Collaboration in Action

I’ve been really busy recently moving back from Paris, setting up for freelance contracts and setting up a house here again. Whilst I was sorting through my ‘stuff’ I came across a whitepaper I wrote a couple of years ago whilst I was at theblueballroom. It made for interesting reading so I thought I’d bring it out again and share it.

It looks at social media and collaboration platforms from an internal communicators perspective. A fair bit has changed since this was published but it’s still worth a read. The contents includes an introduction and evaluation of tools such as twitter, wikis, blogs and RSS as well as examining multi-functional collaboration platforms such as SharePoint, Jive, Socialtext and Huddle.

You can download the paper here;

Collaboration in Action

http://www.theblueballroom.com/download.php

If you have any comments on the work please do  add them to this page.

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Internal Communicators and the Social Media issue.

I was following the hashtags from two conferences in London yesterday, one focused on Intranets and one focused on Internal Communications (IC) with a session on Social Media (SM). The intranet focused conference featured more technical conversations on topic such as UX, algorithms and search within an organisation, but most importantly featured discussion on clarity of objectives, whilst the IC conference looked at softer subject such as adoption and ‘how to get employees using social media’.

What was apparent from the feeds is that Internal Communicators could really do with actually working closer/listening to the Intranet folks to get a better understanding of what they are dealing with and to better define their goals. To my mind, very few practitioners actually understanding why they are actually talking about social media, they know they should be talking about it, but they are not sure why.

I think the crux of the problem is that organisations are embedding social technologies across the entire business, using it for different purposes. A few years ago SM was seen a communications tool alone, which is why PR as an industry adopted it so readily, naturally where PR leads IC follows.

The problem is that at the time Internal Communicators picked up the SM baton when talk was about SM as a collaboration tool was a really hot topic (still is), which is where the confusion lies. Internal Communicators don’t actually know, what they should be focusing on, should they be focusing on more efficient ways of messaging and sharing messages, enabling fluid social channels for feedback, or should they also be focused on enabling collaboration tools (my thinking is that they are stakeholders in this area, not owners). Now social customer service is upon us, does the IC team feel the need get involved in that because it’s Social?

How this can be address;

Stop using Social Media as one umbrella concept – define what the Internal need is and set the appropriate objective.

From the defining the objective, focus on what you are the about is clearer feedback channels through the organisation, is it an awareness campaign for the news strategy, If it’s collaboration or community building, set up a working group, don’t for second think this is just an IC issue,whatever is let’s not call it a SM campaign

I’m pretty sure if Communicators took as step back to define what they really need from social media, then we would move past the stage which Internal Communications seems to be stuck at right now.

If you would like me to help you define your social objectives please get in touch @kev_mcdougall or viahttp://fr.linkedin.com/in/kevinmcdougall

Disrupt our Hospitals

Due to a family illness I spent the end of last week in a hospital in the UK. I’m still shocked at the communication tools on offer both for staff and for patients, I understand there is no money in the country let alone the NHS to fund such improvements in ”the patient experience, but surely there is enough research into the ‘healing powers’ of community, interaction and engagement for individuals who are suffering and going through a difficult period.

I’ll focus on the patients on the wards I walked through first, these were normal wards you see in every hospital, being in the Cotswolds it probably wasn’t as bad as I’ve seen (Royal Sussex, I’m looking at you), but the level of boredom on the patient’s faces was unbelievable. Not surprising really given that they could only really read the Daily Mail or The Sun or stare at the other patients. Surely it’s in the longer term best interest for everyone to keep these patients occupied and engaged in the outside world whilst they are in the ward. Yes, ok they are supposed to be resting but no-one will force any mass participation of online activity. So what am I suggesting, here goes;

Specially designed Terminals which offer internet access, software which enables the patient to learn about their issues (what is going on and what will need to be done in the future), a sort of opt-in social network enabling patients to find others who have similar issues and start the building or integrating into a support network after they leave the hospital. Even something as basic as finding other patients with similar interests would surely go along way to keep spirits up.

Cost is prohibitive, but I’d really like to see a study on recovery period and interactions and communications over a set period.

The other side is why-oh-why aren’t Nurses and Doctors walking around with ipads continually logged onto patient database which is updated immediately, after every visit, consultation or change in the patient? We endured the nightmare of watching our relative move wards only to find out the Nurses on the second ward didn’t actually know the full extent of her problems. This would not have been the case had the staff been empowered with technology and not tied up carrying clipboards and notes around with them.

Given that the last national NHS digital implementation went something like 11 million over budget and was delivered 2 years late I’m not holding my breath for any change any time soon.

When networks clash

I’ve been thinking about networks a lot recently, being freelance sort of makes you even more focused on the nuances of networks and how they work. Whilst exploring the different sort of networks and applying them to communities and then social platforms, I discovered all the networks types I found are based on a collection of group interactions and decisions, for example, an organisation as a network, bar disasters,  can pretty much control their destiny – no demand for your product, simple change your product  – no demand for your services in location X, simple, target a new geography.

This got me wondering if there was any research into networks and how they operate when they are faced with external change on a constant basis. I’m thinking in particular about sports team here. For example, the home team would go out to play a match, with a clear strategy in mind, every connection in the network knows the role they play. This is fine, but then the opposing team will have a different strategy and will not simply let the home network (team) function as they desire, they will disrupt the network at every opportunity (as will the home team to the opposition). Both networks then have to adjust in real-time and consistently (as you never know what is happening each second) over a short but intense period of play. Surely, this makes both networks the most advanced networks in existence?

The key thing here is that individual decision have a huge effect on the network, far more than any other network. The implications are massive if one connection, can’t update data (ie opposition passage of plays and movements) and adopt the ever-changing network strategy. I can’t think of another network where this happens, traders could come close, but they don’t really operate in the same kind of network but they have to update and adapt in real-time however, it seems to be against the less factors at the same time. Or maybe not.

I’m going to look into high pressure, constant change networks and write a detailed article in the future – this fascinates me.

Let’s Meetup inside

I love Meetup.com. I first discovered it when I moved to Paris and was looking to integrate myself into several sporting and social scenes. I found it intuitive and search-friendly and extremely social. Within weeks I was going to Yoga classes, booked into group French lessons and found a running club – all through one site. I’ve even started my own meetup group for footballers of various abilities to meet up on a Saturday afternoon. I’ve called it ‘Have a kickabout’. Without Meetup.com finding these groups in a city like Paris would have been much, much harder.

This got me thinking about the role something like Meetup could have within an organistion. Essentially Meetup builds communities and introduces new people to new groups i.e building connections. Isn’t this the holy grail of what organisations are looking for?

The communities are self-building, enabling official groups to be formed whilst also enabling unofficial groups to form. The official groups would be based around work functions and would be more formal. The most interesting group is the unofficial group formation. This, I imagine, is where the real collaboration and innovation would take place. For example, take a hi-tech company where large numbers of staff work on different projects. An unofficial Meetup-style group is started by some enterprising individual to engage the community in topics such as technology/software/process. If the company did not have an arena to discuss these topics, you could potentially have a group meeting up and innovating within the company through shared interests. Again isn’t that an organisational architect’s dream? The flip side is they could all go and set up a start-up. But for the purpose of my point we’ll focus on the positives.

Rolling out a Meetup style function means finding groups employees  are interested in within the organisation is easy, but more importantly, employees would then be able to find who they really need to talk to about something and also HOW to talk to that person.

Handing over a platform like this to an internal audience can only have up sides, especially if making your organisation as social as possible, through different functions and processes, is a strategic goal.

10 tips on how to drive adoption on your social intranet

  1. Identify the purpose of the platform against a business need. Drill down what the platform is actually for and structure your strategy accordingly
  2. Plan content on the basis of the business need/goal. Plan relevant content and link it to what is going on in the business at that time. This gives users ideal discussion topics
  3. Plan how you are are going to curate content – give feedback to authors early on their posts and make sure standards are clearly explained
  4. Write guidelines and as much support material as possible. Think of the lowest denominator when doing so
  5. Identify early adopters within the audience and start the dialogue early. Gather feedback from them and listen to what they say
  6. Identify Champions/Maverns and Rock stars, engage them and work with them to build a community around them
  7. But don’t forget the little guy. Ensure communications and adoption techniques are reaching everyone
  8. Reward and incentivise  emerging users and promote great content from users
  9. Make sure the content is delivered through words, visuals, video and podcast – everyone is different and everyone chooses to process information in different ways
  10. Use ‘nudge’ techniques encourage leaders to comment on articles and engage in what is being shared.

Related article

How to build a social intranet

How to launch a social network (Google +)

Over the last few days there has been a flurry of activity from my early adopter friends on Google+. It seems only one friend is 100% certain of what he is doing with the tool (he’s living and working in Germany so efficiency has been drilled into him). The rest of us are still not 100% sure who will be seeing our updates and how everything meshes together.

We have come across a few kinks in the platform (it is still in BETA) and are happily collaborating with each other and sending feedback to Google with the aim to understand and get the most out of the tool. In essence Google+ has got me talking to more people and expanding my network before I really start using it.

The theme of this post is not to run through the features and benefits of Google+,  as there are plenty of articles and content already circulating the web from far more accomplished writers. I wanted to share my thoughts on the ‘How’ Google+ has been introduced into our lives, and why I think this will be fundamental to its success.

To access Google+ you would have to have an invite either from Google (because you registered an interest in the Google+ Project earlier in the development process), or you would have to receive an invite from friend who was lucky enough to have been invited by Google. Google+ wasn’t advertised and pushed out to the market with a succession of banner ads and marketing bumf, the same way Chrome has been recently. Most people, me included, heard about it through social networks on the day the invites started dropping into inbox’s. In a nutshell, Google has used the power of social networks to soft launch its Google+ tool.

Why did it choose this launch strategy? First, it creates a sense of exclusivity amongst the early users. These users feel part of an elite community testing out G+ and because of this are closer to the brand/service they are testing.

Second, and following on from the first point, these early users are more likely to become brand champions, because of their increased levels of engagement with G+. And, if you have enough brand champions in each network then engagement levels within that network have been proven to be higher than in those without a keen advocate.

Third, and there is no evidence to support this theory, if you have a series of early adopters testing and collaborating on a BETA stage, then Google has some pretty strong data on how these users are connecting and how they communicate – essentially giving Google a glimpse of how the behaviour of these users could be morphing into a new way of using these tools. There is also the possibility that a super network of connected early adopters could be developed in some way.

The cynic would suggest Google has a working version of G+ ready to roll out at the drop of a hat and that the launch strategy is a sophisticated marketing campaign, rather than a collaborative development experience.

The way users have been asked to be involved a little before they are given this free tool is a refreshing approach to communications and one which ultimately creates more engaged users. I’m not sure this approach will work for all brands or services, but it is clearly the best way to “grab’ users of other services and get them engaged as early as possible, in a highly aggressive market, in which Google is not dominant.

What do you think of Google’s launch strategy?