve the customers. Within the firewall, whilst new social platform is being put in place, the required change in management practices has yet to catch up to fully realise the potential.