Support versus Commitment

In every big project in every company you need your senior executives on board. If you’re the project manager you’re asked to get the support of leadership.

On paper leadership support sounds good; it often comes with budget and it can pave the way for decision-making.

It’s not enough.

You need commitment of your leadership. So what is the difference?If you think of the bacon and eggs breakfast; the chicken was supportive, the pig was committed.

Commitment is visible in the organisation. If your executive is visible connected to your project then she has a real stake in its success. Budget will be more easily released, decision-making will become easier, other leaders will want to be part of it. Perhaps more importantly a number of the doubts about the project will dissolve, the fact that an executive puts their name on a project gives it a credibility vaccination.

Years ago when I was involved in implementing an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) at a large financial institution we’d done really well with good adoption numbers and some real business results. We also had the support of our CEO, who’d even featured in a launch video. I was happy about the momentum we were building.

Then we got a new CEO who wanted to use the ESN to reach employees and have a real discussion. Wow. What a difference, his name was on a community and he was interacting with employees. The questions people had about using an ESN changed from “why” to “how”. There was a growing assumption that this would be how we worked.

So, look for executives who are ready to commit, ask for their visible commitment, and move the conversation from “why” to “how”.

Image:  After a Night’s Fast  | Pekka Nikrus  | CC BY-NC-SA2.0


5 Reasons Facebook Shouldn’t Come to Work

According to TNW Facebook wants to come to work. They’re working on something called “Facebook at Work“. Thinking about this from the perspective of a large company this seems a bad idea for all sorts of reasons; here are five.

  1. Privacy; Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously said “Privacy is dead”. That doesn’t inspire me to put company sensitive information on their network.
  2. Privacy; EU legislation is tougher in relation to privacy than the US. For example I cannot require anyone in my team to give me their twitter handle. I cannot use personnel data to search through social media to find more about our employees. Facebook claims this will be separate, but I can see employees creating a work specific account, defeating facebook’s goal of connecting everyone.
  3. Privacy; I strongly suspect that using personal accounts to login to a work system won’t fly with the Works councils in many EU countries. They are very protective of the work-life balance of the employees.
  4. Privacy; doing this means facebook acquires a whole lot of data on where people work that has not been shared.
  5. Privacy; this set up means facebook acquires data on what your company is working on. Even if they can’t see inside the documents the activity levels give information. During the financial crisis reporters watched the windows of banks late at night to see if the press teams were active. This is the virtual equivalent.

Would you use a “facebook at work” in your company?


image facebook

Risk and an ESN

There are some genuine risk issues to consider when you set up an Enterprise Social Network, they fall into roughly four categories;

  • technology (if this is a business tool, what is availability required?)
  • legal
  • data
  • user behaviour

In the first phase of implementing our ESN we spent a lot of time discussing these, particularly the last one. I felt that too often we build something starting from a risk perspective – focusing on all the things that can go wrong. I really want us to start from a principle of trust, after all we wanted our people to trust each other in their online collaboration.

I kept these three principles in mind in all the discussions with the risk and legal professionals;

  • We trust our employees – most employees do the right thing, few make mistakes, and only a tiny tiny minority deliberately go against policy
  • We will demonstrate that trust
  • We will address real risk or legal issues

There were several “fear-based proposals” that came up for discussion during the implementation. I recall one proposal that someone should review all the images used by people in their profiles. My heart sank. I made a counter offer – as it was non-standard functionality it would need to be built and would cost x euro, I asked them to let me know when they had budget available. I never heard back. In the two years since launch thousands of people have chosen an image for their profile, most often an image of themselves. None have been problematic in any way.

In the end we went with the simplest terms and conditions we could when we introduced a collaboration platform at ING. We had really simple terms, in daily language and framed in the positive; “be nice”, for example, rather than “do not”.

For the most part people were “nice”, they posted mostly work-related content, were generous with their comments and mindful of the tone they were using. Even more remarkable, on the rare occasions when someone wasn’t “nice”, it was the community who addressed it directly and on screen. In at least one case the response reminded the poster that our business values include “respect”.

A reporting mechanism was also a requirement for us – so all users can report a post that they think is an issue – in 2 years, with over 50,000 users and over 25,000 posts we had just two posts reported, neither of which had lead to any real negative impact.

We’re not alone in this finding – other companies report similar outcomes.

It turns out that when people are posting under their own name, and where their colleagues and boss can see it, they post responsibly. You can trust them.

Image: Risk via pixabay

Change Management in One Slide

startsmall2I was a the “working social tour” yesterday, a Microsoft event focusing on customer use of Yammer. It was great to hear the customer stories, they’ve all done well bringing social into their companies and I recognised a lot of the challenges. But my favourite slide of the day was this one, presented by Yammer co-founder and CTO Adam Pisoni.

Start Small

There’s a temptation to design and build a perfect solution and roll it out globally with a fancy big launch.

Don’t do it. Instead start small, find some willing candidates to try using your enterprise social network. Collect success and evaluate the business impact, use these stories to build support for further roll out.

I would urge companies to get the platform available for everyone as quickly as possible – you want people to be able to use it as soon as they’re ready – but the awareness and adoption steps can follow.

With Like-Minded Colleagues

Some colleagues will understand social business straight away , others will be neutral, and few will see nothing in it for them and resist the change.

Work with the ones who “get it”, you’ll get further. They’ll see the potential it brings to their work, and they’ll run with it, often building success cases in areas of the company that you’d never think of.

Those who don’t see how it works and struggle to see what’s in it for them aren’t ready to work with you – if you try you’ll spent a lot of time frustrated and make little progress.

On Projects that Matter

Look for uses that will generate genuine business value, such as;

  • improving service
  • reduced costs
  • innovation
  • supporting virtual project teams
  • leadership communication –

I like this simple mantra of how to bring social into a company; it’s not a “how to”, but it could be a useful check when working through all the challenges that come with driving change in an organisation’s culture

Ignore Technology

I posted a tweet recently that one of the lessons learnt in the implementation of our Enterprise Social Network (ESN) was “Ignore Technology”. I think it confused some people, it sounds wrong, afterall an ESN is technology. Isn’t it?

It’s true that we spent a long time thinking a lot about the technology; from infrastructure and hosting, to functionality, to user experience and design.

But if I think about what a successful ESN is those aren’t the things I think of, if I talk to new users or to managers those things do not come up in conversation. Trust me the fasted way to kill interest in an ESN is talk about the infrastructure behind it.

It’s much more important to focus on the people using the ESN, they’ll be the ones truly making it a success. Here’s a handy guide from Joyce Hostyn demonstrating the difference in the questions you’ll face with a people-centric approach vs a technology-centric approach.

Of course you cannot have an Enterprise Social Network without technology, of course the project implementation phase is focused on making the technology work. And I’m genuinely convinced that bad technology and bad user design are demotivating. But good technolgy and great design are not enough. In fact technology in many digital or intranet projects is comparable to a hygeine factor in Herzberg’s two factor model of motivation. It is not a case of “If you build it they will come”.

My not-so-secret KPI for the success of Buzz (our ESN) is this.

It will be a success when it is just the way we work.

The conversations I have about building adoption are about what’s in it for the user, what business purpose an Enterprise Social Network might have, how can community managers and leaders get the most out of it. We almost never talk about technology. Very occasionally a user might propose a functional change but that’s the most I ever talk about technology.

I think a successful ESN means a culture change in many large companies, and making it successful means relentless attention to answering “what’s in it for me?” for all the people using the technology.

Image; Technology

The Role of a Community Manager

Community Manager is a role that did not exist when I started my career, but it’s a role of growing importance as the usefulness of social media continues to rise and rise. There’s even a “Community Manager’s Appreciation Day” (it’s on the fourth Monday in January – put it in your agenda). There’s an ongoing discussion on the role of a community manager, most often in relation to externally focused activities of a company, but I’ve been thinking about it more in relation to the work we do with community managers working on our Enterprise Social Network (ESN).

What does an ESN community manager do? Here are the four main areas the Community manager makes a difference;

  1. Aligns with Business Purpose
    Communities formed within a company should be supporting a business purpose, it’s up to the community manager to maintain the alignment between the community and the business purpose. We have communities that are about sharing knowledge, others provide a service channel, some are related to specific projects or events. In all those cases the community managers are working with all community members to make sure the community supports the business. Of course we also have some more “social” communities, I’m the CM for a travelling community for example, these are considered the “water cooler” of our ESN.
  2. Maintains Community Culture
    Community managers are there to help new members find their way, encourage contribution and make sure behaviour within their community remains respectful. In a mature community all members will take this on, but we’ve seen that it’s up to the Community manager to lead by example.
  3. Manages Content in the Community
    Content feeds a community, and it’s the community manager’s role to develop or curate content that will build a community, to encourage contributions and discussions from all community members, and to moderate/mediate any discussions that get out of hand.
  4. Represents Community
    The community manager should act as an ambassador for the community within the company, showing the value of the community to colleagues and managers, and working to attract new members.
  5. Platform Development
    This might depend on how you’ve implemented your ESN, for us we’re looking for user input to help the development of the platform to meet future needs. We give this as input to our supply company or make our own customisations. For bigger needs we have to start a new development project, in which case the community manager might be securing a sponsor and working with us to develop and test a solution.

Some ESN experts advocated having full time community managers, with specialist expertise. We have made a deliberate choice to train subject matter experts on community management and support them as they build communities. We believe this helps connect the community to the business purpose. I’m not aware of anyone who has a full time job as a community manager in our company (yet!). The successful community managers tend to be a great communicators, unflappable, generalists and have some geek genes – for the right person it’s a fun role to play.

Change is Challenging

We’re making a very simple change at work; merging our personnel directory site with our enterprise social network.

What does this mean for the user? They’ll be able to search for people using a wider variety of search terms, by putting them all in one search box. The underlying data source is the same so the search results should be the close to the same.

What does this mean for the project team? Solving a myriad of technical issues – from increasing the capacity of the social network platform, to making sure both phone and mobile numbers display. And we’ve encountered a couple of issues that will have to be solved some other way – as they involve tasks that are not related to a social network.

The change will go into effect at the end of this month, given that the directory was the most visited site we started communicating about it back in September. First with key stakeholders and then more widely. The reactions have been interesting – ranging from “yes it’s better” through to “I’ll get used to it” through to “it will be much worse I’ll never find everything”.

We’ve just taken on an extra person as a conversation manager temporarily to help with the increase in questions. When I talked to her about the role I mentioned that some of the people asking questions might be grumpy. She laughed “grumpy people are my specialty”. She may turn out to be our secret weapon in helping people adapt to this change.

It’s a good reminder that in any IT project the challenges are not just technical. Change affects people, and it’s a challenge to help them adapt.

Image change

Year in Review

Screen Shot 2012-12-31 at 2.17.24 PMIt’s traditional to review the year, and think back on the highs and lows. So here goes – my year in review.

Biggest Work Achievement

We launched an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) this year, I think we started the project before that term was invented. We’ve called it Buzz and so far we have established global connectivity, set up community manager training, seeded several communities and won a company award for it all. There are still a lot of challenges to come, but this is huge.

Big Thing I Learnt

Manage upwards more than one layer. I had a great boss, who knew something about the digital world and supported me as a manager and on my projects. When she left there was a huge gap – I’m working on filling the vacuum.

Small Thing I Learnt

DJing. I got to pretend to be a DJ during a workshop. It was a lot of fun, and it turns out that it’s not that difficult if you can count to eight.

Best Read of 2012

The best book I read on a social media theme has to be Revolution 2.0 by Wael Ghonim, with reports coming out of Egypt of ongoing disputes around the new constitution it’s not clear what the ultimate outcome will be. However this book showed how much people will do with social media tools – using it in ways the inventors probably didn’t imagine.

Best fiction of the year The Book of Dave by Will Self, I struggled with the dialect at first but it was worth it, the book is darkly funny tale of a dystopian future.

My Favourite Internet Meme

There were a lot of internet memes to choose from this year, for me the hands down winner Martha and Never Seconds. Martha started out just wanting to use photos of her school meals in her blog to raise awareness of the (low) quality. The council tried to block her using the photos, which caused outrage. She ended up raising over 100,000 GBP for school meals in Malawi, and building a community online where people around the world share photos of their lunch. Martha is 9.

My Favourite Cat Meme

Cat memes thrive on the internet, this year my favourite must be Henri; the world’s first feline existentialist.

2012 image licenced from clipartof.