Posts Tagged ‘Enterprise Social Networks’

12TipsForSuccessfulESNI’m pleased to let you know that I recently completed a series of posts discussing my top 12 tips for building a successful enterprise social network (ESN). You’ll find them on my LinkedIn profile page and at the links below. Each post is an update of the original 2014 post on the subject that appeared on this blog.

Enjoy!

  1. Have a Full-Time Community Manager From the Start
  2. Commit To It
  3. Get Executive Buy-in and Participation
  4. Have Rules, But Don’t Overdo It
  5. Pick a Good Platform, But Don’t Focus On the Technology
  6. Avoid ‘Big Launch Syndrome’
  7. Encourage Business and Non-Business Content
  8. Integrate Your ESN Where People Do Their Work
  9. Make It Easy To Access
  10. Train, Train, Train
  11. Set Goals and Track Progress
  12. Never Be Satisfied – Keep growing

Tip9ForSuccessfulESNIt’s time for tip #9 in my 12-part series on my best advice for building a successful enterprise social network (ESN). This one is related to tip #8 which is “Integrate your ESN where people do their work.” However, that tip focused on the applications and workflow to which people are accustomed. This tip is more about a combo of the behind-the-scenes ease of access as well as the mobility of it. Tips 1-8 are listed at the bottom of this post. Here is tip #9:

Make it easy to access.

Of course the integration into other apps discussed in tip #8 is an important part of making the ESN easy to access, but here I want to mention a couple of other specifics that aren’t related to particular applications people may use.

First, ease of access is affected by the simplicity of the login process. Assuming workers have to log in to their work environment, there is really no good excuse for making them continue to log in to additional work-related destinations throughout the day. Few things irritate employees more than having to spend time logging in again and again throughout the day into various systems and applications – especially when nearly all of them are securely behind the company’s firewall in the first place. Such additional logins are considered a gross waste of time.

Therefore, go through whatever effort is required to implement single sign-on processes between your ESN and other internal systems. Work with vendors as needed to do so. If you have not yet decided on an ESN for your company, save yourself some pain and eliminate from consideration those that do not allow for signing in to their product by virtue of a single sign-on process which knows and uses the person’s network or other defined credentials. If the ESN is to be used throughout the enterprise, embedded into numerous systems for the sake of access and workflow, then you must eliminate the burdensome hassle of requiring the user to log in multiple times and places in order to use the ESN.

Another major means of making the ESN easy to access is to enable mobile access from the user’s personal and work-issued mobile devices. I realize that there are many types of businesses that are hesitant to enable mobile access to internal resources as a matter of protecting information, but with an increasingly mobile workforce, it is unreasonable to work in 2014 by 20th century practices and standards. Do you want your executives or other workers who are always on the go to be a part of your ESN? (You should – see tip #3.) Then you must have mobile access to your ESN. Do you want to take advantage of flexible work hours and locations expected by today’s workforce? Then meet their expectation that they will be able to get to the resources they need to do their work on the personal devices they carry with them at all times.

Many companies have the luxury of less stringent rules and laws protecting data, and those types of businesses may have a hard time understanding why other companies don’t just open things up and let their people work anytime, anywhere on devices of their choice. But for those of us in highly regulated industries, we know that it’s no small decision or process to enable mobile access to data. That means you’ll have to bring together people from the right business areas, IT, legal and elsewhere to make sure constraints are known and reasonable compromises are made in order to reach the necessary outcome of mobile access. It may take a while to implement, but it can be done securely and in a manner that maintains a good user experience. Anyone who claims otherwise just isn’t willing to see anyone’s view but their own.

So tip #9 is really an extension of tip #8. Making ESN access easy combines the integration of tip #8 with additional access issues of tip #9 such as reducing logins via single sign-on and especially allowing mobile access on personal as well as business-issued devices.

Tip #9 is Make it easy to access.

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See the following posts for previous tips in this series:

Tip8ForSuccessfulESNThis is part 8 of a 12-part series on tips for building a successful enterprise social network (ESN) at your business. Links to the previous 7 tips are at the bottom of this post.

Tip #8 is an extremely important one if your ESN is to really make a difference in how your company gets work done. Here’s the tip:

Integrate your ESN where people do their work.

There are two aspects of this integration to consider – (1) integration into the software and tools people use daily in their work, and (2) integration into the processes by which that work occurs. First, let’s consider integration into other software and tools.

It’s likely that most workers in businesses prior to the launch of an ESN have established places online where work happens – software applications, email inboxes, intranet resources and more that they switch between during the course of the day to perform their various tasks. If an ESN is introduced as a completely separate destination which they must go to outside the workflow to which they are accustomed, then there is likely little motivation – much less need – to go there. If I can still accomplish everything that is expected of me at a level of proficiency acceptable to my manager and myself without using the ESN, then why should I bother unless there are other non-work advantages to going to that destination?

If an ESN is being sold, for example, on its merits of improving communication or simplifying processes, then it needs to be readily available where I’m doing my work and not something that takes me away from my primary applications in order to use it effectively. That is why it’s vital to integrate the ESN into places like the intranet landing page that users see multiple times daily, or into those internal sites where teams store documents and manage lists throughout the day (such as SharePoint), or embedded into other specific applications where ESN communication can serve a purpose like user assistance or approval processes, or even integrated into the long list of email inbox folders for those still holding on to the inbox and the way of managing their work.

At my company, we currently have over 200 integrations of our ESN into other sites and tools where people do their work. It is deeply embedded into our intranet landing page – a giant leap forward in ESN exposure which doubled the rate of growth that existed prior to that integration. Every article on the intranet has a corresponding discussion thread in the ESN along with icons to like or comment on the article from the intranet home page. A recent question by our CEO in one of those articles resulted in over 100 comments in the corresponding ESN discussion within a day. The link to the ESN main application is the very first work-related site link on the Intranet home menu. In addition, we have over 200 SharePoint sites that have embedded discussion streams from the ESN, mostly tied to particular interest groups created on the ESN, although sometimes based on hashtags used or the posts of specific people. We have two other major web-based internal applications used by thousands that embed the relevant user group ESN stream into those products so that users can ask their questions and get live assistance directly from within those applications. Anyone who wishes to have their ESN groups and streams embedded into their email inbox folders can also open a help desk ticket and get that added (although I don’t push that since I think we’re too email dominated in our environment as it is).

The point is that you don’t want use of the ESN to be available only as another destination, although many companies (mine included) will still see the bulk of their activity from those separate ESN web apps. So the first and a very important aspect of integration which must be planned and continuously executed and improved upon is embedding those discussions into where people are already doing their work daily.

The second aspect of integration has to do with processes. This is where we change our ways of working to intentionally use the ESN in processes in place of previous ways of doing things. For example, instead of those ungodly reply-all email chains that clog up inboxes, are hard to find when you need them, and waste the time of so many who don’t need to be on the recipient list, why not post the question or discussion topic on the ESN? That way you can share the discussion link with stakeholders so they can participate in the discussion if they wish, and then you have at most one email that goes out – none if you do the notification solely via the ESN. Those who want to participate in the discussion can do so without clogging up the inbox of others not interested.

For another example, consider the various approval processes that occur with different work tasks. How complicated do those tend to be? How many tools are involved? How many emails are involved? Why not have a simple discussion in an ESN – private if it must be – where stakeholders can easily discuss and document their approval without unnecessarily complex, time-consuming sequences taking place elsewhere?

Of course, ESNs are a natural for leaders who are progressive, open, transparent, and who want to lead their people to be aligned around a common purpose, values and strategy, engaging in two-way conversation regularly with employees at all levels of the organization. You can’t do that reasonably via email or top-down, controlled communications. You can only accomplish that in live, in-person settings or the online equivalent of those via ESNs, virtual town halls, etc. Leaders who make good use of an ESN to change the tone and process of communication will have a strong, lasting impact on the satisfaction of employees and their consequent success together as a team.

If you have not yet invested in an ESN solution with a vendor, then make sure any solution you consider provides flexible ways of being integrated into many other kinds of applications where people do their work. It will be critical for adoption and for making the ESN pervasive throughout the organization. Always keep working to find more places, more business areas, more tools and applications where the ESN can be embedded so that its use becomes an expected, normal part of daily work life.

In terms of processes, keep your eye out for opportunities to improve the way work happens by changing archaic, complex, confusing, time-consuming processes into simpler discussions that happen in one easily accessed place via the ESN. Don’t just tack on the ESN to existing ways of working. Take advantage of its functionality to replace and improve the way work happens.

Unlike some of the other tips in this series, tip #8 is one you will continuously need to have in mind and work toward. You will never completely arrive and be done with this process. There will always be room for improvement, but being the advocate and change agent around this effort at integration will leave a significant mark on the organization as work is accomplished by people throughout the company more efficiently and effectively.

Tip #8 is Integrate your ESN where people do their work.

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See the following posts for previous tips in this series:

BlankBookOn February 13 I hosted a Twitter chat on the subject of imagining your ideal Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) Handbook. This was an effort to start the discussion among several ESN professionals about what the ultimate handbook for our profession might include, and then to proceed to creating just such a handbook. We had a lot of participation and shared ideas which have been captured in the archive of the chat. Just prior to the chat, I explained my thoughts in this blog post regarding the need.

It took me longer than I hoped to gather the thoughts shared by everyone into some coherent format, but I want to present here the collective thoughts of those who took part in the February 13 chat along with an overall structure for the handbook that makes sense to me. The next step is for those interested to look over this info and fill in gaps with additional topics to cover, perhaps suggest consolidation of a few subjects, and begin to fine tune the structure and contents of each section of the book, including specific chapter/article titles and potential authors.

What follows, therefore, isn’t nearly complete by any means. It’s merely the organization of the earlier thoughts into some order, acknowledging that there is a lot of cleanup and gap filling to do before we have a worthy final outline to build on. But we have to start somewhere, and this is a good start, I believe.

Given the breadth of possible contents for this book, I like the idea of organizing it into sections that address the what, why, where, who, when and how and enterprise social networking. Those questions are intentionally arranged in that order to explain first what enterprise social networking is, why it’s important, where it can be useful, who must be involved to make it work, advice regarding possible timelines or phases of implementation, and a host of how-to subjects that provide meat for the reader and practitioner.

The working title is ESN Handbook: The What, Why, Where, Who, When and How of Enterprise Social Networking

What follows next are the 6 major sections with possible topics (so far) for each section.

WHAT?

  • This is NOT Facebook for the Enterprise (Naomi Moneypenny’s article)
  • A top-down and bottom-up approach to getting your answers/info to do your job better/quicker
  • A different way to communicate – networked/pull vs. controlled/push communications
  • A globally connected workforce
  • ESN’s place in the communication toolbox (with email, IM, etc.)

WHY?

  • Answering the “What’s in it for me?” question for users
  • Why you should care about enterprise social
  • Business cases for different job functions, e.g. project managers, sales, R&D
  • Use cases on getting work done efficiently in business language and context
  • Supporting business objectives through clear goals and strategy
  • The value of networks inside and outside the org structure
  • Being a Responsive Organization
  • Improving work processes

WHERE?

  • Each org is unique
  • Applicable for any size business
  • Not just for IT (or HR or…)

WHO?

  • Stakeholder Identification and working with all departments involved
  • Defining Roles
  • Getting executive buy-in and participation
  • The psychology and sociology of communities
  • Working with and addressing concerns of legal, risk, and security teams
  • For all generations – not just millennials
  • Your extended enterprise: customers/suppliers/partners
  • Community managers

WHEN?

  • ESN timeline: planning, evaluating platforms, getting buy-in, launching, managing, maturing
  • Don’t wait for everyone to get on board
  • Start quickly

HOW?

  • How to Get Started
  • Start small
  • Don’t call it a “pilot”; plan for “phases”
  • The feedback loop between corporate culture and the ESN
  • The importance of participating freely and frequently
  • Leveraging small successes to create bigger ones
  • Treating everyone as adults
  • Creating governance policy
  • Lessons learned the hard way – what not to do and why
  • Focus on best principles rather than best practices
  • Be agile, always probing, never married to inflexible time or approach
  • Promoting experimentation to discover new uses
  • Troubleshooting common business (impact on productivity) and user (firehose of info) concerns
  • Reporting; Ways of measuring success
  • Expect the platform to change
  • Corporate culture and trust
  • Content moderation
  • Growing adoption
  • Change management

APPENDIX

CAUTIONS – WHAT NOT TO DO IN THE BOOK:

  • Don’t be overly negative, focusing on “don’ts”
  • Don’t focus too much on tools subject to change
  • Avoid legalese
  • Don’t focus on future possibilities; focus on current realities
  • Keep it simple
  • Don’t promise this will reduce email; overall messages might increase
  • Don’t focus only on technology; Launching/adopting an #ESN is about change management, legal, HR, human behavior, communications; approach must be holistic
  • Be vendor neutral
  • Keep chapters short

POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTORS

  • @russn, @CarrieYoung, @GuyKawasaki, @Nmoneypenny, @oscarberg a Digital Strategist & Business Analyst-Enterprise Collaboration from @avegagroup;
  • about Responsive Organization: @yammeradam or @matthewpartovi
  • @espnguyen – @sdeanswann, @mattpartovi, @alanlepo, @yammeradam, @stevehopkins  @rickardhansson CEO @incetivecorp How to get started, get to phase on
  • @carrieyoung – If a play book is written, I’m in! My chapter: the dirty little secrets that will make your ESN successful
  • @joeloleson – Love to write, but yes @nmoneypenny is over the top great ESN writer
  • @adamjsr – I’d like to see a chapter from my former colleague Luis Suarez @elsua, well-known for shunning email years ago
  • Would be interested in engaging @hjarche on the subject of personal knowledge management, learning in social networks
  • @StanGarfield on knowledge management
  • @akberry, @ullabres, @kzrtech, @hohertz3, @ashleygross, @chriscatania, @curtisaconley
  • Another great mind is @alexkass on social collaboration (background in human-computer interaction).
  • Guy Alvarez – @guylaw1313
  • Chris Slemp – @cslemp, toolbox discussion, scenarios, what not to do
  • Eric Herberholz – @erich13
  • Jennifer Honig – @jhonig1
  • Nick Inglis – @nickinglis
  • Trey Mayer – @TreyPoint: use cases & integrating into LOB systems
  • Vanessa DiMauro – @vdimauro
  • Jeff Willinger – @jwillie

So where do we go from here? I need all interested parties to really consider all of the above and make suggestions for improvement in the outline before any writing begins. What additional topics should be covered? Who are some additional professionals in the field who may be able and willing to make a writing contribution to the project? What additional resources should be referenced? Are there additional sections needed beyond the basic structure of what, why, where, who, when and how?

Either add your comments here, email me at jeffkross@yahoo.com, or tweet me @JeffKRoss. Thanks in advance for your thoughts as we advance this collaborative writing project for the advancement of enterprise social networking.

BlankBookMost of the attention from businesses regarding social media is directed toward external social media efforts – ways of connecting with current and potential customers and clients. That’s understandable. Likewise, most of the resources available for online community managers are also aimed at those responsible for external communities. That, too, is understandable.

In all the attention given to external social, however, it is too often the case that a potentially transforming use of internal social media for companies gets neglected. What about the employees who do the day-to-day work in service of those customers? What about those who work to improve products, services and processes for the good of the customer and ultimately the business? Why is there too often a lack of attention on the very same form of communication – social media – for and among employees who have the same needs as external stakeholders for quick, effective, modern communication and collaboration?

Granted, many companies have successfully implemented enterprise social networks (ESN) for their employees and many more are jumping on board the ESN train regularly. But there are still far too many skeptics, and even for those who understand the potential and devote themselves to their internal collaboration platforms, finding adequate, thorough, well-written, up-to-date, helpful ESN resources is at best a challenge.

That’s why last summer I started researching the possibility of starting a weekly Twitter chat for those interested in enterprise social networking, launching #ESNchat in September 2013. It has grown into a steady, reliable source of weekly exchanges between talented, experienced, knowledgeable people who eagerly share their insights each Thursday for an hour at 2:00 pm EST. It is a joy and privilege for me to host that hour weekly. Through it I have become acquainted with kindred spirits around the globe who share my passion for enterprise social networking – both from the vendor and the business user perspective.

Now it’s time to take the next step.

It’s time the ESN community had a thorough, helpful, regularly updated and freely available handbook to help shape the future of enterprise social networks. It’s time we gathered in one spot the best advice, the best stories, the most insightful guidance, even the what-not-to-do’s so that there can be a solid step forward in the maturity and practice of ESNs worldwide.

While there may be a number of individuals qualified to author such a handbook by themselves, it seems to me that in the spirit of social collaboration, the best final product possible would be one that results from a number of enthusiastic, experienced devotees working together to produce a handbook that benefits from the combined wisdom and experience of many contributors.

To that end, I’m calling on my new-found friends and colleagues connected with #ESNchat and others who may be interested to work with me on writing and publishing what we believe to be the best handbook possible for those involved with enterprise social networks. Our first step in gathering thoughts about doing so will be the focus of the weekly #ESNchat on Thursday, Feb. 13 from 2:00-3:00 pm EST on Twitter.

Here are some of my thoughts on what might be involved with this journey:

  • We need to collectively determine which subjects are to be covered in the first edition of such a handbook.
  • We should match each of those subjects with one or more individuals to be the primary authors for those chapters.
  • Time should be given to allow advance previews and suggestions for improvement by a number of interested parties – not just the primary authors of each chapter.
  • We should consider adding sections throughout or at the end of each chapter for brief comments and insights from others in addition to the chapter’s main authors.
  • We can make use of the #ESNchat archives to sprinkle tidbits of wisdom throughout the book on a host of subjects, embedding relevant tweets.
  • Research will have to be done on the best tools to use in the collaborative writing process and publishing of the handbook.
  • The final product should be available at least as a free PDF download, and potentially in additional formats as well. I am not pursuing this to earn a penny; I am pursuing this to advance the field.
  • The handbook should be a living document with updates no less than annually and likely more often as needed for individual chapters to stay current.
  • It should not be owned or copyrighted by any ESN vendor, remaining vendor-neutral just as is #ESNchat, although experts employed by ESN vendors should be allowed to contribute as long as they do more than merely promote their product.

I’ve never written a book before (although there is the equivalent of about 3-4 average-size books among the nearly 600 posts on this blog). There is much about the process I have to learn. However, I think the time is right to collaborate with my ESN friends and colleagues and produce a regularly updated handbook that can become the primary resource those involved with enterprise social networks turn to for information on how to start, grow and manage successful ESNs in any size or type of organization.

So who is with me? If the idea sparks your interest and you think you may want to be a part of this effort during 2014, then join me for #ESNchat on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 2:00 pm EST on Twitter. If you can’t join (or missed) that hour, get in touch with me and tell me which aspects of an effort like this mesh well with your knowledge, skills and experience.

Even though the field of enterprise social networking has been around for several years, there is much room for growth. I believe having a superb, regularly updated handbook on the subject can be a significant influence in where the field goes in the years ahead.

I look forward to the challenge and the journey with those who choose to join me in the effort.