Once again Dilbert serves as an unexpected source of insight for building an effective enterprise social network behind the company firewall.
Dilbert points out the obvious problem with the stalled “Project Unicorn” by telling his boss….
To which his boss replies….
While the executives in Dilbert’s world may think “there’s no time for substance when you’re at the top”, the real world executives we work with everyday know that substance is critically important.
If we are going to create meaningful social business content within our companies social networks, we need to keep three best practices in mind
- 1) Relentlessly Focus on Adding Business Value: Every activity of your company’s social network should be tightly aligned with contributing to increased business value. Examples may include a dynamic wiki post that serves as a single source of truth for a pipeline of sales deals for a critical product line or a discussion forum that helps employees quickly answer common HR questions. The key principle is to seek to add content to your enterprise social network that drives either top line or bottom line savings. If you can’t identify business growth or savings in your content, then it should go the way of “project unicorn” and die.
- 2) Create a Constant Feedback Loop for Users: “But how do I determine if content add business value?” The answer to this reasonable question is closer than you think – ask the users of your enterprise network and (gasp!) your end customers. You must reinforce the importance of adding business value by encouraging a healthy degree of criticism from all users and external customers. Through various channels – on-line and off-line – ask employees and customers to provide constructive criticism of the business value of your social content by asking “How does this content help us either drive sales or save cost?”. Granted you may not be able to allow your customers to see all of the internal content, but you can still get helpful feedback by describing the content to them and actively seeking to understand what will add value for them.
- 3) Remember Social is One of Many Channels: Keep the value of your social enterprise content in context. If you encourage creating content that drives business value and reinforce the value of such content through a healthy feedback loop, you will well be on your way to creating business relevant content. However, never forget that the information captured on your social network constitutes only a fraction of the information pulsing within and into your organization. The social network should help capture critical business content, but is only one of the channels through which the information is captured. The network can never replace face to face brainstorming sessions with your team, the creative genius of a subject matter expert or direct customer feedback.
Relevant content is critical to the value of any social network and the social networks behind company firewalls are no exception. If we keep these three best practices in mind, we will well position our companies for creating content that adds business value. The sooner we can encourage the creation of such content, the quicker our executives and key stakeholders will see that there is indeed always “time for substance”.
For your further amusement the full cartoon strip is below or you can see it here on the Dilbert site.
Pablo Biankowski at Dendrite Park offers an interesting post talking about how the Pareto principle applies to content in business social media. It’s a fascinating read, and it offers some good guidance for content creation.
But as Joab and I were talking the other day, we realized that when you think about it, the 80-20 rule applies in other areas in social media as well. First, and cuing from Pablo’s post, 20% of your content generates 80% of the attention, so don’t expect everything to be a hit, no matter how hard you work on it.
What we find more interesting is the participation numbers. You have to expect that 20% of your users generate 80% of the activity on the site. That means that 80% of your users will only generate 20% of the activity. If you are measuring the usefulness of your internal social media platform based on 100% use and “everybody” being active, you are in for a disappointment.
Unfortunately, we still hear too many managers complaining that they are not able to get everyone involved in their internal social media platforms. To them we say this: if you can get 20% of your people on the platform and using it, you’ve got a win.
The next step should be to get these power-users to provide feedback: what do they like about the platform, what do they not like, and how do they use it? Not only will you score points and additinal dedication from the most important users, you are also gainig valuable insight on how to engage more poeple.
So when you start your revolution, remember that you only need about 20% of your people to be the “cadre” of change, and adjust you key performance indicators accordingly.
In addition to the importance of clarifying the business need for enterprise social tools, Dilbert provides additional wit and wisdom on successful social tool implementation.
In short, it is critical to listen actively to skeptics.
Not everyone will be excited about using new social tools. In fact, some may even be openly hostile to the entire value proposition of social tools.
Skeptics will generally be in two camps:
1) Active Resistance: Those who openly question the value of social tools
2) Passive Resistance: Others who privately ask the same questions
The concerns of those who actively resist will come to light quickly while those who passively resist will likely require you to proactively reach out to them. With both parties the goal is the same: listen to and actively address their concerns on a consistent basis.
Not all issues can be addressed – for instance, there may be technical limitations to the tool that you can’t easily influence. Actively addressing concerns may mean that you are simply honest about what the new tool can and cannot do. It may also mean you proactively suggest work around solutions and compromise when your are getting too much push back on full social implementation.
Expected Results – Integration into Comms Tool Kit
Through combining a clear articulation of the business needs the social tool addresses and actively listening to the concerns of your skeptics, your business case for the tool can be even stronger. Through listening to the skeptics and seeking ways to incorporate their feedback you will have more realistic view of the business challenges the tool will address. In addition, you should also be able to convert some critics into supporters that will further strength the change management adoption for the entire team.
In the end, articulating the business need and listening to critics will enable social tools to become an increasingly integrated part of your team’s communication tool box.
In this scene, Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert, highlights a critical reality for successfully rolling out social tools within any company: Clarify the Need
Never implement social tools without a clear understanding of the business needs they address. The tools must address specific problems that are articulated and understood throughout the team – from the top down. Though the need will likely evolve over time, it must be clearly communicated on an on-going basis. Furthermore, it is critical that the core message of the need be couched in business terms and internalized by the senior most leader on the team and a core team of advocates spread throughout the team hierarchy.
For example, a relatively simple business need may be simplifying a team’s file sharing by leveraging a single platform where all team documents can be stored – whether files from an annual off-site meeting or weekly dashboard reports. A more complex business need may be for 24/7 technical support for the new company employee recognition tool that can be partially addressed through moderated discussion forms embedded within a virtual community.
In short, our social tool roll outs don’t have to be stuck in Dilbert’s misery. Start with the business need and build your team-wide promotion of the social tool accordingly.
$600B is enormous – roughly the size of the Belgium GDP in 2013. Fortunately, McKinsey’s report on The Social Economy clearly articulates bite sized chunks of the $600B in estimated business value from social technologies. The report lists 10 specific ways social tools add value – both within and across companies.
One critical ways social tools add value internally is #3 – Distributing Business Processes
Keeping the Global Team on the Same Page
Business process are the cogs that run the engine of global companies. They include a wide variety of activities – from estimating the component supply necessary to meet customer demand to setting up a new vendor in the ERP system. However, when companies have a global workforce, these processes may not be carried out uniformly in all locations.
Social tools provide an easy way for employees across the company to access the same information and keep business processes aligned. For example, rather than counting on a business manager to send an email out with all of the forms needed to set up a new vendor, a central portal can be created where everyone can download the same files. In addition, the portal can “go social” when the owner of the business process provides their contact information within the portal. This same owner can create a section in the portal where they not only maintain a dynamic list of FAQs, but also manage a on-going discussion forum about new questions that arise. Of course, colleagues who have questions about the specific business process can always pick up the phone to ask a details about setting up a new vendor. However, the social tools can provide a significant amount of context that makes the phone conversation more efficient.
Practical Ways to Capture Business Value
In the end, social tools – like the portal for approving new vendors – addressed at least two pressing operational issues that provide measurable business benefits:
- Ensure Consistency: Keeping the relevant files in a central portal ensures that everyone is accessing the latest version. The net result is a reduction in the cycle time needed to carry out fundamental business process and an increase in the company’s easy of doing business.
- Reduce Noise, Increased Productivity: The employee responsible for managing the vendors in our example will improve their productivity as they spend more time focused on getting vendors set up. It also reduce the “background noise” work of answering the same basic set up questions time and again.
In the future, I plan to provide more examples of the other 10 ways highlighted by the McKinsey report.
Our own Joab Meyer writes eloquently about how individuals inside organizations need to reach out to each other to strengthen internal ties. We talk a lot here about how so much of internal social media needs to be top-down, management enabled, and structurally supported. But if you are a junior member of an organization, or if you’ve got no control over the social media structure of your company, internal social starts with you.
Against a background of the communication challenges address in this Feb 7, 2014 post, social media has numerous benefits that enable it to address a wide scope of internal communications needs.
Below is a sampling of three key benefits from social tools:
- 1) Real-Time Communication: People in different time zones can update relevant business information at different times in the day – as it happens – via centralized platforms such as an internal company blog post. Globally dispersed team members can address the same business issue without having to schedule unnecessary meetings at odd hours.
- 2) Faster Dialogue: When properly managed social tools such as internal discussion boards enable communication to occur more quickly – without the communications department “gatekeepers” slowing down the communications flow. When such discussions boards are available to all employees it also reduces the need for communications staff to answer the same question multiple times.
- 3) Organic and Engaging: Internal messaging platforms (similar to Whatsapp or WeChat) enable organic and engaging employee to employee conversations that enhances daily productivity by eliminate unnecessary meetings and e-mail exchanges. This is a platform that gen Y employees are especially accustomed to using in their personal lives and are eager to adopt in a work environment.