Many companies and organizations rollout out collaboration and enterprise social networking with an initial burst of early orientation and hoopla. Once the initial excitement wears off, they are left with a “what next?” dilemma and ask themselves how to get sustained and building engagement in order to get all the benefits of working socially.
Richard Hughes, Director of Social Strategy at Broadvision and Paul Karazuba of QuickLogic reviewed some key considerations and strategies for getting past the “shiny new toy” phase and making enterprise social networking (ESN) a productive element in enterprise workflows. As Hughes said it has to be a place where real work gets done and as it becomes an embedded experience, helps change the nature of work as well.
Hughes cited an Altimeter whitepaper written by Charlene Li that noted a major social business challenge is that workers get pulled away to the reality of day to day business process functions often causing enterprise social networks to fail. Most workers engage in specific business process activities that exist outside the social network - so there develops a 'to and fro' dynamic of people going to business process actions and come back to the enterprise social network.
Hughes noted that to address that problem, the processes need to come into the social network so the work takes place and gets hosted within the social network. Hughes suggested that organizations need to consider how these processes change to a social network-enabled set of interactions.
There are specific benefits of a social business process
A business process does not become social simply because it's in a social network. Hughes called out the different types of social business processes
While unstructured processes are the easiest to implement on social networks the sweet spot is semi-structured processes – where a transparent, "working in the clear,” benhaviors helps bring in, build and create new knowledge and insight, and accelerates revision cycles
The other benefits of enterprise social networking is actually towards “losing structure” - by having more opinions early you have make better decisions. A command and control model might see this as uninvited interference
One of the biggest challenges for Sunnvale-based QuickLogic, a global company that makes semiconductors for the mobile industry is what Paul Karazuba calls the “tyranny of distance," the challenges of working on globally dispersed teams. QuickLogic conducted internal studies that show that “As you moved farther from Sunnyvale (HQ), you could track the drop in engagement.”
Four adoption strategies
Collaboration was identified as a key strategy to improve engagement and improve interactions among global teams. To advance adoption Quicklogic developed four key strategies: identify pain points of communication and collaboration, ask why, reward, recognition and responsibility programs, and an approach Karazuba called "a gentle nudge never hurt anyone."
To bring up a form factor for a customer system in Asia, for instance, requires support from teams in Asia, the U.S. and Canada. With times zones being 12 hours apart, synchronous meetings are difficult (someone is either working very early or very late, and in either case not optimum performance hours). A typical method of interaction method therefore is email.
Time-zone induced delays in response result in solved issues being reopened by late comers to a thread, creating confusion. Conversations often go from group to a 1-to-1 dialogue, then often opened back to the group without complete transparency of the side-road conversations. And email threads can become so long that original context is lost, people tune out of the interaction and critical information is buried.
QuickLogic introduced wiki and blog-based communication and collaboration that allows bringing the required work product out of email. Now there are no more mornings with dozens or hundreds of emails, open issues remain present and not buried.
Karazuba indicated there is now a significant decline in email volume without issues being dropped or stagnating. All relevant stakeholders are informed equally including new people in the conversation and information is retained in perpetuity and easily searched. Unlike email, if the user is not interested or not needed the process doesn't distract them.
Improving employee engagement
Another challenge of globally dispersed corporate organizations is all-company meetings, with the typical method of participation being in-person or teleconference attendance. The disparity in time zones make worldwide synchronous attendance logistically impossible.
QuickLogic introduced a meeting archiver that moves the experience from a “live-only” attendance to a video—based enterprise social networking hosted location. The entire company gets to see the original meeting as it was presented but at times that work best for them (and can increase understanding as the video can be replayed for better comprehension and review). In follow on surveys, QuickLogic has determined that the dispersed workforce engagement has really improved.
Another technique QuickLogic uses is to ask ‘why’ questions to help re-evaluate operational practices that might inhibit deeper engagement. Here are some of their ‘why’ questions that let them re-examine practices and leverage enterprise social networking in new ways.
- Why do companies insist in distributing all employee emails
- Why force employees off of the ESN to find information
- Why not find other uses of ESN that might not be 100% work-related
- Why stifle creativity with limits
- Why continue to do things 'the way they've always been done."
QuickLogic has good employee handbooks and company policies, so they look at opening up practices, inventive use cases with new tools like enterprise social networking, knowing that they have solid base policies in place.
The company encourages creativity and work product improvements through intangible rewards. They also recognize innovation and build on it through applications in other areas or departments. The marketing department, for instance, posts and track metrics in the ESN and they encourage others to do the same. They also reward employees for process improvement responsibilities, and don’t consider this solely the responsibility of management
Karazuba gave some examples of the "gentle nudge" category to adoption practices. First, they published information on the employee stock option buying program through the enterprise social network - employees could only find out about it through the ESN instead of being sent an email. They also shut down the company intranet three months after the ESN rolled out. But they do provide bridges from the old to the new by supporting email integration with the ESN.
Hughes refered to the Gartner Hype Cycle and noted that enterprise adoption often follows that curve. Karazuba said at QuickLogic they made the mistake that everyone makes – they ‘threw it out there and stepped back.” It was the shiny new toy under the tree for about two months, and then moved into the trough of disillusionment in months 3-5. Finally they moved on to a thoughtful, adoption strategy with programs to support it and through concentrated effort on specific strategies, adoption grew and improved.