Tag Archives: trust

You Are Your Organization’s Chief Collaboration Officer

I Want You!There have been a couple of interesting blog posts about organizational collaboration leadership penned recently by respected, influential thinkers. Last week, Morten Hansen and Scott Tapp published Who Should Be Your Chief Collaboration Officer? on the Harvard Business Review site. Yesterday, Dion Hinchcliffe posted Who should be in charge of Enterprise 2.0? on Enterprise Irregulars.

It is logical that the question of the proper seat of ownership for enterprise collaboration efforts is being raised frequently at this moment. Many organizations are starting the process of rationalizing numerous, small collaboration projects supported by enterprise social software. Those social pilots not only need to be reconciled with each other, but with legacy collaboration efforts as well. That effort requires leadership and accountability.

Both of the posts cited above – as well as the comments made on them – add valuable ideas to the debate about who should be responsible for stimulating and guiding collaboration efforts within organizations. However, both discussions miss a critical conclusion, which I will make below. First, allow me to share my thoughts on the leadership models suggested in the posts and comments.

While it is critical to have collaboration leadership articulated and demonstrated at the senior executive level, the responsibility for enterprise collaboration cannot rest on one person, especially one who is already extremely busy and most likely does not have the nurturing and coaching skills needed for the job. Besides, any function that is so widely distributed as collaboration cannot be owned by one individual; organizations proved that long ago when they unsuccessfully appointed Chief Knowledge Officers.

Governance of enterprise collaboration can (and should) be provided by a Collaboration Board. That body can offer and prescribe tools, and establish and communicate policy, as well as good practices. However, they cannot compel others in the organization to collaborate more or better. Yes, Human Resources can measure and reward collaboration efforts of individuals, but they can only dangle the carrot; I have never seen an organization punish an employee for not collaborating when they are meeting other goals and objectives that are given higher value by the organization.

There is only one person (or many, depending on your perspective) for the job of actively collaborating – YOU! Ultimately, each individual in the organization is responsible for collaboration. He can be encouraged and incented to collaborate, but the will to work with others must come from the individual.

Collaboration in the enterprise is similar in this regard to knowledge management, where the notion of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) has been gaining acceptance. PKM advocates believe that having each member of the organization capture, share, and reuse knowledge, in ways that benefit them personally, is far more effective than corporate mandated knowledge management efforts, which generally produce benefits for the enterprise, but not the individuals of which it is comprised.

So it is with collaboration. If an individual does not see any direct benefit from working with others, they will not do so. Conversely, if every employee is empowered to collaborate and rewarded in ways that make their job easier, they will.

The Enterprise 2.0 movement has correctly emphasized the emergent nature of collaboration. Individuals must be given collaboration tools and guidance by the organization, but then must be trusted to work together to meet personal goals that roll-up into measures of organizational success. The only individual that can “own” collaboration is each of us.

Receiving Recognition Also Provides Benchmarks for Improvement

I have been an industry analyst covering collaboration practices, software, and markets since 1999, with the exception of a four year stint as a collaboration consultant at IBM, during which my expertise and opinions were available only to teammates and clients. I returned to a more public analyst role in March 2009 and have been working diligently since then to re-establish the visibility of my thoughts on collaboration, as well as my personal reputation and client base.

In the last three weeks I have received two signs that the hard work is paying off and that I am on the right track. First, I was recognized as one of 21 influential bloggers in an Enterprise 2.0 All-Star Blogger Roster, compiled by Mark Fidelman, VP Sales at MindTouch. While there were several others that I would have suspected to be more influential than me, I was honored to see my name alongside those that were included. I am fortunate to find myself in good company and pleased to be recognized as a thought leader on the topic of Enterprise 2.0.

The second sign that I am making progress toward my personal goals was my inclusion in the Top 50 on the Technobabble 2.0 list of Top Analyst Tweeters. Technobabble 2.0 took the SageCircle Analyst Twitter Directory, which includes the names of over 750 registered analysts, and ran it through a ranking tool established by Edelman called TweetLevel. The tool’s underlying algorithm assigns scores for Influence, Popularity, Engagement, and Trust — all key ingredients for success as an industry analyst. I was ranked as the 48th most influential analyst and received a higher score for Engagement than nine out of the top ten analysts. What makes this so meaningful to me is the comprehensiveness of this list, not only in terms of the number of analysts covered, but also in the breadth of areas of specialization represented. To be ranked that highly among this broad set of peers is an accomplishment of which I am very proud.

I do not intend to rest on my laurels after receiving this recognition. Instead, I will use the inclusion on these lists as a benchmark from which I can set new goals and raise my performance as an industry analyst. There is definitely room for improvement in terms of Influence and, especially, Trust, which is the one attribute that matters most to me. If my readers and clients trust me, then I will be able to influence them in a positive manner. Trust is built by repeated engagement with readers and followers that provides them with valuable, unique insights about collaboration, enterprise social software, and content management. Some of my related goals for 2010 are to increase the number of people who regularly read my analysis and to more actively engage in open discussions with them. By doing that, I will earn their trust and the privilege of helping them.

I congratulate all my peers that were included in one or both of these lists. These analysts — mostly working at small firms, or as sole practitioners — have demonstrated that blogging, tweeting, and other Web-based forms of self expression can influence the producers and buyers that comprise software markets. The power of larger analyst firms that charge customers high prices for subscriptions to research, or purchases of individual reports, has been eroded by free (or low-cost), Web-based content channels. Market information should be available to everyone, not just those that can afford it. I am glad that my work, and that of my peers, is helping to make it so.

My Wish for the Enterprise 2.0 Community in 2010

The holidays are precious for the time that we spend with family and friends. At this time of the year, we remember what is most important to us — the people who make our lives better by loving and supporting us — and focus on interacting with them for some (but not enough) time.

In 2010, let us the focus on interactive relationships past the holidays and make it our most important work throughout the year. Not only in our personal lives, but in our professional activities as well. If we want Enterprise 2.0 to positively effect the way that business is done and make social business the new norm, it must begin with each of us. As individuals we need to:

  • reaffirm existing close relationships, strengthen weak ties, and make connections with new individuals inside and outside of the organizations in which we work
  • have more conversations that will build trust in and from our co-workers, business partners, and customers
  • listen better and be more aware of others’ needs, so we can help fulfill them whenever possible
  • be more open to the possibilities offered by working with others to create emergent solutions that meet the needs of the majority and create meaningful change

So here is my wish for next year. That the social interaction inherent in the holiday season becomes the norm for all of us in 2010. That we walk, talk, and breath the principles of community, openness, collaboration, emergence, trust, and mutual respect that embody successful social interaction every day of the new year. It is up to us to be the change in which we so firmly believe. Happy New Year!

Why We Struggle With Social Software ROI

money_bag_with_dollar_signOne of the prominent themes in any discussion of social software in the enterprise is Return on Investment (ROI). I opined in a previous post that all too often ROI is a hurdle put in place by opponents of a project to prevent it from happening or succeeding. I also said that organizations that have collaboration hardwired into their culture understand and accept the value of social software without a demonstration of ROI. Conversely, even a reasonable, positive ROI projection isn’t likely to get a proposed social software project approved in an organization that doesn’t “get” collaboration. I stand by those statements and have another observation to add:

The primary reason organizations are struggling with ROI in social software is because they have little or no idea what they want to accomplish by using it. There’s no link to business strategy and tactics.

To calculate ROI, one must define specific, measurable metrics, for which annual financial benefits can be projected out over 3-5 years. The rub is in developing the metrics. Defining appropriate metrics requires knowing what the organization wants to accomplish by making an investment. We all know this. Yet too many seem to forget this basic principle of ROI when contemplating an initial social software project. They get caught up in the hype of the newest fad and forget that technology must be deployed in support of a well-defined strategic goal or objective. They focus on the “soft” benefits of social software use that are widely communicated today instead of on how using social software in support of a specific business strategy or tactic can lead to revenue increases and cost reductions in the business.

Before you and your organization get too enamored with the shiny new toys presented by social software, or get caught up in the hype cycle, take a step back and ask questions like:

  • What specific strategic imperative(s) could be enabled by social software?
  • Where could social software help us increase revenue and/or reduce operating costs?
  • Why are some of our employees using social software despite our reservations about it?
  • Who might we be able to create new and valuable business relationships with by using social software?
  • What differentiation for our company and it’s offering(s) could be built using social software?
  • How could social software be used to increase trust inside and outside of our organization?

The answers provided by asking these kinds of questions will provide the purpose behind your social software project and investment. Knowing the purpose will make it possible to define metrics that can be quantified in dollars (or whatever currency your organization operates in) and demonstrate potential ROI.

Are you having trouble defining questions that reveal your organization’s purpose for investing in social software? Please contact me so we can discuss ways that I can help.

Autonomy in Collaboration

handcuffedIt hit like a flash of lightning.  I was hanging out in the Twittersphere yesterday, as is normal while working at my desk.  Then, right in the middle of one of the lulls in Twitter traffic that seems to occur every afternoon, I was rocked by a singular tweet posted by Stowe Boyd.

Stowe was in attendance at the Defrag conference, in Denver.  He had overheard a conversation and tweeted a simple, but striking comment on it:

“When collaboration people start talking about motivating people to participate it means the tools don’t provide enough autonomy.”

In one short, clear sentence, Stowe summed up much of what I believe is wrong with Enterprise 2.0.  Too much workplace collaboration is too tightly controlled by corporate IT.  Not only do they choose which collaboration tools employees can use, but they also (in most cases) prescribe and limit how those tools will be used.  Sometimes this constriction of usage is unintentional (poor product choice), but often it is intentional (policy and business rule choices.)

Here’s a hypothetical, but plausible example.  The CIO of Acme Corporation was concerned because a large number of employees were using external blog providers to publish information and opinions related to their work and the corporation.  Acme had no way to identify and monitor all the external blogs, and the company’s leadership was concerned that the Acme brand was taking a hit as a result of comments made in public by employees.  Acme was also terrified that employees might carelessly divulge confidential information on external blogs.

In order to accommodate employee eagerness to blog, Acme deployed an internal blog network, based on software purchased from Vendor X.  The intranet blog facility was established behind the corporate firewall, effectively excluding all non-employees from reading posts and commenting on them.  Acme’s CIO believed this solution would be a win-win; employees could fulfill their desire to blog, and the corporation could be certain that its brand reputation and confidential information would be protected.

The existence of the new intranet blog was heavily publicized, both before and after launch.  Training was provided on the use of the blog environment to any employee that registered.  Acme’s CEO and CIO even started their own blogs in an effort to lead by example.  However, six months after go-live, the number of blogs established and the number of posts and comments created were dismal.  And, despite the money, time, and effort spent to motivate employees to shift their blogging to the internal environment, anecdotal evidence suggested that even more Acme employees had started external blogs!

Why did the Acme internal blog fail?  It did not provide the autonomy needed by employees.  Acme employees wanted and valued feedback from their customers, business partners, and industry peers and analysts.  The intranet blog excluded those external collaborators, thereby limiting the value created by the blogging activity.

This is a very simple, hypothetical example, and I’m not at all sure that it represents what Stowe Boyd was expressing when he tweeted yesterday (I apologize to Stowe if I’ve misinterpreted his line of thought.)  However, I hope it illustrates the issue as I construe it.  Savvy employees know why and how they want to use specific collaboration tools.  Corporate IT must listen to its constituents and work with them to meet their requirements, rather than imposing solutions and trying to motivate adoption.  Providing autonomy hinges on one thing — TRUST.  Show me an organization that isn’t willing to trust its employees to use collaboration tools appropriately and provide them the autonomy to do so, and I’ll show you a collaboration failure about to happen.