Social networks inside an enterprise

In this, and this  posts I talked about using internal blogs and wikis as a collaboration and project management tools, but still, not all people are welling to blog let’s not forget that it consumes time for writing a long blog and surely many others are not passionate about writing. Wikis are not conversational tools, and inside organizations their contents can be dealt with formally. IM massaging is not documented, it’s usually peer to peer and outside the browser.

This is why it’s very practical to have a social networking tool, to have an ongoing conversation which is easy for staff to involve in, post problems, solutions, ideas, socialise and network with each other. It also retain their talents and peer recognition, and sometimes, icrease their lifes!

However, as with any Enterprise 2.0 facility, adopting, using and sustaining it depends on the culture. You have to build your strategy depending on the current communication moods and norms, the social tools will just reflect what is there, and filter the best of it. Officeworks as our case example, can have the following points as a strategy for internal social network:

  • It has to be used as a main medium for announcements, to guarantee the regular access to, especially new employees announcements, so they start their careers on a conversation with the other staff, and it will make it familiar to them
  • Higher management usage for some conversations that can go internally public will make the staff more interested in accessing it
  • Specify a “no email day” to use the social network only for internal communication, and it’s better to be a “happy” day like Friday 😉
  • There are many tools that can be used, the tool is recommended to have the following characteristics:
    • It has to be installed on an owned servers, not using the famous services like Facebook because they don’t control them
    • Staff have to able to access it from anywhere on the internet. The social activities are usually moody, so, to flourish they shouldn’t restricted to work place.
    • As a tool, it has to has a mobile app, or at least a mobile friendly website, because most of the workers are in the stores, physically moving
    • It has to use the current users authentication and disable anonymous contributions

This post is dedicated to the internal use of social media only, for external usage, as marketing and resource building, you can check the following links from E2US team:

How can an internal wiki helps a retail chain with diversified services? Officeworks as an example

Do you compare going to a bargain store and pick some things, to going to a multi service shop with a printable design or document in a flash memory in a certain format and some level of confidentiality to be printed in a desired quality?

Training for retail chains shops’ employees  is always easy, there is no heavy knowledge to learn and the starter’s peers are easily guide them to the process, then no extra skills need to be acquired. The case is different if you provide services that needs extra knowledge, like the well known Officeworks, they have printing, copying, canvas art, digital photography, online services… etc, these services need a certain level of training, and there is a considerable probability to have bugs and technical difficulties over time, many staff have solutions or workarounds, while others in other branches may still struggling. They also sell electronic devices which needs knowledge about their specifications because many customers will come with a certain level of knowledge to discuses with the staff. In such retail stores wikis have a remarkable potential, since the staff have an access to computers, starting a wiki as a basic documentation and reference to what to how to complete the tasks is better than a static documentation, giving the users the ability to update this documentation and to add to it will make it always up to date without an extra effort from the headquarters, and will make it very helpful. Staff will refer to it on any technical issue, even if they didn’t find the solution and found it later somewhere else, writing it to the wiki will be a reference in the future for them and all the branches’ staff. If they found many solutions to many problems they will probably tend to add to it and improve it as a pay back.

Wikis are well known in the cubic offices environment where employees stair at their computers most of the time, but it will be useful also on the retail stores if the staff have an easy access to computers and their work needs verity and up to date skills. This strategy will not have a direct effect, it will pay off while the time passes and the staff of all branches have a collective intelligence and a cumulative knowledge that makes printing such a canvas (which was done only by dedicated artists few decades ago) much easier:

The importance of an independent corporate blog, Officeworks and environmental advocates conflict as an example

Since Reflex lost its environmental certification because of their Victoria’s forests wood chip, and though they are still certified under the Australian Forestry Standard. Officeworks found themselves in the middle, between environmental advocates (some of which are their customers)  on one side  and their commitment to their other customers, partners and stakeholders on the other side. There is a pressure on Officeworks to stop selling Reflex’s papers in their stores. Even though more than 650 companies boycott Reflext, the advocates are pressing on Officeworks since they are one of the largest stationary retailers in Australia.

Officeworks has a valid point, as their managing director Mark Ward mentioned, that boycotting Reflex will not solve anything, and all their paper is certified to the Australian Forestry Standard, which is recognised by the international group Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, and they are looking for alternatives of the local timber.

However, Officeworks have shown a commitment to the environment by cutting their ties with one of the biggest Asian paper makers, APRIL, because they are illegally logging Indonesian forests, and it’s a different case than Reflex which is legal and still certified under AFS. Also Officeworks  consider the environment one of their responsibilities, and they actually didn’t defend Reflex’s acts.

So, why when we open Officeworks page on Facebook we found people are complaining everywhere? why Officeworks point of view is only mentioned in a small part at the end of the news? or directing people to a forum created by Australian Papers the owners of Reflex?

This is one of many cases where companies found themselves have to start a conversation with the audience, Officeworks for example has an advanced website with many services, but no blog to have their points of view, the blog also may have interesting information and news about, for example, printing and design which will catch the interest of many people. But mainly it’s a platform to clarify their opinion to the public and start a conversation that led by them; a link to the post maybe posted on their wall on Faccebook and on twitter so whomever want to criticise them, will have a background about their attitudes, then the conversation will be more matuer. Officeworks points of view about this issue is peppered on small replies on Facebook, if it is a full strong convincing argument on one place owned by Officeworks like an official blog, something like what Telstra is doing, then it will clarifies their attitudes and commitments to the environment, and we may have another side among environment advocates that defends Officeworks.

The critical phase of adapting Enterprise 2.0 in your organisztion

There are a lot of fantasy around E20, many positive things can start and flourish in the organisation as E2 consultants tell you, but how to get there? how to make your organisation be like that fancy world. Adapting E20 in an organisation has many rational and expected steps:

  1. Defining a problem to solve: Usually a communication or knowledge management problem, sometimes lake of innovation by itself can be a problem, as clear and measurable the problem is defined as the ease of defining your ROIs. You can also include some encouraging facts about the competitive workplace and skills recruiting
  2. Map that problem to a certain processes and cases: Means finding where are these problems; by certain case examples or to describe where in the business preocesses E20 will fit
  3. Chose the tools and vendors to accomplish these tasks: With explaining why for each one of them; solving the organisations problems have to be clear in these tools
  4. Specify a pilot department: I advise you to start with somewhere in the IT that is in a relation with the team that will implement E20. Beyond the technical benefits, this will start one the core directives of E2, which is the social interaction, there might be many subjects to talk about between these two teams, and they’re work areas might be related, so there will be a lot of content, that will encourage others
  5. Involve higher management: It’s a workplace, and employees like to be visible, their work, contributions and personalities, if they know that they’re at sight, they will be encouraged
  6. Market the success to others: It makes sense that the experiment can socially expand by itself, but this is only if it was so good to be true; you have to tell the others in commercial way so they will be encouraged
  7. Employ back the organisational experience: Since both the desired and undesired results of E2 are unexpected, you also have to be ready for the undesired ones, the new transparency and democracy may result in some conflicts, contractings with the old ways of doing things or wastes of time; depending on the culture of the organisation these should be resolved, and preferably by communicating with the same tools, since you want to fix the communication. Also you have to find all the positive results and encourage them.
So, where is the critical phase? It is steps 4, 5, and 6 since all the things before that is theories and after that is also critical, but not for your organisation only but for everyone else, since this practice is new, and there are not yet long run cases to refer to, you have to keep your knowledge up to date.
Here are some references that I read before writing this artilce:

Why social media is legally risky?

Social media is a huge change in people’s lives, you can see this statistics about Facebook that explains it:

companies found their customers as well as employees evolving in this new communication heap. What if our employees said anything in their social profiles, is it considered the corporates opinion?  Is the risk comes from joining the crowd and has, for example, a Facebook page or ignoring the change to prevent offending.

If a company paid for an employee 8 hours a day, is anything they contribute to social media at this time belongs to them?

If a company is interviewing someone for a job, can they consider his personal appearance and posts on social media as criteria?

Could I as a customer jump in a company’s Facebook page and type or tweet all offends that I can?

To answer these endless-looking questions, ask them again with removing the social media element, so, if an employee said anything in her/his paid time is it belongs to the company? Of course not, simple! Can I go to a company’s branch and shout to the reception about their bad services, they will work it out! It always happens. If a company wants to hire someone, they will notice his personality as much as they can; they also can ask anyone about him or her.

The biggest problem with social media, is everything is documented, and that what makes most of the struggle, the second thing is, it’s hard to find the boundaries that control what you’ve published about yourself or not, and . Since I was using the internet before the Web 2.0 boom, I was able to control my appearance on the web, and by the time passes, I was losing control until finally, Googling my name will have many things that I didn’t know that they’re there, hoping there is nothing bad buried in my memory but not in Google’s memory.

In courts, single evidence is enough to make all the difference, and we are leaving everything possible behind us.

It is very important that lawyers –or anybody works in the justice sector- understand the importance of the data on social media, not only to avoid the risk for their clients but also for themselves. This is clear in Stoam Holding case 2 years ago when Stoam lawyer Drew Ledbetter used a juror’s tweet as an evidence, and these tweets were seriously taken as evidence with their tweeting time.

And since the social media boom is still growing, it’s not clear how it will change to the legal aspect of our life, and what other legal related traps it will create.

Creating social media policy for a class – the scope

It is important when setting a social media policy is to clarify the scope of it. Which users the policy targeting and in what external or internal tools. Because legally if something wrong happened the scope can be a possible escape or an involver. People uses social media all the time and it’s part of their personality and appearance, and what ever your organization it’s impossible to totally control them, here is a simple funny chart from social media today that explain a little bit about how complex and vary the risks associated with the personal vs.  official use of social media policy:

 

It is also clear in the recent patents war between Microsoft, Apple and Google. Microsoft executives Frank X. Shaw and Brad Smith was tweeting from their personal accounts to represent Microsoft’s point of view, and the media was taking this seriously.

By investigating some existing media policies from New South Wales Government, Queensland Government, IBM and Tesltra Extra and going through this guide,  and from my past experience of creating e-learning courses to ensure policy awareness in Saudi Telecom Company. The class social media policy has to have a clear scope, purpose and other elements that the class may not need (like background information and definitions), so here is the suggested scope and I will update the Wiki page to add it:

Scope

This social media policy applies to all INN346 and INN346 students of the second semester 2011 at QUT. And it includes their uses of social media tools that includes:

  • QUT’s internal websites that the students may participate in, either at classes or as part of QUT’s non-class activities
  • External social tools, like social networking websites (ex. Facebook, LinkedIn..etc.), blogs , micro blogging, Wikis or any tool that provide mass participation to the public.

“No Emails” is it loss of control or total control?

If you are a project manager, your email inbox will have:

  • All your team progress
  • All project documents (including all previous versions (including all team members editions of previous versions))
  • All your higher management comments
  • All your friends funny emails!
Whatever method that your email client tries to do to arrange it, it will still on that client, and each member of your team will have their own way of arranging them, and that was just an example. This is one of the main problems that gave the raise of Enterprise 2.0, here is a match between Enterprise 2.0 tools and functionalities:
Blogs:
Personal point of view expander, and an updates stream. So the project manager have a single point for announcements and their following comments and discussions, and team members (or employees generally) can put some ideas or whatever will benefit the others, and of course since it’s in their blog, and it’s publicly their idea, it will give them a credit.
Wikis:
As a collaboration data organizers and a semi-dashboard of the project or the department. Where every team member can see and change the latest data and documentation available, many collaborative processes take a lot of time and some of them sleep for a while in the inbox.
Internal Social networks:
Open and equal oppurtunity discussion platform. Employees will be able to share, chat exchange ideas in a neutral place, it’s much faster and more organised than email conversations. They are agile to do the same thing that the monster emails do.

Example

The previous uses of Enterprise 2.0 tools clarifies that it’s all about visibility, as Austin Hardware benefited this principle to make transparency that helped requirements from customer service to reach product development. Without Enterprise 2.0 technologies those data have to pass through a log chain of managers and many others in the middle to look at it and then to decide whether it’s interesting to be passed through or not, it’s a great example to know the power of information flow and it’s not make since that managers and staff see everything through the email microscope. There are other examples that solved some difficulties which will be discussed in the next section.

Shortcomings & Engagement

There are little and technically temporarily shortcomings with Enterprise 2.0 technologies compared to the email, which are files attachments and instant notifications. But some of  the main shortcomings, even if you set the policies and procedure, and assures every user of these technologies are aware of them are the implementation and engagement shortcomings, the change has to be gradually and here are two ways to do it:
  • You can start from the most relevant department, the IT, as AL Essa CIO of MIT’s Sloan School of Management . They will like it because it’s about their careers and passions, and they would love to see it as an experiment, plus the bug fixes and features addition -which are expected to be a lot at the beggining- will be much agile there. The IT will be a marketable proof of concept.
  • Or, if the management is really convinced by the idea,  they can specify a non-email day or social day as the employees of NewsGator doing, such a day will let everyone try the technology specially the  non-IT staff with minimising the risks
Finally, if many employees can see the data, means many chances that this data can go to the wrong path, as will as many chances that it finds non-expected useful path. It’s important to know that there can’t be information exposure without risks.