I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at KMWorld 2009 before the holiday. It was an older blog post around the evolution of our corporate Intranet that first put me in touch with the KMWorld management team.
I spoke a bit about the transformation of the enterprise, highlighting our journey in both traditional and social channels. Putting together the story helped me reflect a bit on our journey and recall some of the key decisions that have helped us progress on our path. Some of these things I now take for granted, but based on discussions with other attendees, I realize many have yet to begin traveling this path. To that end, I wanted to share a few of the key takeaways...
Don't tell everyone that you intend to boil the ocean
In any large organization, it can be difficult to get new projects on the docket. Funds are often scarce and IT resources are usually beyond capacity. I wonder how far we would have gotten if we'd set out to 'transform the enterprise'. Was that the goal? Yes. Was it our lead in line with new stakeholders? No.
Rather, we took a more conservative approach early on, expressing
the desire to 'experiment' with these 'emerging technologies' to better
understand them. At the same time, we didn't know what we didn't know - so did not walk in with grand illusions about immediate transformation.
As has been stated in the past, the first offering of 'EMC|ONE' was based on open source software and running on a laptop. A far cry from the business critical site it is today. But, it was an approach that helped us get something up and running, make it available to our community, and immediately begin to learn, evolve and adjust on the fly - all without pulling together a small army to help drive this transformation.
So - the takeaway here - start small. Experiment. Be creative. I've found it's often the best way to get things done.
Don't underestimate the reality check
The social web and the move to E2.0 is no fad. Technology is simply
catching up to the way that people have socialized and interacted for
thousands of years. There are new and better ways to collaborate online and these things are not going away.
One of our biggest allies early on was our CIO. He realized that tools that enabled better collaboration were not a fad, but rather were critical to enabling a highly productive and collaborative workforce. He also understood that, if we didn't provide a platform, there were no shortage of external substitutes.
From this angle, the problem statement is rather simple. Enable your employees to leverage the tools and techniques they need to succeed or watch them flock to the myriad of freely available external tools. Tools where you'll lose complete control over your (potentially sensitive) information.
If you're not enabling this stuff, you're likely asking for trouble.
Inside out works well
At least it has for us... There's no right answer to any of this. What works for one may not for another. Many have started their social journey outside the firewall. We chose to work inside out - and I'd say it's been a very healthy approach.
Among our early on goals - developing employee proficiency with Enterprise 2.0 tools and techniques. We wanted to learn about this stuff amongst ourselves before engaging our external audience through the medium. Sure we had a couple of external discussion forums available, but we really focused on driving awareness and proficiency in 2.0 behaviors to make the foray externally all the more richer.
Two years in, as I step back and reflect on the journey, I'd suggest that much of what's worked well for us is built on the solid foundation of familiarity that our employees now bring to the table.
Don't be overly prescriptive.
As tough as it may be to stomach, there are some people smarter than you. Early in our journey, there were discussions around how an internal community could be leveraged, how it should be organized, who could access it, etc;. The words 'use cases' and 'personas' started popping up (a sure sign that you're getting traction, btw), and it felt like we were at a fork in the road.
The path left led to an open and dynamic offering where the community at large controlled their destiny. The path on the right, old school command and control. I'm thankful we chose the path on the left.
Who has 'owned' the platform for the past two years? The community has. And they're far better at knowing where they want to go than any one person. Don't make the mistake of dictating use cases or direction here - leverage the power of the community and embrace creativity.
Private = BAD
Sorry - I know we've chatted about this one before, but such a list wouldn't be complete without it. It's traditional behavior - I want a space for collaboration but it can only be open to me and 6 of my best friends... There seems to be a fundamental desire to keep conversations closed. Of the hundred or so early community managers, each wanted their space locked to some subset of our employees. We've resisted this at every step, asking what information was SO confidential that putting it out for other employees to see would be damaging.
The conversation goes the same every time, and we always end up launching an open (internal) community. Almost every time, the community manager comes back acknowledging that conversations get exponentially more valuable as eyeballs are added.
Limiting access to conversations is yesterdays thinking... Push for openness and transparency early on - I suspect you'll be glad you did in the future.
I go to such conferences making the assumption that everyone is plodding along just like us. I always worry about sharing 'old news' and not giving much value. But, each time, I am reminded that this is a long journey, and folks are at all sorts of stages on it. While the stuff above may feel like 101 to you (it does to me), it generated a pile of discussion so I wanted to share. If it's been of interest to you, we also pulled together a white paper some time back that covers this in much more detail. It may be of interest to you.