The four simple truths of Intranet

This month saw Investis host the first of many Intranet thought-leadership seminars. Over 45 people from 38 FTSE and multinational organisations filled the room made for 40, for what was to be an insightful if not somewhat snug gathering at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden.

In this post I summarise some of the key points discussed:

The workplace is out of date – Mike Boogaard (Investis)
I started off the event by revisiting the point I made in my last blog post about the workplace being based on a 20th century model even though we find ourselves in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Coupled to this is the reality that consumerisation of IT is raising the user’s expectations: organisations that fail to improve both their digital workplace and access to up-to-date technology risk losing their best people to the competition.

I concluded, however, that there is a huge gap between what we as organisations are ready for and what the consultants and vendors are trying to sell. In most cases organisations are simply not ready for the utopian ‘totally mobile, social and collaborative network’ and simply need to focus on connecting people with people and people to information, achieving what I refer to as ‘networked productivity’ and ‘coordinated working practices’.

The Four Simple Truths of Intranet – Mark Smith (Investis)
Rather than focus on the big business transformation piece, Mark focused on four practical ways of ensuring your Intranet is fit for purpose.

1. Your Intranet doesn’t have to be ugly!
An ugly Intranet reflects a lack of investment and says to the user that the organisation doesn’t care (…and so why should the user?). Also, as people are working more from home and remotely, it is important that entering the Intranet gives the same sense of ‘brand feeling’ as walking into the physical office itself.

2. Make things simpler
A key win for an Intranet is if it is simple to use, easy to navigate and fast at finding information. The focus should therefore be on what you can take out rather than adding things in. Intranet managers should focus on eliminating complexity.

Mark gave the example of the mobile Intranet site of the UK parliament. Developed by Sharon O’Dea (then at the UK parliament), it is focused solely on what MPs really needed when on the move. Namely, alerts telling them when they needed to go into the house to vote , maps of the parliamentary estate and of course a list of bars and restaurants. A great example of making things really simple.

3. Use technology intelligently
Technology should never be the driver of a project, but the enabler. My approach is always to take a step back from technology as this allows me to focus on the needs of the business rather than be restricted from the outset on functionality. Technology needs to be used smartly to deliver content and tools that are relevant to users. Define your objectives and needs first, then select the technology to do it.

4. Put people at the centre of the Intranet
Lastly, Mark focused on the most important part of any Intranet: the users. He made it clear that content is not king, people are. This means focusing on the activities and requirements of the user rather than publishing pages. He concluded that by focusing on the users you will allow them to become more efficient, and efficient employees lead to efficient organisations.

Integrating social collaboration within your business – Bruce McKay (Jive)
Bruce focused on the benefits of integrating social collaboration for the organisation and gave 3 practical examples: Toshiba which achieved faster sales cycle, SAP which reduced product release cycles and News Corporation which reduced multiple Intranets to one.

They achieved this by improved access to information, easy scalibility, ideation and innovation, and improved general awareness.

But the best way to get a feel for what Jive can do is to watch this great video (put your headphones on!).

Simplifying the Intranet – Paul Hewitt (Deutsche Bank)
We are incredibly grateful to Paul who gave us some of his precious time to talk about DB’s initiative to simplify their Intranet and give a practical example of how they went about integrating their social collaboration platform into the workplace.

Below I have outlined the key points that I noted down:

1. Deutsche Bank has the same challenges as many of our clients: multiple intranets, several disparate and diverse systems, out-of-date content and a desire to make use of social collaboration.

2. Clearly defined roadmap – DB had a clearly defined roadmap, divided into four phases with well-defined activities and benefits per phase.

3. Solid social collaboration business case – DB launched their social collaboration platform to a select number within the organisation and let it go viral, but prior to launch they developed a clear strategy and solid business case for the implementation of the relevant platform, and were able to measure performance against these objectives. Their key objectives (each stream split into several activities) included reduction of service costs, consolidation of the Intranet, a focus on eliminating waste/duplication of work and decommissions the total number of tools used.

Paul concluded by highlighting some of the key opportunities that he believes DB’s social collaboration platform has to offer, which included: improved findability, visibility beyond your own division, a great way of driving traffic to the Intranet, and helping people connect to management.

———————————-

I would like to thank Mark, Bruce and Paul for their time and all the attendees for making it very interactive and insightful morning.

If you are interested in receiving a more detailed presentation of the event, please get in touch.

The Intranet and beyond…

As I will soon be hosting an event with the same title, I thought it might be interesting to give everyone a little taster of what I hope to cover with (a lot of) help from my colleague Mark Smith and some very interesting guest speakers.

By now, everyone has pretty much accepted that Intranets are important and a great way to help bring people closer to people and closer to information. Most businesses have some sort of Intranet and some of us are discussing the importance of ‘socialising’  Intranets and making them more collaborative.

But to understand where Intranets are headed, we have to understand the underlying trends and directions that are influencing our working lives.

Our lives have changed
Consider how the way we live our personal lives has changed over the past two decades: we socialise and make friends online (Facebook), everyone knows where we are (Foursquare), we are available any time (mobile), we buy anything anywhere (ecommerce), we only watch what we want to see (TV on-demand), we share our interest and knowledge (Twitter), we have total mobility (iPads, Smartphones) and we expect all of this at breakneck speed (4G and broadband).

I could go on and on about how our personal lives have been unrecognisably changed by technology…but that is only because I am old enough to remember what our lives were like 20 years ago. Most of the 20-something youngster joining the workforce today don’t know any different.

Our workplace needs to catch up
And yet, if we look at the way we work, very little has changed over the last two decades. In fact, if anything, the speed of organisations’ advancement has slowed down.

What does our office look like today? Pretty much the same as it did in the 1990’s. Back then we had open offices, coffee corners, networks and document drives. Some of us had PCs and others had laptops (ok, a bit bulkier and more expensive). We had email and mobile phones. Sure there have been some changes, but the sad truth is that back then our workplace offered us better infrastructures, connectivity and equipment , whilst today we now have better equipment and connectivity at home.

Fundamental change
It is not just about technology but about the way we structure our organisations. As people are becoming smarter, there is less need for traditional business hierarchies. As people start to collaborate, we need to adjust the way we approach targets and job remits. As people begin to share, authority will shift from those with fancy job titles to those with knowledge.

Essentially, the workspace should no longer be a place you go to but a thing you do. The office environment should become an extension of our digital workplace. People will not work 9-to-5 but whenever they are connected. We need to recognise achievements instead of just offering attractive compensation. Mobility (not mobile), collaboration and sharing need to become the focus, and we need to put in place solutions that will allow us to do all this effectively (hint: that is not by email!).

All of this will not be achieved immediately, and we will certainly not have all the answers at the event, but I do hope we will demonstrate ways in which you can start working towards this organisational revolution, and how to ensure your approach is flexible and future-proof enough to meet the challenges of the second decade of the 21st century.

The free breakfast seminar will be hosted at the Hospital Club, Covent Garden from 8.30am-10.30am on 10th October 2012. To register please visit: http://linkd.in/PtE38h (limited availability).

See you there!

How to avoid social collaboration failure: focus on people

I am aware that the title of this post makes a pretty big commitment to the reader, and I don’t blame you for thinking I am about to reveal the holy grail of social collaboration or Enterprise 2.0. I am sorry to disappoint you.

Unfortunately there is no definitive roadmap for success or perfect case study we can all replicate. The very nature of Enterprise 2.0 is that the solution needs to be adapted to the one thing that makes every company different: its people.

Typical,”, I hear you say, “another wishy-washy blog post that only adds to the conundrums we already face!”. Hopefully, not!

The reality is that although the solution is almost certainly unique, the approach to uncovering the solution is relatively standard. It just needs to be focused on the people. So here are a couple of key steps that should form part of your passage into the world of social collaboration, and help ensure a successful outcome:

1)  Don’t let the technology define you, you define the technology – “we want to implement platform x because our CEO went to a conference where it was presented, and he loves it” does not make a good business case! Before you select the right platform, make sure you do your homework (see #2, #3 and #4 below). Certainly do not start by selecting the platform. Take a step back from technology and resist the temptation to jump on a particular bandwagon. Most responsible vendors actually advocate this approach themselves, as failure is not in their interest either.

2) Understand the users’ requirements and needs – this is not about getting the users buy-in but about making sure that the solution actually meets the needs of the people who will be expected to use it. Sounds like a no-brainer,  right? Believe me, so many organisations still see this step as a waste of time or simply treat it as a box ticking exercise. Gain an understanding of what is lacking from the current system(s),  find out how the users are currently working (tools, devices, locations), find out what the users require to work more efficiently and effectively, and what would make their day more productive (and enjoyable!).

3) Ensure the drivers are in place – if your business doesn’t not have a collaborative culture, there is no technical solution or platform that will magically create a social collaborative environment. You need to make sure the business is ready, and that the relevant drivers are in place. These drivers are personal to the organisation and will include essential factors such as culture, leadership and technology.

4) Build a strong foundation (business case) – define the business objectives and the relevant KPIs to measure success. You need to be able to measure your solution, not just to prove you are on the right track, but more importantly to know if you are on the wrong one. The benefits of E2.0 are often intangible (i.e. more engaged employees), making them harder to measure but not impossible. Also focus on the wider business metrics. Define the end-goal or outcome  (e.g. innovation, growth, profitability, customer retention), which are measurable.

5) Pilot – the saying that ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression’ is also true within the organisation. This makes pilots so important.  They allow you to launch in a controlled environment, steer the project, make observations and adjustments, and perfect your approach before you roll-out to the wider audience.

6) Planning – “a goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). A medium and long term plan is essential. It gives everyone confidence that it is not just a whim. You need to include in your plan governance, community management, communication strategies (for senior stakeholders) and adoptions strategies (for users) if you are to succeed beyond the initial pilot or launch.

6) Identify champions – I have mentioned this various times in previous posts, but it is often under-rated or ignored completely. The whole concept behind E2.0 is that the users own the platform, provide the content and drive adoption. To make this happen you need the ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ (Rogers’ bell curve) in place. So make sure you have identify, motivated and brought on-board the key influencers, gatekeepers and leaders.

7) Clear communication – if your organisation is anything like 99.9% of the other organisations out there, your foray into launching ‘a new solution’ will not be the first the employees will have experienced. By now they probably have a multitude of tools, platforms, apps, and software systems that were, at the time, equally ground breaking as your initiative. Make people understand why you are introducing this new system, why it will be beneficial to them and set aside enough time and budget to train them and provide support.

8) There is no ‘one size fits all’ – as mentioned in my introduction, E2.0 is world where ‘one size does not fit all’. It is perfectly possible that even within your organisation you might need to consider different solutions or approaches for different departments or business units. I am certainly not suggesting implementing a myriad of platforms within one organisation. That would almost certainly end in disaster, but make sure that you introduce your new solution only to those users who will benefit, rather than forcing it on everybody.

Conclusion:

When speaking to organisations, I am glad that the conversation is no longer about ‘why’ they need to implement an E2.0 strategy. They get it now. They realise that the workforce is changing, that technology is speeding up conversations, and that social networks have altered the way we communicate and collaborate forever. The question now is no longer about ‘why?’ but ‘how?’.

Unfortunately, it is now in the ‘How?’ phase where organisations are losing their faith and where the money is squandered. In 9 out of 10 cases it is because the initiative did not have the users (the people) at the centre. Focus on the people and their needs, and you will be on your way to success. If you don’t have the resource for this ‘discovery’ exercise, get outside help. It will save you lots of money, pain and resistance in the long run.

Lonely at the top: how a CEO drives employee engagement

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s Continental Airlines was ranked bottom of nearly every category used to measure airline performance. The company went through 10 CEOs in a decade, had to ask for bankruptcy protection twice and, at it’s lowest point, made losses of over $600m per year.

When Gordon Bethune took over as CEO in 1994, the situation looked hopeless. But he quickly realised that the origin of the problem was (mainly) down to one major failing: a complete and fundamental lack of employee engagement. In fact, employees were mistreated and mistrusted. The employees themselves were embarrassed to work at Continental. There was no pride and certainly no pleasure in going to work.

This lack of pride and enjoyment inevitably led to slow turnarounds at airports, lack of cleanliness of the planes, delays and most importantly of all total customer dissatisfaction. People didn’t fly Continental for their pleasure. The result: a hugely unprofitable airline.

Bethune, implemented the basics of employee engagement. He instilled pride, explained that the cleanliness of the planes wasn’t just important for the customer, but for the staff themselves. They had to work in the planes. He started giving the staff bonuses every month the business made a profit (sending a separate cheque at the end of the month to make sure they knew it!). And he got stuck in. He could often be found loading luggage with ground staff or getting feedback directly from cabin crew.

The result? The year Bethune took over the company made $250m profit. It was soon at the top of all the rankings and the stock price rose from $2 per share to $50 per share, it was voted ‘best place to work’ for 6 consecutive years and in his last year (2004), Fortune magazine voted Continental Airlines No. 1 Most Admired Global Airline (which it has won many times since then).

So, what can we learn from Bethune’s activities? How can we translate these into a digital comms language? Here are some ideas on how you as a CEO can use your digital channels to cultivate employee engagement, instil pride and get your team behind you:

CEO Participation – the biggest lesson we can surely take from this success story is the importance for the CEO to ‘get stuck in’. It is not just about getting senior management and/or CEO ‘buy-in’ for the Intranet (or social collaboration platform). It is all about actual participation. You need to be using the same systems that your staff are using. If you use it, the rest of the organisation will follow suit (and you will gain a better understanding of any limitations and/or benefits).

CEO blog – a great way of getting the team behind you is by communicating to them. And one of the most effective ways (time/cost) of doing that is through a blog. Although slightly more time consuming than participation, CEO blogs are hugely powerful instruments that enable you to address potentially sensitive issues, cultivate enthusiasm for new projects, and communicate the management’s vision and the company’s performance.

CEO Q&A – another very effective idea, and very easy to implement for the more social platforms, is the creation of a version of ‘prime minister question time’ or internal CEO Q&A session. Run as regularly as it suits the business, this will allow staff from all levels of the organisation to ask questions and for you to address them. Yes, this means you will sometimes face difficult issues, but the reality is they are better addressed than left to fester.

Video & webcasting – it doesn’t replace the importance of face-to-face presentations, but in organisations that are geographically dispersed or simply too large to get everyone in one room, video and webcasting is the perfect way for employees to get a closer to the CEO. Webcasting, in particular, is a great way to draw people to the Intranet at the same time, with a common sense of purpose and allow you to address the whole organisation as one. Rich content is also becoming more and more important to Intranets, so consider a quarterly corporate update video, and a video for new starters welcoming them on-board (simple but extremely effective).

KPIs – the lack of importance given to communicating company performance internally always amazes me. Companies are quite willing to spend fortunes on end of year reports and IR sections (which are clearly also important), but don’t seem to understand the importance of communicating this information internally. A company performance section should be a standard for your Intranet if you want to gain real employee engagement. Simple: to cultivate pride, tell them how you are doing when you are doing well. If the company is doing badly, discussing performance figures can help rally the troops.

Conclusion:

Essentially, all the above are digital examples of how you can achieve two things: ‘getting stuck in’ and open communication. Open communication builds trust and pride. Getting stuck in shows awareness, interest and understanding.

These are the pillars on which employee engagement is built.

The workplace is becoming an ‘i’-mocracy

Recently I posted a question on LinkedIn asking people: what they thought the workplace would look like in 5 to 10 years time. My reason was extremely selfish, as it is a question that I have to ask myself quite a lot in my line of work, and thought I would make my life easier by getting other people to answer it for me. For 2 days I waited and waited. Nothing!

Then slowly but surely people started to respond and a week or so later there are 20 comments from people all over the world giving their personal vision of the future of their workplaces. And as I don’t want to be selfish any longer, I want to share some main points raised, and my conclusion with you.

Mobility & flexibility

Almost all the comments to some degree or other touched on mobility being a major influencing factor in the future. Organisations need to embrace mobility and provide their staff with the tools not only to access data but to interact with it wherever they may be (and across multiple devices!).

Collaboration

I was fully expecting this, as it is the single most talked about topic in my conversations with clients. How can we become more collaborative? How can we crowd-source more effectively? Ideation and gamifaction are of course always darting in and out of this conversation, but the reality is that organisations need to stop pretending they are collaborating and really provide substantial tools (and culture!) that enable effective and meaningful collaboration.

Fluid workspace

I loved this expression, as it immediately conjures up visions of what that would look like. The conversation around this went well beyond hot-desking or open spaced offices. As Joyce put it: imagine a big open space with clusters around projects and the ability to join in the various clusters that are relevant to you. Picture leaders walking around this big space and almost indistinguishable for the other participants.

A bit too far out? No!… That is what social intranets or ESN are all about! The technology is real and it is here accessible to all.

Bringing order to chaos

Another point made was around environments that have less noise, and are less chaotic. I interpret this to mean that information is easy to find. Relevant conversations and content are easily identifiable. Relevant people stand out from the crowd.  The mad rush to find content is over. The confusion about who reports to who and who is involved in what are things from the past. Bliss.

BYOD (Bring your own device)

Not longer than ten years ago, we used to go to work because that is where we had access to (fast) internet connections,  the latest computer and some of us were given mobile phones we didn’t need to pay for. Those were perks. Fast forward to today, and the reality is totally inverse. Our personal mobile phone is the latest smartphone on an ‘all you can eat’ data and call package. It is sync’ed with our iPad (or tablet), giving us access to all our songs, photos and other content in a totally seamless way. We have a stylish thin laptop or a top of the range, faster than lighting PC. At work? We are lucky if we get a Dell Latitude laptop and a poxy 3G iPhone.

What does that mean? It means that there is a massive disconnect between our expectations of user-experience and tools that we are expected to work with. Companies will have to focus on improving the user-experience and move away from “they should be happy they are getting a phone” to providing the employees with tools that at least match what they have in their personal lives. Or they will have to accept “bring our own”, and iron out any security issues that may imply.

© Hollywood Pictures

Conclusion:

Reading the above and the response on the Linkedin page, one thing becomes clear to me: we are shaping our own workplace. The balance of power is shifting and employers are having to play catch up to our demands.We share our private lives (FB, Twitter, etc.) – so businesses have to provide platforms that allow us to share (collaborate) our working lives.

We have cool toys – businesses will have to provide us with cool toys or accept that we will bring our own to work.

We value our time – businesses are going to have to provide more flexibility and the ability to work any time anywhere, or we will look for other places to work.

The workplace is no longer feudal (dedicated top down), nor is it a democracy (lets all work it out together).

The workplace is an i-mocracy – I decide!

Thank you the all the participants of the LinkedIn discussion: Stephen RussellSumit RoyLinda BjorkBala SubraStephen RussellPiyush MangalIvan IsaacsMatthew AikenMikko MalmivaaraRandy HerbertsonCatherine Zang, MBAJoyce Wilson-Sanford

The Dream Team? Or Nightmare? – Microsoft and Yammer

Yesterday Microsoft confirmed the news Bloomberg reported 12 days ago: Microsoft buys 4-year old Yammer for $1.2bn.

Wow! This really has blown the game wide open. I will be honest (and apologies to my friends at Yammer) but I did have some concerns about Yammer being maybe a little too social (vs collaborative) and that it was slightly handicapped by the more limited level of integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Office suite which, lets face it, is pretty essential for most organisations (although Yammer was working on this already).

However, this partnership must have the others (i.e. GoogleJive, Chatter and Newsgator) running a little scared. And not without reason as the potential opportunities of this union could be massive.

The benefits are easy to see: the ease-of-use of Yammer, fully integrated  with SharePoint, Office 365, MS Dynamics and Skype is pretty exciting. If done well this will catapult it ahead of the competition and provide a seriously powerful collaborative platform. Add to that the investment capabilities of Microsoft, and this has got to be a partnership made in heaven.

However, as is to be expected when this kind of news is revealed, the doom-sayers are in a high state of excitement.

Not everyone is a Microsoft fan (suggested by the CEO of Jive) – although this may well be true, I dont think we will see people leaving Yammer in their droves just because Microsoft is now involved. First of all, most multinational businesses I work with have SharePoint and MS Office running in some shape or form and therefore are not Microsoft averse. But more importantly, considering the effort it takes to get a social collaboration structure up and running successfully (even with the easy-to-use Yammer) , I don’t think companies are likely to abandon their efforts and/or switch to an alternative platform just because Microsoft is on the scene.

Microsoft dwarfs Yammer and kills the technology – although Microsoft have made it clear that Yammer “will continue to develop its standalone service and maintain its commitment to simplicity, innovation and cross-platform experience”, there is a risk that they will see this as an opportunity to commercialise their other products through Yammer (i.e. force feed them to us). I don’t see this as a risk but as a benefit. It will add the necessary weight to Yammer’s offering rather than threaten its existence.

The Microsoft curse – the argument that for some inexplicable reason Yammer will suffer the same mysterious fate as some others, like Groove, have suffered after they have been bought by the software giant. The reality is that Groove’s fate was already sealed before Microsoft got involved, but for the more superstitious amongst you, here is a list of investments that Microsoft has made over the years. There are a couple of bloopers but I think you will agree they have won more than they lost.

I am conscious that I am starting to sound like a Microsoft groupie. I am not. In fact, I come from a totally platform agnostic angle. I believe that your needs should define your choice of platform (based on a clear understanding of the user requirements and well defined  business objectives).

However, I do think it is great news, not just for Yammer but for the whole socially collaborative landscape. It is going to spice up the competitiveness (hopefully bringing down the costs),  raise the awareness of the benefits of social collaboration in general and lead to more product development, thereby improving the functionality, usability and effectiveness of the platforms. Lower prices and better products – who doesn’t like that!?!

Social vs Collaboration – Are organisations getting the mix right?

If you have recently attend events on corporate digital communication, you will undoubtedly have noticed that there is really only one topic on the agenda: ‘social collaboration‘.

The format for these events is pretty predictable. First the thought-leader confirms why we must all go social, then an organisation show-cases (or shows off!) their social collaboration platform and lastly the vendor (sponsor) takes a few minutes to explain how their platform can deliver the new ‘digital workplace’ straight out-of-the-box.

The first question from the audience is also pretty predictable: what measurable result did this collaborative utopia bring to the business?

Unfortunately, that is when the organisation (and some of the vendors) come unstuck and more often than not bring out the statistics:….more than so many thousand active profiles, over 1,000s of groups and communities, and more than a million posts, etc., etc. Alternatively, out come the results of the latest employee survey, normally concluding that “the employees using the platform feel x% more engaged than those not using the platform”.

Interesting stuff. Essentially, these figures do show that people are using the platform, that they are socialising and interacting and that the interaction can lead to improved employee engagement, which is essential to any successful organisation wanting to keep its best staff.

However, what is so frustrating for me is that none of the organisations or vendors talk about tangible business benefits. Surely, if you are going to invest in a new way of working you would expect measurable, financially beneficial results?! Dont we expect 1+1 to equal 3 if we go down the social collaboration route?

In my opinion, the reason why most organisations and vendors find it hard to be specific about the tangible business benefits is because there is still too much focus is on the ‘social’ and not enough on the ‘collaboration’.

Don’t get me wrong, conversations are good. They can cross cultural divides, make distance irrelevant, build team spirit and create a sense of belonging. It is also a great way to get people to use (and get comfortable with) the platform provided. But it is not to be confused with ‘collaboration’ and, I would argue, that it is in the collaboration where you get the tangible benefits.

In order to make collaboration successful, an organisation needs to have clearly defined objectives and establish the KPIs to measure them. The outcomes might include one or a combination of the following: innovation, cross-selling, knowledge sharing, growth, increased profitability, improved customer service, faster on-boarding.

Once the objectives have been clearly defined, organisations need to provide their people with the tools to collaborate and work effectively. It is essential that your chosen collaboration platform is seamlessly integrated with the other tools (e.g. ERP, CRM, file servers, email, etc.) that your team needs to perform their day-to-day tasks.

And as a prerequisite to it all, the organisation has to have the right culture and drivers in place. Social collaboration doesn’t just come about by buying a few user licenses, or as Oliver Marks summarised it is his blog “buying a toolkit doesn’t make you a mechanic“. Successful social collaboration requires an organisation to already understands and embraces the spirit of traditional collaboration, from the top down. Without this, understanding social collaboration is like trying to understand a foreign language and what will they do instead? Two outcomes: revert to chatting or do nothing at all (the most common failing of social collaboration platforms is inactivity).

Let me substantiate the above with a practical example: a client of mine defined one of the objectives of social collaboration as ‘improving profitability through better customer service and feedback’. Traditionally customer complaints were dealt with through a system of reporting. The customer-facing staff would report a product complaint to their line manager, who in turn would report it to his/her director, who in turn would report to the buying director, who would pass it down the chain to the specific product buyer who would finally discuss it with the supplier of the product in question and pass the answer back up the chain…Phew. I almost lost my train of thought twice writing that.

This process was resulting in numerous customer complaints being missed or going without action. Faulty stock was going to waste because nothing was done about it as no one knew why it wasn’t selling.

On the positive side, the organisation had an incentive system in place to motivate staff to report product complaints and feedback. So it had an excellent ‘driver’ to help achieve the objective.

What (social) collaboration is going to do is to reduce the reporting process from a few weeks/months to a few hours/days by linking the customer team (and their feedback) directly to the buying team (and eventually the supplier). The KPIs attached to this objective will measure response times and time spent by staff dealing with the issue, the affects on the number of product returns and complaints, and ultimately the affect on customer satisfaction. “Hold it, hold it…customer  satisfaction is not a tangible benefit” I hear some of you say. Yes, of course it is! It directly influences the organisation’s bottom-line, turnover and profitability.

It is good to socialise, even better to collaborate!

Some interesting articles I came across whilst preparing this post:

Luis Suarez – Why Social Business Keeps Failing to Deliver
Sam Dyer – The social shift in internal communications
Alistair Rennie – More Than Facebook: The Time Is Right For Social Business
Elena Galitskaya – Enterprise Social Networks Failing to Meet Expectations