Wednesday, August 19, 2015

8 weeks after launching a social intranet and collaboration platform: What are the surprises?

Since April 2014, I have been partnering with many colleagues from across the business to introduce a new way of working/interacting/sharing knowledge in my company (Industry: financial service). This new way of working is enabled by a new social intranet, networking and collaboration platform which has been rolled out in mid June 2015. This is part of a wider cultural change initiative to future proof our business, build capability for change and to empower all our talents.

Since launch, all employees (3500+) join in within 4 weeks. I am not excited by the figures, and more by what my colleagues are doing on this new enterprise-wide digital ecosystem (which comes with seamless integrates with MS Office suite, online chat and telephony, email). They are embracing new behaviour and using this ecosystem to get their real work done. The use cases come from all business area (e.g. HR, communications, marketing, operations, IT, risk management, legal, leadership development, sales, senior executive). They help to illustrate that we are not rolling out a new shiny social chatting, time wasting social platform. Instead, this is about real business and real work, and together we are redefining the future of work.

So 8 weeks later, after I came back from the summer holiday, I wonder how the adoption is going, how colleagues are adjusting to this new way of working, has the novelty effect worn off, and what are the surprises. My reflection is as follow, when compare to the time when the ecosystem is first launched, 

1. My team got many calls for 1:1 coaching (not just training on how and where to click), especially from the senior management and middle managers level, colleagues want to know how to make the platform truly useful, purposeful and impactful at work, they want to understand the principles and what/why they need to behave differently. They want to understand the consequences. This thought process is encouraging. It is signaling to me the project is enabling cultural and mindset change. 

2. Many colleagues are beginning to worry they receive too many email notifications, and that not everything is relevant to them. At launch, some colleagues feel they are "forced" (or a better word "encouraged") by their managers to follow specific people (boss, peers) and groups that are meant to be relevant to them. However, they are not necessary getting relevant messages because the communication model is exactly the same as the old email push model based on organisation hierarchy and structure. Coachng them that it is alright to unfollow and search, find and follow what they truly find value-adding is needed after 8 weeks. Would I do it differently? No. Because our adoption strategy is to start within colleagues comfort zone, and then show them the real empowerment comes from their ability to opt in and out, and access ideas/people which previously they would not have access or do not even know exist.

3. Some colleagues start to worry about duplicate content posting, fragmentation of topics, and creation of duplicate communities/groups. It is a valid point, and they are introduced to the "emergence" principles, ie instead of assuming every posts or interaction have to be orderly, let's accept the messiness in getting work done. We need to coach our colleagues to learn to let go, let the interaction/content surface, facilitate the dialogue amongst fragmented group or content owners. Ask them "should these groups be more joined up? Do they serve similar purpose?" Building the understanding and having the dialogue on its own is more beneficial than trying to fit content into boxes.

4. There is less than expected resistance to move out of an existing old-style document centric static intranet to this new social intranet as colleagues want to provide the modern experience, and benefit from the real time metrics (to track how many people view a post), the improve searchability of content they own and want to share globally, and the ability for the target audience to follow and stay connected. They found it so much easier to manage content, design the user experience UX. 

Reflecting on what happened 8 weeks after the launch, I noted the coaching/training/support that my colleagues' need have changed. I believe it will be changed again in another few months. It is important that we continue to adopt an agile and flexible approach to help our colleagues to move out of their comfort zone and to embrace a new normal way of working. What works at launch need to be adjusted based on emerging patterns (questions, complains, needs) of our employees. I continue to remind myself that it is important to go with the flow and make adjustment quickly, don't foget it is people and culture I am dealing with, and so I must respect our colleagues as dynamic, living, breathing human beings and co-evolve the company culture together.

And the change journey continues.