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The CIOs Social Collaboration Crib Sheet – Part 2

In the last blog, I introduced some foundational concepts and core questions central to the Enterprise 2.0 conversation.

  • What social collaboration is and what is it not
  • What cultural characteristics are required to foster collective intelligence

In this week’s blog, let’s examine the big question CIOs ponder:  how to harvest social collaboration tools to generate real business value.

First, it’s a fact that business and IT organizations have gone through a remarkable transformation over the past decade – due in part to the economic downturn. A recent article in CIO.com states “the old way of running IT is not coming back – ever.“ As a consultant for Agile Solutions, I meet with CIOs and IT staff on a daily basis and agree that business has changed. Adapting quickly to new technologies like social media, and using them to create innovation is no longer a question of “when do we” but instead “how do we.” It’s clear to me that businesses who use social media as a tool for innovative collaboration will have a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The Nature of Work is Changing – The Innovation Culture

As organizations compete in the increasingly competitive global marketplace, traditional structure-based processes are shifting toward more dynamic, fluid knowledge-based activities. Many companies are undergoing organizational redesign efforts to build an increased capacity for innovation through empowered teams.  From call center to field service reps, employees have more information at their fingertips now than ever before. With Enterprise 2.0, employees don’t just consume information, they contribute to the knowledgebase. How they consume and use information to enhance productivity, improve operational efficiencies and increase customer satisfaction is at the heart of Enterprise 2.0’s true power.

As proximity to team members grows from a cube away to a country away, social networks are vital in sharing information. What was once water cooler talk that helped an individual solve a problem can now be simulated online. Moreover, social media expands communication channels from one-to-one to one-to-many to many-to-many. One individual sharing his or her insights ripples through the organizational matrix, connecting ideas that may have never been connected. Not only is this a productivity play, but an innovation engine.

What’s the cost to the organization by not promoting collaboration?  Deming, the quality management pioneer referred to the concept of “losses unknown and unknowable.” You don’t know what you don’t know about the true potential of a collaborative platform until implemented in the organization.

The Nielsen Norman Group found that “Web 2.0 has transformed the way users communicate, share and collaborate online, and while this revolution has taken place outside the enterprise, it has a direct impact inside the firewall. As social tools begin to shape workers’ expectations for how they get things done, it raises expectations for how they collaborate and communicate and participate in content development. The social Web has turned consumers into producers and this will impact how they work.”

The Value of Collaboration

enterprise 2 roi resized 600While many pundits argue over hard returns on Enterprise 2.0, early reports seem promising. Case in point, check out this case study about TransUnion and the estimated $2.5 million in savings in less than five months while spending just $50,000 on a social networking platform. Cost savings is a good thing – especially in a down economy – but it’s not the primary driver to implement social collaboration tools. Creating innovation to establish a competitive advantage is the intended purpose. And the way to create innovation is to maximize collaboration.

I found a great Enterprise 2.0 powerpoint presentation. Within the deck is a marvelous quote from former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Lew Platt that communicates the power of collective intelligence. Platt states “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as profitable.” And that, in a nutshell, says it all.

The general public has already adopted social media because it empowers individuals. In order for collaboration to take hold in the workplace, a cultural shift within the organization that embraces collective intelligence must take place. How should business employ social collaboration? I’ll end with a wonderful analogy from Dr. Steve Hodgkinson. He says “Thinking like a gardener rather than an engineer is helpful. Choose the right business problem to solve, create the initial structure sensitively, seed the conversations, moderate them carefully to stimulate engagement and shape behavior, show commitment to “feeding and weeding” the collaboration, acknowledge good behaviors, and manage the lifecycle of topics and threads to keep things vibrant. Successful implementation of an Enterprise 2.0 initiative is a social thing. It is all about changing people’s behavior. Enterprise 2.0 platforms are simply the gardener’s tools — if the garden dies it is seldom the tool’s fault.”

Let the garden flourish!

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