Put people ahead of technology when targeting your collaboration efforts

 
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The possibilities and potential of collaboration and social tools are endless. So are the features and capabilities offered by the tools, making it an inherently complex space.

Every organisation must therefore focus its collaboration and social efforts, to ensure that a meaningful (and measurable!) outcome can be gained.

While there are many possible approaches, it’s almost always best to put the focus on people rather than technology .

Achieve #ESN project success by focusing on people, not technology
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What this looks like

Several years ago we released the free Pathway to social cards, as a hexagonal toolkit for helping teams plan projects.

We’ve run workshops around the world, using the cards as the basis for hands-on experimentation. In a workshop context we use scenarios to enable groups to explore how to solve different challenges. This article outlines two common scenarios, and compares their success.

Scenario 1: making Yammer a success

Teams are often given ownership of a tool (or set of tools), with the responsibility to make them succeed. Yammer is a common example, but Facebook, Jive or Slack are equally relevant.

The scenario typically looks like this:

Yammer has been used for some time. It coexists with the intranet, and a range of other collaboration tools. There are pockets of huge success, but also lots of people who don’t use it all.

In 12 months, you must use Yammer to create a clear success that delivers concrete business benefits?

Using the Pathway to social cards, the approach could look like this:

The immediate question that confronts the central team: is this enough to ensure a success?

There are a number of issues with this approach:

  • If the audience is general staff (eg everyone), can there be a clear purpose and goals, beyond something as vague as ‘increase collaboration to share knowledge’?
  • Without a strong purpose, it will be hard to engage senior leaders.
  • Many of the activities outlined have already been done to some degree, such as training, change management and a network of champions. What more can now be done?
  • With other tools existing in the organisation (eg team and project spaces, wikis, etc), it can be hard to explain ‘what to use when’.
  • It’s a good idea to capture success stories, and then build on these successes. But what will surface within the year?

In general, this whole approach seems to be ‘more of the same’, with just the hope that something great happens that meets senior leaders expectations. It’s also hard to target efforts when the intended audience is the whole organisation.

#ESN success must involve more than just hoping for great examples to emerge
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Scenario 2: helping field engineers

An alternative scenario could be:

Frontline engineers are the heart of the services firm.The goal is to share knowledge better and deliver better services to our customers.

In 12 months, how can we leverage the collaboration tools at our disposal to help the business?

An approach could look like this:

It’s immediately apparent that this is a more focused approach:

  • The project works with the field engineers, and the domain experts who support them.
  • Initially, the focus is on establishing rich communities of practice, using social and conversational tools (like Yammer, Facebook, etc).
  • The organisation commits the resources to establish a community manager role, which may be drawn from the pool of field engineers.
  • The community manager can then foster success, which generates clear business benefits.
  • These success stories are communicated upwards, to provide evidence of success.

While there’s many of the same activities as the first scenario, the efforts are much better targeted. With a focus on helping establish communities of practice in one area of the organisation, the team can be much more confident of a highly-visible success.

Targeting the #ESN needs of key staff enables a clear purpose and strong benefits
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People before technology

If your organisation has a heap of collaborations tools in use, and you’re not sure where to start, it’s because you’re looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

When the focus is on making a given tool (or suite of tools) a success, it’s hard to have a clear purpose, which then limits the ability to generate clear outcomes.

Target a group of staff instead, understand their needs, and then help them succeed. If the chosen group is vital to the organisation, then business benefits will be easy to deliver.

In short, put people before technology when hunting for social and collaboration success.

(Don’t forget to download your free copy of the Pathway to social cards, and then use them internally as the basis for your own planning workshop.)

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