Sunday, 13 April 2014

Back to Social, Now!

The social enterprise conference Social Now Europe 2014, took place this week on 7th and 8th April in Amsterdam. I was there to report on the international two-day event.

"We are social animals. Social business is about conversation, trust, sentiments, communities." Ana Neves, Social Now

Some companies have become familiar with words like social business and enterprise social networking (ESN). Yet, the majority of businesses are still facing many challenges and uncertainties, especially with adoption. Social Now Europe 2014 was a great opportunity to get a better view of today's social enterprise, and reflect on the whole landscape from both a practical and sociological perspective.

Latest technological developments...

What is different about Social Now is that it is not a forum for case studies. Instead it is made up of a ‘shoot-out’ between a number of collaborative tools demonstrated as part of a narrative through the fictitious case study of Cablinc, a company with 1200 staff located across three countries. Attendees could see how each social tool would help Cablinc to solve their business problems and drive innovation, what their features are and what type of work they are able to support. Some of them were big names, such as Jive, IBM Connections and SAP Jam. Some others were relatively new including Knowledge Plaza, Teamgum, Twoodo, and exo.

Social is not for social sake

Jive was confident in stressing that "social is not for social sake. It is about getting work done." This is the philosophy that underpins their service and latest developments: rich user profiles provide everything employees need to know about a colleague all in one place; the ability to search for information in different ways (via people, content, and places) to make faster decisions; collaborating around shared documents (e.g. seeing co-workers' comments on the Communication Plan and merging their changes accordingly); bringing information from the outside through Jive Anywhere. Analytics are another key aspect of the Jive platform that provides impact metrics on a personal level, community level, business level, as well as sentiment analytics. Resonata, which identifies an organisation's champions and detractors, reveals the motivations that drive participation.


Social monitoring was also high on the agenda of Jamespot and exo. The Jamespot collaborative platform allows social action alignment with business issues by showing employees how they are doing against the goals they have to achieve.

exo instead is an open source enterprise social platform complete with collaborative and content management features that provides gamification elements in the form of "mood indicators", gathering the sentiments of every employee. The tool provides real-time and automatic translation in 15 languages, plus a mobile application that lets remote employees see all the content through a customised dashboard.

Tagging is becoming part of our DNA

From IBM Connections we heard how "tagging is becoming the glue of everything" when it comes to finding the right people and the right content within a community. According to them, hashtags will continue to play an important role in this respect.

This message resonated among many others including Twoodo, an innovative social task management platform for teams which provides complete email integration and actionable conversations. They reiterated, "Tagging is becoming part of our DNA."


The importance of sharing knowledge

Although a relatively smaller and younger start-up compared to the bigger giants of enterprise social, Knowledge Plaza allows collaborative sharing across big online communities bringing scalability to life even inside large corporations (e.g. Lafarge). "Striking the balance between structured and unstructured approach" seems to be the key for this agile knowledge management platform. They have reinvented how to structure online spaces, distribute vital information to employees and add context through aggregated and annotated content.

Teamgum also focuses on content items as driven by sharing. They offer a distinct solution through a relatively simple user interface: the ability to share external web links without leaving the internal platform. Employees can discover articles and webpages on twitter, reddit, etc., and share them directly with their teams.

SAP Jam also sparked interest with their deep integration of employees' profile, customisable templates for groups and fast social learning led by users generated video content.


Once again, it is not about the technology: it's the people! 

There were many other social tools like bluekiwi, hoozin, and Xwiki, each one with something new, and refreshing to bring to the enterprise.

Yet, if there was something that really resonated during the entire conference, is that being a social business has little to do with the technology: it is about people, social behaviours and change management.

Rather than focusing on tools and new 'cool' features, organisations should reflect on the business value enabled by this technology. This implies starting with a vision of the specific challenges and problems a company would like to solve through the use of social, as well as a deep analysis of the organisational culture, trust and leadership involvement.

Inspiring change...the social way

Leading this type of conversation was Luis Suarez, the Spanish social business enthusiast who presented his top tips on adoption:

1. Identify Business Problem(s) including employee disengagement. "Social business adoption is about inspiring people, helping them to adapt." This also means taking into consideration the importance of language: "the words that we use at work do matter."

2. Have a Governance Model. It is about having clear guidelines in place, not rule. Hence, "allow experimentation."

3. Build a Solid Library of Use Cases. "Work out loud, lead by example. Walk the Talk!"

4. Enable Early Adopters. "Change agents lead and inspire the change. Are you aware of who your early adopters are? If not, you need to find it out."

5. Education/ Enablement. "Help model new behaviours and mindsets."

And finally, "Get started! Stop talking and start doing today!"


Suarez ended his talk by stressing that the future of enterprise social is about humanising work: "we are re-discovering ourselves as humans, looking for meaningful and purposeful work." This is why when it comes to social media at work "you don't need ownership, you need purpose. If you have purpose, then every employee will be able to co-own it."

This focus on humans rather than on tools was also strongly emphasised by Ana Neves from Knowman, and organiser of Social Now. She left the audience with a concise, yet powerful message:

"We are social animals. Social business is about conversation, trust, sentiments, and communities.

"Find the tools that speak the language of your organisation. Make them transparent. Be patient. Create activities."

Conclusions

To ensure success in the digital world, being socially enabled has become a prerequisite for our organisations. This means integrating social into our business processes. It implies an understanding of what the business is trying to achieve, the social capital of the company (social insight that includes people's motivations and rewards), and the selection of the right tools for us. No one-size fits all. This couldn't be truer for technology. We will continue seeing new tools coming to the enterprise, each one having something to offer. Most probably we will move from attempting to integrate all of them, to aggregate them depending of the business and employees' needs.

Making sure we use technology for our advantage rather than being overwhelmed by it requires a look back to our business vision and the people using it. What behaviours are in place? What’s the culture of the organisation? The tool, as important as it is, is not the solution for us to be a social business but rather the enabler to be more agile, and responsive. Back to social, now!

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate