Hidden Signals

Communication comes in many forms, not all of them verbal and many of them under-valued… If eBay has taught us anything, it is that what one person considers waste can be another person’s prized possession.

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‘Bring Your Own Profile’ to work

Summary: ‘Bring your own device’ has transformed mobile access to corporate information thanks to new consumer devices being adopted faster than their corporate equivalents. Could ‘Bring your own profile’ do the same for corporate knowledge by leveraging consumer social networks?


The adoption of enterprise social software continues to grow. Social media command centres are becoming more commonplace, certainly for recognisable brands. Conversation hubs to facilitate knowledge-sharing are replacing older groupware tools and email discussion lists. Sentiment analysis is a relatively new form of analytics, tapping into current moods and trends visible through user-generated content that are less predictable than your traditional statistics but can prove invaluable to enabling smarter decisions and actions. And internet-connected mobile devices are granting access anytime anywhere, putting the individual at the centre of anything and everything he/she/it chooses to participate in.

But in the world of work, there is one aspect that is already proving tiresome. The need to recreate your profile in a multitude of different enterprise social networks. Uploading a photo, adding a description, declaring skills and interests. Signing up for groups, duplicating opinions across platforms. Change company frequently (increasingly likely in the current era), or live life as a freelancer (also increasingly likely), and it becomes a regular chore.

What if, as has occurred with mobile devices, you could bring your own profile to work? Simply grant permission to your current employer to recognise your online career profile as an employee, and former employers to include your profile in their Alumni network. With a history of contributions that would enable the network to auto-suggest what company groups you are likely to want to affiliate with, and could recommend when you are likely to be able to contribute to something the organisation is seeking help with.

Whilst there are plenty of technical details to overcome, there are benefits for both the individual and the organisation in terms of skills recognition and knowledge transfer. The individual is able to integrate more quickly into the corporate social network. The company has a constantly maintained employee directory that can be easily expanded beyond organisation boundaries to include alumni, associates and other interested or relevant parties. And accurate recognisable photos in most cases too!

To do so would mean integrating one of the online consumer social networks. I’m guessing Facebook is an unlikely candidate. Most people observe a separation that means Facebook is kept for family and friends, hobbies and informal events. Of the others, in English-speaking countries, the likely candidates are LinkedIn and Google+. LinkedIn has the weight of maturity and a thriving group system that includes algorithms to suggest what you might want to participate in. People are used to crafting and maintaining their profile for career development. It also offers the potential to integrate with the existing company pages and recruitment services. Google+ has the breadth of coverage, plugging individual profiles into a global search index that enables also sorts of SocialRank based possibilities. As well as social networking tools already popular within some organisations, the Google Hangouts. But it has some work to do still – few people maintain well-populated profiles there (in my experience). Others? About.me is interesting but just a static profile page for now, like an online business card but without the value of context.

I’ve deliberately ignored the enterprise social networking tools such as Jive, Yammer, Kenexa and SocialCast because, for all their newness, they still represent the traditional world of enterprise software. Focused on the needs of the organisation first and foremost. The future of work is about networked individuals with careers, interests and expertise spanning far beyond traditional organisational boundaries. The tools and services demonstrating the most agility to adapt to this new world of work are online and consumer-based.


Featured image: ‘Selfie’ kindly shared on Flickr by Tim Ellis

How to pilot social media tools

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To navigate social media, you need a champion within HR for internal adoption, recognise the constraints your industry operates within, and actively engage with influencers on external channels.

I recently presented at the J.Boye Conference in Aarhus and had the chance to sit in on some other sessions including three great examples of how to pilot, introduce and adopt social tools for business. Two were focused internally, improving employee engagement. One was external, focused on customer engagement. All had great lessons to share. Here are a few soundbites.

IBM BlueIQ

Luis Suarez presented lessons learned by IBM since introducing BlueIQ ten years ago to increase knowledge sharing and collaboration internally. It followed the old adage – happy employees lead to happy customers. Ignore that correlation at your peril in this new connected world we live in. The early adopters of BlueIQ were often the black sheep in their groups, the disrupters upsetting the status quo. BlueIQ gave them a community (and an authentic voice). The initiative has since grown to over 50,000 active participants globally.

There was lots of great advice, but these two quotes particularly stood out:

“You can be appointed a manager but you have to demonstrate leadership, every day.”

When asked if there is anything that could or should have been done differently earlier in the project, Luis gave a great tip:

“To drive adoption of social tools internally, you really need to find a champion in HR. Because they have the power to do anything regarding employees.”

Wise words.

UBS Global

Peter Barnes is the global head of web communication and collaboration IT for UBS. It was great to hear his story as a number of my own clients are challenged with embracing online, mobile and social technologies within the constraints of tightly regulated industries.

UBS deployed Jive three years ago with a specific intent – improve customer service. Working within the confines of the banking sector meant that it is very difficult to be as transparent with information as many people would like. For starters, the solution had to be on-premise. Cloud-based alternatives were not an option. And a vetting process was needed to ensure no client-identifiable information was shared. UBS had 6 developers working on their deployment to tweak Jive to meet their needs.

To give an idea of the challenges, here’s my most re-tweeted soundbite from the conference, posted during the session:

“The four horse riders of the apocalypse just referenced by UBS at JBoye13 – head of legal, head of compliance, head of risk and head of HR”

Sometimes, ‘just do it’ is simply not possible. It’s easy to bash roles such as legal and compliance but it is their livelihoods on the line if something goes wrong and they are accused of being negligent in their duties.

A great tip shared was the introduction of a ‘whistle blower’ account that anyone could contact if they spotted content being shared that they were concerned about.

BNP Paribas Fortis

Benoit Minvielle is head of e-Communication, Social Media and Innovation at BNP Paribas Fortis (BNPPFF). He presented a case study that walked through one of the best run pilots in social media tools I’ve seen. They launched 2 years ago with a very small deployment, initially in Belgium.

The first step taken was to monitor and listen to what customers were saying, and where. They found that most questions were being posted on Facebook. They also analysed the overall market and found that 4 million customers in BNPPFF were logging in twice a day on social networks.

The decision to move from 1-way to 2-way communications was not taken lightly. They recognised that it would require very different business practices. Crisis management is one of the most visibly affected processes – most will now be heard about first on social media channels. Real-time monitoring was implemented and paired with a ’24 x 7′ alerting system to also be able to respond in real-time. Backed up with the more traditional reporting and analytics to study trends on a regular basis and send outputs to appropriate departments.

BNP Paribas Fortis

(Click to view larger image)

BNPPFF implemented a ‘Social Media Command Centre’ integrating with the different business areas. Some required the real-time statistics, others needed structured reports for more organised reactions. The image above shows some of the different departments involved.

To learn from the pilot, they did monitor stats on the sites, such as likes. But were much more interested in quality than quantity. BNPPFF identified influencers and targeted them to become actively involved in the channels. They were considered key to the positive outcomes achieved. But for two-way conversations to work, you have to be good at listening and expect the conversation to not always be about you:

“Be authentic, listen and engage. Don’t control”

When asked what impact engaging on social media channels had had on sales, Benoit responded that this is not yet a Point of Sale. BNPPFF are net attempting to sell any products through social media channels. That may happen later, but for now it is about added value through better customer engagement.

Three great case studies and presenters. Thanks so much to Luis, Peter and Benoit for sharing and to Janus and the team for organising a great conference. If you’re interested in attending a future one, they are currently held annually in Philadelphi, US and Aarhus, Denmark. Visit the J.Boye web site for details.

Flickr image ‘Map reading‘ kindly shared by Zoetnet

Do enterprise social networks matter?

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Massive global online social networks have enabled consumers to disrupt markets and even helped citizens to disrupt governments. But what about social networks within business? Is there potential to improve the workplace?

The quick answer would be Yes! But the messy reality of most workplaces mean the outcome is not quite so clear.

Here are some real-world observations, based on organisations who have piloted and/or rolled out enterprise social networking tools over the past 2 years for internal purposes:

  • The most active uses have all shared a similar trait: connecting a distributed peer group focused on R&D-style activities. People who talk the same language (i.e. domain-specific) and share the same interests but are geographically dispersed.
  • The weakest use has been when it is deployed as a generic organisation-wide tool for everyone to start communicating online. There may be an initial flare of activity but usage tends to drop-off within 6 months.
  • The organisations who experience the most demonstrable benefits are in intellectually competitive markets, particularly science, technology and engineering, where specialist expertise is highly sought and valued but where there is openness to expanding knowledge.
  • Most senior managers are surprised at how well enterprise social networking tools are embraced when people are given the opportunity to participate.
  • Most successful deployments have at least one role dedicated to encouraging and moderating participation. May be a permanent role, can also be an ‘on rotation’ responsibility.

Here are some factors to consider before deploying enterprise social network tools:

  • What’s the intended outcome – Is it to strengthen relationships? Uncover hidden pockets of knowledge? Mine skills for collective intelligence? Involve people in decisions? Speed up access to expertise? Improve communications?
  • Are the dependencies in place – Will people have time to participate? Will they care (priorities)? Will their contributions be acknowledged, used, ignored or dismissed? How will conflicts be resolved?
  • What’s the overall culture of the organisation like – Is gossip encouraged or frowned upon?
  • Don’t mix up collaborative working with social networks. Different audiences, different activities. But one can help the other to scale…
  • Don’t get too hooked up on the technology choice – the value is in the conversation.
  • Consider training to improve communication skills for key roles.

And if there’s one tip above all others for getting started, try focusing on a specific area of the organisation rather than thinking ‘we are going social’. Can an enterprise social network create the digital equivalent of the water cooler or coffee area for a peer group that is otherwise unable to chat on a regular or ad-hoc basis?

Related blog posts

Flickr image: “Group Dynamics” kindly shared by Gary Cooper

The need for conversational skills

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A big disruption brought about by social media and online social networks has been in the transition of power in a conversation from the organisation to the individual. Effective conversations are more important than ever.

Whilst many organisations are taking social media seriously for business, there can be a tendency or desire to focus on deploying readily available technologies without appreciating the importance of the human role in the process.

Salesforce recently wrote an article about four sales and technology trends nobody is talking about. Three of the four centred on the importance of developing effective communications skills. Not just what you say, but how you convey it:

  1. Young sales reps lack traditional skills

     Whilst today’s graduates are very sophisticated when it comes to using technology, they are often not so smart when it comes to people skills and a nose for sales

  2. Buyers are making decisions without human help

    The sales person’s role is no longer to provide information about a product. Their role now is to add value by understanding the needs of a customer

  3. Video sales enablement is in and phones are out

    Only so much can be understood through words, while body language is much more effective

Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO, recently wrote about the need to improve communications in an increasingly complicated and interconnected world. He quotes Peter Drucker:

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said

That quote, pardon the pun, says it all! You can’t just recruit people to manage social media channels based on their knowledge of modern technologies and having grown up surrounded by social media meaning they ‘get it’. In most cases, there are still real humans behind every online account. A good conversation requires being able to relate to the other person, the individual.

To give an example. Guy Stephens recently asked if the @NHSDirect account lacked empathy:

nhsdirect_tweet

It wasn’t the most sensitive of responses to a distressing situation.

Whilst the information may have been accurate, the response takes no notice of the emotions conveyed behind the message. Scanning through the past two weeks of tweets, the tone is consistently efficient delivered in a light-hearted and friendly manner. In most cases, that approach works works very well. But here’s another example where it falls flat:

NHSDirectTweet

When somebody includes the hashtags ‘so ill, ‘need advice’ and ‘please’, I’m not sure ending your response with a smiley face is the best choice. There is no variation in the tone of the @NHSDirect conversation. No adjustment based on the sensitivity or severity of the question or comment. A novice mistake.

In comparison, a local police Twitter account manages to combine serious and useful updates with light-hearted banter, as demonstrated in the images below:

SolihullPoliceTweet

A serious question is given a serious response that they can act upon, immediatley. The @NHSDirect version would have probably been along the lines ‘Sorry, we can’t give out legal advice, you could try this page <link>. Take care.’

For the light-hearted approach from @SolihullPolice, this still remains one of my favourites:

tweet-SolihullPolice

It’s a fine line between what works and what doesn’t. Varying the tone based on the situation can play a big part in determining how people react to information. Investing in conversational skills is a must for organisations to be effective in social media channels. And I suspect many organisations will fail to recognise the natural talent they already employ, as demonstrated in a related article – Networks need individuals who care.

References

Related articles

p.s. If you’re wondering why an image of a horse was used for this post. Horses can’t talk but that doesn’t stop them from communicating…