Tuesday, June 10, 2014

9 Ways To Boost Knowledge Worker Engagement

In my previous post, “3 Reasons Why Knowledge Worker Engagement Is Decreasing”, I discussed the increasing pressure on organizations, the changing nature of work, and different reasons why employee engagement and thereby also productivity and innovation are eroding, especially in large and distributed organizations. I grouped these into three overall themes: complexity, inflexibility, and disconnectedness.

Now what can an organization do to reverse this negative trend? It could strive for the opposite, of course, towards increased simplicity, flexibility and connectedness. Here are 9 things your organization can do to get moving in the right direction.


1. Adopt a user-centric approach

Study after study shows that people-centric organizations are more productive and profitable, and that being people-centric is a mindset that is instrumental to building a high-performing organization. This applies to all aspects of an organization, not the least information technology. Instead of leaving the people out of the equation, information technology must be designed in a way that it extends people’s abilities and senses, allowing them to make the most out of their collective expertise, talent and engagement. We are seeing this happen on the commercial web, but it is yet to be seen at work. The solution should be obvious: you need to adopt the thinking, approaches and methods that are used when designing customer experiences and use it when designing the internal work environment.

2. Simplify interaction between people

In a knowledge-intense work environment where the work people do is highly inter-dependent, you need to reduce the complexity in the interactions between people. It requires you to study these interactions in detail - why they are needed, when, who interact, what they lead to - so that you can identify typical interactions and then simplify those interactions. Key in this is to understand the people, their tasks and the situations they find themselves in. Ultimately our digital work environment should be invisible, helping us achieve our goals without any friction at all.

3. Make it easy to perform basic tasks

Most knowledge workers still struggle with basic tasks on a daily basis, many of which are not creating value. Therefore, you need to make it much easier to perform those tasks. Although the tasks of knowledge workers come in all shapes and sizes, many of them rely on a number of basic capabilities, such as finding information or locating expertise. By improving these capabilities, your organization can empower its employees to perform their tasks more efficiently and effectively. By removing waste and friction on task and capability level, you will also be able to see substantial improvement when all these small improvements are aggregated on process, departmental, and enterprise levels.


4. Embrace flexible working

Research shows that what employees of all age groups want is the flexibility to determine for themselves where, when, and how they work, and that increasing workplace flexibility has a positive effect on employee engagement and thereby also on employee productivity. Your organizations need to support this, not only to increase efficiency by reducing lead times by enabling people to do their work when it needs to get done, but also to make people more engaged at work and thus more productive.

5. Support mobile working

New mobile technologies enable you to get your work done anywhere, at any time, with anyone. The tools and information you need to get work done can now be made available to you anywhere and anytime. Yet your organization's culture, management practices, performance systems, organizational structures and priorities are keeping you from exploiting this opportunity to the fullest. Therefore you identify necessary changes and implement those so that mobile working is truly supported.

6. Make it easy to perform tasks in different situations

Your digital work environment should follow us wherever you go, helping you to get your work done, in different situations. This means that you will need digital services that are designed to fit typical situations. These services should all be tied together in a coherent user experience, providing access to all information you might need, allowing you to work seamlessly together with your colleagues from anywhere. You will need to establish a shared vision, strategy and governance model for the entire digital workplace.


7. Connect people 

Achieving operational excellence today and tomorrow starts with having the right people on board and then connecting them to each other. With better connections, your organization can solve problems and act upon opportunities in a fraction of the usual time. And it can achieve it fewer resources and by activating underutilized resources such as expertise hidden in distant corners of the enterprise. When people become more connected, they will feel more engaged. They will be able to build their personal networks and access the social capital they need to get their work done. So, you will need to provide systems in place that allow people to connect and use those connections.

8. Embrace social principles

Your work environment needs to be designed according to the principles that make people engaged and empowered to be more productive and innovative. There are five principles in particular that should guide the design of your organization and work environment:

  • Openness. People need openness to get access to information and other resources they might need to get their work done.
  • Transparency. People need transparency to be able to find and discover the information and resources, and to trust it.
  • Participation. Anyone needs to be able to participate, because that’s how we can deal with any kind of problem or opportunity.
  • Conversation. If people can have conversations it will increase the likelihood that their communication is effective, allowing them to quickly can reach mutual understanding and take the necessary actions.
  • Recognition. People need to be recognized for their contributions if they are to remain motivated and continue contributing.

9. Create an open and transparent work environment

To avoid sub-optimization and other negative effects of organizational silos, you will need to create a more open and transparent work environment, one where you can see and interact with your colleagues within and across organizations. You need to increase visibility of people, information and other resources. You will also need to create mechanisms that allow people to find and discover relevant people and information, without drowning in a rising sea of information. Once you have created a more open and transparent environment, people can start making themselves visible, participate and engage in constructive conversations. Doing so, they will discover new people with similar interests, experiences and goals. They will connect, get to know and build trust in each other. When they do, when they feel connected and feel part of a community, cooperation and collaboration happens naturally. Not because someone tells them to, but because they want to.

At the end of the day, it is about creating the necessary conditions for employees to become engaged and empowered to do their jobs as good as possible. Remove all friction. Love synergy, hate waste.

Friday, April 25, 2014

3 Reasons Why Knowledge Worker Engagement Is Decreasing

Due to the technological development with the Internet and social media, markets are no longer created and controlled with broadcast marketing. People can now find and connect with people like themselves all over the world – and no longer limited to the people in their close proximity and to existing ties such as family members, friends, colleagues or neighbors. They can connect with anyone, and they all influence each other, immediately and with multiplier effects. The power is shifting from companies to consumers. It is a radical shift, but it was predicted already in the mid 90’ies by marketing guru Philip Kotler as a consequence of the Internet. So we shouldn’t be too surprised. Yet a lot of companies are. And they haven’t prepared at all for this. Companies and organizations are waking up to a new reality, and the wake-up call can sometimes be harsh. A number of things are changing, and I will mention four of these here.

1. Change and uncertainty is the new normal
To start with, today’s business environment is anything but static. It’s changing faster and faster, and in new ways. It’s becoming more and more unpredictable. This means that companies and organizations can’t do long-term planning like they used to. Instead they have to be prepared for change, to quickly adapt to new conditions and situations, such as changing consumer behaviors, new competition, new innovations, and so forth.

2. Diminishing return on optimization efforts
The second big change is that the return on optimization efforts is diminishing. The companies that lead the development in their industries, and get all the profit are those that are able to create new value. They don’t do that with optimization. They do it by innovating new product and services, by creating and developing relationships with consumers and others, by collaborating internally and externally, and by constantly learning how change theirs strategies

3. Growth and efficiency is not enough
Thirdly, being able to grow in terms of production volumes, market presence and market share is not enough to be successful, neither is it to produce and market products or services as efficiently as possible. Instead, continuous innovation and high responsiveness to change and customer demands is becoming more and more critical. This obviously can’t be addressed solely by streamlining and optimizing transactional processes, as we have done for the last few decades with the help of information technology. Innovation and responsiveness requires empowered people that can collaborate efficiently and effectively. That is why collaboration is the new productivity frontier.

4. Non-routine knowledge work is increasing in importance
Finally, we can see that work is shifting from manual work to knowledge work, but most importantly from routine work to non-routine work. Computers and software are taking over repetitive and routine-based knowledge work, just as robots have replaced workers doing repetitive and routine manual work in the factories. The work that is remaining and increasing is the non-routine knowledge work that is often highly interdependent such as problem solving, product development, sales and so forth.

Knowledge work is something completely different than most of the work that organizations have tried to improve and optimize during the 20th century. It’s fluid, dynamic, unpredictable, and non-repeatable. Knowledge workers need to look beyond the standard ways of doing things, to question information, rules, and ways of working. This is something completely different to how it is to work at a production line in a factory, where workers follow predefined and highly repeatable processes and procedure. Most organizations have been designed for efficiency and economies of scale, not for empowering people enabling collaboration, innovation and responsiveness.

Too often, knowledge workers feel like they are just cogs in a big machinery. And unfortunately, in most cases, their feelings are motivated. We see all over that employees are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs. Employee engagement is falling. It is especially bad in large and distributed organizations. The consequences are many and severe. Innovation is stifling. Productivity is, if not falling, not improving. People are leaving, or they want to leave, their jobs. It is hard to sustain and improve quality. And it’s not possible to recruit and retain talent by the quality and numbers that are needed.

So what is causing this? I have grouped a number of causes into three overall themes; complexity, inflexibility, and disconnectedness.

1. Complexity
As knowledge workers we often find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Workload and complexity at work is increasing, while we at the same time are expected to produce more, faster and faster. And adapt to new conditions. Not only that, we are expected to be creative and innovative as well. Still, if we look at an average day in the life of a knowledge worker, we struggle a lot with finding answers to basic questions, such as what is happening in our work environment, who is doing what, where I can fiend a piece of information, when it is my turn to contribute, and so on. This means that we spend a lot of time on things that are not creating value, just getting ready to create value. For example, Intel estimated that their employees spent one day per week on trying to find information and locating the expertise they needed to do their job.

Although the tasks of knowledge workers come in all shapes and sizes, many of them rely on a number of basic capabilities, such as finding information or locating expertise. These capabilities are vital to knowledge worker productivity, but also to innovation, and it is evident that poor capabilities generate a lot of waste.

Of course, we constantly get new tools and features that are intended to make us more productive. But when these are introduced, there often is no guidance, and they are rarely customized to fit our needs. In addition, we already have this huge pile of complex products to deal with, and we need to make the new ones find their place in this already complex environment. This technology-centric approach adds complexity instead of reducing it, instead of making things simpler for us. A study by Oracle UPK and Neochange found that productivity of enterprise application users had fallen almost 1/5 over a period of only three years. It’s like giving everybody Friday off. How can that be? I would argue that it’s the increasing complexity that is hampering productivity.

2. Inflexibility
The second theme is inflexibility. By this I mean that our organizations and the systems that are there to help us get our work done are designed in a way that makes change, creativity and improvisation hard. Instead of empowering knowledge workers, our organizations often constrain and prevent us from being productive and innovative.

First of all, there is a mismatch between what science knows and what organizations do when it comes to how they try to motivate knowledge workers to perform better. In most organizations, existing performance models are built on extrinsic motivators, or carrots and sticks if you like. These models worked pretty fine for routine, left-brain, rule-based work of 20th century, but they are not working very well for right-brained, creative, and self-propelled people performing non-routine and highly collaborative conceptual tasks. For example, bonuses and commissions don’t work for this kind of work. As a matter of fact, science shows they have the opposite effect than intended; the higher the extrinsic rewards, the worse the performance gets.

Organizations are apparently making important decisions about their future based on the wrong assumptions. The left circle in this venn diagram represents things that have been considered important for trying to maximize the productivity of manual routine work. The right circle represents things that are important for motivating knowledge workers doing non-repetitive work. There is still little understanding and experience of how to do the things the right circle, so organizations and managers tend to stick with the things they know how to do. Those are the things in the left circle.

Furthermore, knowledge workers need to have flexible working conditions. When it comes to knowledge work, work is not a place, it is something you do. Most knowledge worker tasks can be performed from any location, even those that require close collaboration with others. Organizations need to support this, not only to increase performance, but also to make people more engaged at work. Research shows that what employees of all age groups want is the flexibility to determine for themselves where, when, and how they work, and that increasing workplace flexibility has a positive effect on employee engagement and thereby also on employee productivity.  A Virgin Media Business study found that 40% of the surveyed organizations often overhear employees complain about being tied to their desks and 7 in 10 organizations believe flexible working would make their employees both happier and more productive, boosting employee engagement.

3. Inconnectedness
Finally, we have a theme that I call disconnectedness. It is about people and information being disconnected from each other, and thereby unable to share, cooperate and collaborate as is required to be productive and deal with the challenges organizations face.

Collaborating isn’t as easy as it sometimes might sound, especially not in large and distributed organizations; there are too many barriers to collaborate naturally across an organization and across locations. In a complex and constantly changing work environment, it becomes even harder to find time and energy to overcome these barriers. It is only natural that we tend to share, cooperate and collaborate with people in our close proximity and that we already know and trust, failing to help and collaborate with others or share information that they might have use for. People work in silos. Silo thinking is a typical phenomenon in large organizations. Teams tend to focus on the parts they are responsible for and specialize in.  They sub-optimize and focus on their own goals. They become organizational barriers that limit communication and impede sharing, collaboration, and innovation within the enterprise.

Organizations have also created digital work environments to optimize personal productivity and teamwork, but doing so they have neglected the fact that knowledge work is increasingly relying on collaboration in networks across locations and organizations and stretching far beyond teams. It might seem as a paradox, but the modern and increasingly digital work environments have in fact made people more isolated and unaware of what is happening at work.

This disconnectedness means that people become less engaged. And in a rapidly changing and complex work environment, this has serious implications, such as lost productivity and innovations. Or worse – talent is wasted and people leave.

What do to about it?
So what should organizations do to avoid the negative consequences of complexity, inflexibility and disconnectedness? The simple answer is that they should start working towards increased simplicity, flexibility and connectedness. What they should do and how, I will return to in my next post.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

“...we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature” 
Metalogicon, John of Salisbury, 1159
A modern interpretation of the western metaphor about the dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants is that each new discovery that is made builds on previous discoveries. In the context of enterprises and collaboration, one can say that each person who creates value builds on the value created by other people. Each individual and team is a dwarf, and the giants whose shoulders they stand upon is the workforce as collective, past and present. The stronger the workforce operates as a collective and the better it keeps any past contributions alive, the taller and stronger are the giants, and the more value an individual and team can create. This certainly holds true not only for the performance of individuals, but also for the performance of teams and collaboration efforts.

The Collaboration Pyramid that I introduced a couple of years ago is a model that is intended to show what areas need to be addressed for an organization that wishes to become more collaborative. The model consists of 8 layers, but another way to use the collaboration pyramid is to divide it into three bigger layers: community building, cooperation, and collaboration.

Let me briefly walk you through the three layers.

Starting from the bottom of the pyramid, we have the community layer. The community is the enterprise seen as a group of individuals that share the same purpose, vision and values. It is about shared attitudes and behaviors within the enterprise, or the culture if you like. It is also about the individual’s ability to be seen, participate and be recognized, all of which are fundamental for developing a sense of belonging, identity, and self-confidence.

After that, we have the cooperation layer. Cooperation is about people enabling each other to do something, for example by providing a person with information or other resources that make the person more able to perform a task. Cooperation can be seen as the opposite of selfishness and competition. People help each other out for some mutual benefit.

At the top of the pyramid, we have the collaboration layer. It is about a team of people that work closely together to achieve a certain goal. It can be a permanent team, like a production unit at an assembly line, or temporary team, like a project team. The team would most likely have a formally appointed leader, someone who is responsible for the planning, coordination, follow-up, and communication within the team as well as the world outside the team.

There is a strong dependency between the each of these layers, and it starts with community building as illustrated in the onion diagram above. For people to cooperate well, they need to belong to the same community. For people to collaborate and perform well as a team, they need the cooperation of other people in their community.

It becomes more obvious that the performance of an individual or team depends on the cooperation by individuals and teams from the community as a whole when it takes place in a dynamic, unpredictable, and complex environment. There isn’t necessarily a much weaker dependency in a more static, predictable and simple environment, but under those circumstances many of the dependencies can be anticipated and managed, something which is done by creating and maintaining structures such as a bureaucratic organization, processes, and systems. Even if something out of the ordinary happens, there is likely a procedure to follow and structures in place to ensure that the procedure is followed in the right way. But when the environment that the organization is more dynamic, unpredictable, and complex, then more and more of the work that needs to be carried out cannot be anticipated. The appropriate structures cannot be defined and set up in advance, and they cannot be as rigid or introduce a lot of transaction costs. The structures have to quickly emerge as needed, and then dissolve just as fast as they emerged.

For enterprise-wide collaboration to happen, the community building and cooperation must stretch beyond any barriers such as organizations, time, and place. Groupthink, organizational silos, and structures cannot be allowed to limit the ability for one or several organizations to collaborate efficiently and effectively as enterprise. If the enterprise as a whole is not one single community, and if people don't cooperate freely within and cross organizations involved in the enterprise, then enterprise collaboration will fail.

I would be happy to hear what you think. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

What Is Wrong With The Hierarchy?

In a world where things changed less frequently and when there was plenty of time to react on new information that emerged, where markets did not emerge by themselves and change shape by themselves, it was possible to centralize planning and make long-term detailed plans and execute the plans over a period of several years. Organizational hierarchies and command-and-control style management were the solutions implemented to get the information from the top to the bottom of the pyramid and ensure that execution plans were followed. Things are different today, as organizations have to be prepared for the unexpected, and readily adapt to new conditions. They might still have an overall strategy and plan, but they need to be prepared to change it at any point in time. They need to accept that the only feasible strategy they can have is to respond to change fast enough and good enough, and that it requires them to level out information asymmetry and distribute the power of decision-making to everyone who might ever need to make a decision.

A Major Problem With The Hierarchy

In a hierarchical organization, most of the information that answers key questions about the management and operation of the enterprise (what, why, how and when) is typically produced and aggregated at the top and then distributed downwards throughout the different levels and branches of the hierarchy. The information must often pass each level of management on its way down until it reaches the intended receivers. Each such level is an "information tollgates" that have the responsibility and mandate to communicate the relevant information to appropriate receivers further down in the structure. In doing so, they can often select which persons they think should receive the information, how they should receive it, when they should receive it, and what they should receive. A major drawback of this way of distributing information is that the probability is quite high that information needed by an individual further down in the pyramid does not reach her. There can be many different reasons behind such a consequence. Management might be unaware of the need of the individual co-worker, which means that she does not receive the information she needs at all. They might have misunderstood her need, which means that she receives the wrong (insufficient, incomplete, inaccurate...) information. Or perhaps for some reason they might not want her to receive the information she needs, which means that important information is filtered out, or that information gets distorted along the way.

It is also quite obvious that this is not the shortest or most efficient way for information to travel and that even if the coworker receives the information she needs, it is likely that it is not received in time. All these things can be avoided if there is a more direct communication and interaction between the sender and the receiver. But the hierarchic organization allows management to maintain control of the information and how it flows. The information asymmetry gives each level in the hierarchy power to influence and manipulate the decisions and actions of others, much like. It wouldn’t pose a problem if everybody always has the greater good of the organization before their eyes, putting all personal interest aside. But anyone who knows human nature also knows this is nothing but a fallacy.

The Power of Networks Is Being Distributed

Since the dawn of time, primates have relied on social networks to help the whole group with their environments. This of course applies to organizations as well. First of all, information disseminates easier and faster through networks than through hierarchies. This makes it possible for us to gain access to and act upon new information faster. We have the ability to be more responsive. Second, the lack of bureaucracy and hierarchy encourages communication and interaction. This makes it easier for us to share more information continuously. If we put these two things together, networks can help both individuals and groups of individuals make better decisions faster — decisions that benefit the whole group.

Informal networks have always been important, if not to say critical, for accessing information, making decisions, and ensuring commitment to implement the decisions in organizations. They are different to the formal structures that perform these functions in organizations as they lack structure, arise spontaneously, and develop and change organically as people interact with new people and build bonds of trust between each other. Informal networks are often seen as problematic as they by-pass the formal structures for communication and decision-making, in a hidden way that cannot be controlled by management. Still, without those informal networks most organizations would not function.

Until recently the power to build and maintain strong personal networks and become part of informal networks has been possessed by the people within an organization who held formal positions in the hierarchy, such as managers, or people who had as their jobs to meet a lot of people, such as sales people. Their positions allowed them to allocate the time and resources to build their personal networks and be part of informal networks within their organizations, influence the decision-making. Enterprise social networking platforms now offer anyone in the workforce to build stronger personal networks inside the organizations they work for. The power of networking is available to anyone who finds it in their interest to build and maintain their personal networks by providing open spaces for starting and joining conversations across any barrier such as organizations, locations and positions. This power that was previously only available to the "business elite" consisting of sales people, managers and experts, can now be utilized by the anonymous and disconnected worker.

A Threat To Middle Management

What we are seeing now is a shift from hierarchy to the network as the primary organization system for an enterprise. In the light of this, it is easy to see that middle management is becoming irrelevant and displaced, and that it is there we will find the greatest resistance to change, trying to maintain status quo. To understand this, one needs to understand the force they are resisting; social networks. To start with, social networks are flat. Everyone in an enterprise social network solution is typically presented as being on the same level, even though there is often a reference to an individual’s position in a hierarchical organization. But these titles are less important in a social network than in real life. What is more important in a social network is the person behind the title and whom that person is connected to. This, together with the fact that people often are more comfortable with contacting people they do not know virtually than in real life, makes the barriers to contacting someone higher up in the hierarchy of an organization much lower. It enables important information to be communicated from grass-root level to top management and vice versa in a fast, undistorted, frequent and in a timely manner. This is also the "threat" of social networks to hierarchical organizations, and middle management in particular. It is not a threat to the business itself, rather an opportunity, but it is threat to those in the middle of the management pyramid who build their positions on their formal right to make decisions and distribute information from the top and down, and vice versa. This is pretty much the primary function of a lot of people in the middle of the pyramid. As this function is becoming less important and sometimes obsolete, it poses a threat to those managers who are not really good coaches, mentors, visionaries, sales people, networkers and so on.

An Big Opportunity For Top Management And The Organization

Top management, on the other hand, can benefit from social networks in many ways. By bypassing the cumbersome hierarchical communication structure and communicating directly with individual coworkers, they can practice a much more agile and proactive leadership. They can get access to vast amounts of uncensored information from any corner of the enterprise and interact directly with coworkers from which you need additional information. The information that is made available to them is unfiltered and undistorted, and with the help of information technology they can access and filter out important information that is flowing through the social networks to spot trends, capture important signals, and increase their awareness about the health of the business. In a sense, the emergence of social networks, and the means to distribute and aggregate information within those networks can be seen as "social business intelligence". Social networks put content in context of other content, but what is even more important is that they put content in context of people. And it happens in real-time, allowing top management to take the temperature of the organization. They can act on problems or issues before they escalate and grow worse, and spot and take action on opportunities they otherwise never would have known existed.

There are definitely great opportunities for organizations to capitalize on social networks. But an organization has to find out a way to deal with those individuals in the middle of the pyramid that do not like being flattened out.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Most popular posts and articles from 2013

Photo: Lund University Main Building, December 2013

Yes, it's that time of year again...here are my most popular (read and/or retweeted) blog posts and articles from 2013.

Top 3 posts this blog

  1. 3 major trends in knowledge work
  2. Designing a Social Business
  3. The 6 Pillars of The Digital Workplace

Top 3 contributions for CMS Wire

  1. The Enterprise Collaboration Tipping Point
  2. Time to Break the Habit of Internal Email
  3. 6 Things to Expect from Your Intranet

Syndicated and republished posts

My blog posts are syndicated and republished with my permission to a few places, such as the following:
Zyncro republished the post “The 6 Pillars of The Digital Workplace” on their blog and also translated it to Spanish and French:

Friday, December 6, 2013

The State and Future of Enterprise Collaboration

More than a year ago, in an article for CMS Wire, I wrote that corporations are starting to ask themselves the following questions:
 ”Now that we all have the tools, what shall we do with them? How can we use them to change the way we work? And even if we see the use cases and want to change our ways of working, how do our work environments encourage and enable us to do this?“
I think this pretty much sums up where a lot of corporations are today; they have implemented new communication and collaboration tools, but they still have a lot of work to do ahead to figure out how to use them to develop better ways of working, as well as how to create good conditions for information workers that supports the change process.

Without a doubt, the importance and availability of social, mobile and cloud technologies will continue to increase. What will change is the focus; corporations will be shifting their focus from implementing tools to how they can make productive use of the tools and make change happen inside their organizations.

Photo: The “flying machine” consisting of  45 helium-filled weather balloons that was used by Lawrence Richard Walters, an American truck driver, when he took flight on July 2 1982, reaching an altitude of over 15,000 feet.

As we are soon moving into 2014, it can be a good idea to take a look at some recent research related to Enterprise Collaboration. Below, I have put together links to some of the research studies I have come across recently, highlighting some findings from each piece of research that I found interesting. I hope you will as well.

To start off, here are some interesting findings about remote working in a recent study from Virgin Media Business:

  • 7 in 10 organizations believe their employees would be far happier at work and more productive given the ability to work from home and on the move
  • 40 per cent of those surveyed said that they often overhear staff complaining about being tied to their desk. 
  • Organizations are being held back and nearly half are reluctant to introduce more choice because of security concerns
  • The technology they’d most like to see introduced into the workplace is wireless access to files over a 3G network, closely followed by the integration of voice and data over a single network
  • An overwhelming majority of CIOs and business decision makers agreed that giving their staff devices that could answer email, send files, make calls and communicate with others via IM on the go would boost employee engagement.

 “Social Business: Shifting Out of First Gear” from Deloitte:

  • Social is becoming more important across all industries. All respondents place increased value on social business and none reversed the course.
  • Change isn’t happening very fast. The top three tings that impede progress is:
    1. A lack of an overall strategy (28% of respondents)
    2. Too many competing priorities (26%)
    3. Lack of a proven business case or strong value proposition (21%).
  • More socially mature business are building momentum by applying social tools and technologies to specific business challenges and assessing the impact. To spur the effort, company leaders are cultivating new modes of communication and new patterns of dialogue. Sometimes that means modeling the behavior long before the tool is launched

A survey by IDG Research Services carried out on behalf of Jive:

  • The paper notes that enterprise collaboration software differs from its consumer cousin because it needs to integrate with the existing IT environment, protect the privacy of the users and corporate data and provide the tools the business needs
  • Improving productivity and internal communication now far outrank any other reasons for using social tools at work, with 72 percent of respondents each
  • 2/3 of the respondents complain determining ROI is difficult and nearly half are not currently measuring it in this respect.

"2013 Wisdom of Crowds® Collaborative Business Intelligence Market Study" from Dresner:

  • Top mechanisms for collaborating with business intelligence (BI) insights in 2013 are still email, face-to-face meetings and telephone calls.
  • In a larger organization when they say they want to collaborate, it’s really about driving greater efficiency within their internal organization. And they are more likely to be physically co-located with their peers and share information via face-to-face meeting.
  • In a smaller organization collaboration really means collaborating with external constituencies. They are more likely to leverage file sharing. 
  • Microsoft SharePoint is the most widely used framework, followed by Google Docs and Dropbox, which tend to be used more often in smaller organizations. 
Three Keys to Successful Digital Transformation” from Apigee:

  • This research uncovers three empirical patterns for successful digital transformation. An enterprise must make and broadcast company-wide commitment, appoint a senior leader with four key transformation leadership skills, and build capacity to experiment
  • Among Leaders 83% have “explicitly and formally” named a person to lead digital transformation; 79% report that digital projects are a company-wide priority.
  • Companies that implemented company-wide digital initiatives more than a year ago have already seen an impact on employees (73%), customers (80%), and their portfolio of products (77%)—almost two-thirds of these businesses have seen impact in all three areas.
"The Evolution of Social Collaboration within the Enterprise" from Avanade:

  • A majority are using social networking tools in the workplace, they may not be leveraging tools that have genuine enterprise collaboration capabilities yet
  • Currently the majority of IT decision-makers (87%), business leaders (67%) and end users (68%) report using enterprise social networking technologies, but most lack true enterprise collaboration capabilities
  • While time-savings and productivity are among top benefits of these tools reported by users, the top benefit across decision-makers and employees is much softer: more enjoyable jobs.
  • In the next 12 months, more businesses plan to adopt enterprise social collaboration tools such as Microsoft SharePoint or Salesforce Chatter than popular social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. This is the opposite of today’s adoption rates, where use of popular social networking technologies far outranks enterprise social collaboration tools.
  • More than one-quarter (26 percent) of decision-makers say there is a lack of training to explain how to use such tools, and the same percentage (26 percent) report a lack of IT department resources to implement them.
"Becoming a Social Business: Integrating Social Software Assets Throughout the Enterprise"from IDC:

  • Organizations will not integrate disparate social networks in the short term as other areas of business investment will take priority. 
  • Organizations will start to target online communities as a way to incentivize ongoing conversations and to connect disconnected social networks inside and outside the enterprise.

Findings from the Aberdeen Next-Generation Communications (NGC) study, September 2013:

  • Companies that had identified business collaboration as their top business goal saw significant business performance improvement compared to organizations that did not prioritize collaboration 
  • The business value of a well-executed ESC plan is no longer so elusive...but many of these business benefits do not happen for companies that take a laissez-faire or ad hoc approach to workplace collaboration. Laissez-faire collaboration happens when IT groups allow employees and departments to self-provision their own collaboration environments. 
  • Aberdeen's research shows that the best return on ESC investments come from an official ESC plan that is endorsed by executive leadership.
Research from Harvard's Department of Psychology published in
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds that there is a deep relationship between cooperation and social networks:

  • There is a deep relationship between cooperation and social networks. If you allow people to re-wire their social networks, cooperation is sustained in the population.
  • People are more likely to form connections with people who are cooperative, and much more likely to break those links with people who are not.

Finally, here are some highlights from a study from University of British Columbia saying that social networks make us smarter.

  • The secret to why some cultures thrive and others disappear may lie in our social networks and our ability to imitate, rather than our individual smarts.
  • A larger population size and social connectedness are crucial for the development of more sophisticated technologies and cultural knowledge.
  • Groups with greater access to experts also retained their skills much longer than groups who began with less access to mentors, sustaining higher levels of “cultural knowledge” over multiple generations.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Designing a Social Business

Knowledge work is in may ways different from the transformational and transactional work that organizations have tried to automate and improve with information technology over the past few decades. A colleague of mine said, that as knowledge workers, we don't follow a process; we follow a cloud of activities. In other words, we are creating the process as we go along. To do that we need to use our creativity, we need to look beyond the standard ways of doing things, and we need to ask a lot of questions. This is something completely different to how it is to work at a production line in a factory, where workers are supposed to follow predefined and highly repeatable processes and procedures. There, asking questions and questioning rules is often out of the question, as it has the potential to disrupt operations.

As knowledge workers we often find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Workload and complexity at work is increasing, while we at the same time are expected to produce more, faster and faster. And adapt to new conditions. Not only that, we are expected to be creative and innovative as well. The problem is that our organizations haven’t been designed for knowledge work under these conditions. Most organizations have been designed for efficiency and economies of scale, not for enabling collaboration, creativity and autonomy. Too often, knowledge workers are just cogs in a big machinery. Organizations fail to get the full potential out of their knowledge workers.

Network-based collaboration is the only way to deal with the increasing complexity, speed of change and uncertainty that organizations are facing. Unfortunately many executives and decision-makers don't make the same connection. They tend to forget that collaboration is the reason why their organization exists in the first place; an organization’s sole purpose is to bring together people with certain talent, skills an expertise to work together on a specific enterprise. During the 20th century much of this collaboration has been encoded, hidden, automated and steered in our processes, systems and formal (and static) organizational structures. Most of the collaboration that takes place in a large enterprise today is running in autopilot mode following predefined paths. However, in a dynamic, competitive and unpredictable environment we can't rely only on the autopilot for collaboration. Many organizations need to become more agile, innovative and productive to survive in this environment, and for that to happen collaboration must happen more freely – with more flexibility and also at greater scale if needed – proactively initiated and driven by the right people.

When the role of technology was simply to automate manual tasks and remove the need for human labor, the technology didn't need to be designed to fit humans. If they were to keep their jobs, they had to adapt to the technology instead of the other way around. This is why, in my opinion, social business isn’t about tools, features or platforms. Rather, it is a way to design information systems and other systems so they fit with human nature and leverage collaborative human behaviors. Thus it should influence all service design and will be an integral part, a characteristic, of most business services. There are five principles in particular that should guide the design of all business services:

  1. Openness. We need openness to get access to information that we might have use for.
  2. Transparency. We need transparency to be able to discover it.
  3. Participation. It needs to be possible for anyone to participate, because that’s how we can deal with any kind of problem or opportunity,
  4. Dialog. We need dialog to ensure that communication is effective, that we quickly can reach mutual understanding and take action.
  5. Recognition. We need recognition, to reward and motivate people to contribute and keep the wheels of collaboration and innovation spinning.

For a truly social business, these principles should guide not only the design of technology solutions and services, but also leadership, performance models, organizational structures, and physical work environments. We have yet to figure out exactly how to do this, but the important thing is to start exploring before its too late.