Building Your Social Intranet - Step 4 Choose your platform(s)

The last couple of weeks I've been blogging about my experiences with social intranet. I started out by defining 'social intranet', then moved on to the first three steps towards a social intranet: listen, define goal(s), and choose a roll-out strategy. It's great to see the posts are being shared and appreciated!

Step 4 is about choosing a platform for your social intranet. I'm not going to give lengthy advise about how to do this. I hope to do that in a separate post. My short advice is to choose a platform that is truly social. People and their networks should be at the core of the tool. This is more than having profile functionality. And it's also more than being able to share and publish content.

You can also choose platforms, plural. Based on my experience most organizations don't have one platform, but several platforms. And isn't this often the easiest way forward? Why try to push everything into one platform, if it just doesn't fit the tool or work for users? In the past IT taught us one platform is better. It's better from a financial and maintenance perspective. This is understandable. Practice shows this principle is less true nowadays. Social tools are (often) dead-cheap and are (often) not hosted by IT, leading to lower maintenance costs. Furthermore people are used to switching between many applications to get things down outside work (e.g. Gmail, Skype, Facebook, Twitter). Doesn't this also fit with they way they get things done inside the organization?

How did you or your company choose a platform for social intranet? Is it or is it not a truly social platform?

Building Your Social Intranet – Step 3 Top-down vs. bottom-up roll-out

OK, we defined the goal(s) of our social intranet. Now we have to get commitment from high-level management, right? It depends. I don’t think this is the only way to go, although we have learned to do it this way: write a plan, get budget by getting commitment from management, get IT on board and start rolling out. This type of planning always lead to long projects.

I think internal social media concepts and tools challenge us to think differently. Mostly the tools are really cheap and everybody can set them up and configure them. A Yammer network for instance is up and running in 30 seconds. So, why don’t you go ahead and do this? Not because setting up the tool is the only thing that much be done for a successful roll out of social tools. I’ll get back to that in a bit. But you can do this because you can. The big question is: Are you dare-devil enough to do it? Or is this impossible in your organization? In many Dutch organizations this way of working is allowed and even encouraged. So take your chances! 

Of course, eventually you will need support from management. There will be a time in which you will need to invest in people and technology and you will need money for that. But if things are the ways they should be, you can prove the organization should move in your direction based on great cases coming from your bottom-up deployment. Right?

A trick to get high-level management on board is to show them your successes. And also by asking commitment for a policy document on internal social media use. My experience is management love this kind of document and it could be their first step towards actually understanding and using social platforms. 

How are you planning to deploy your social intranet? Bottom-up or top-down? And if you already have rolled out one, what are your experiences with these two ways social intranet adoption?

Building Your Social Intranet – Step 2 Defining the Goal

How do you build your social intranet? In my previous posts I shared my slides with you and a definition of social intranet. I also wrote about why I think listening is the first step on your way to a social intranet.

My step 2 is defining the goal of your social intranet. Of course, most of you would say. It’s quite logical to have a goal before you set up an intranet. For this reason I thought I might skip this step. But I’m keeping it in the list anyway. In my experience this step is left out or it has been defined without really listening to the organisation. The goal is implicit instead of explicit. Leaving this step out results in an intranet that is completely isolated from the business (and thus most employees). Defining an intranet goal without really listening to the organization leads to an intranet with vague and broad goals. Like: Improve efficiency of employees. Or: Improve internal communications. These goals are not wrong but hardly have any relatedness to the core of most businesses. And therefore they are hard to sell to decision makers (and employees).

So, define how your intranet is truly going to improve the organization as a whole. How are you truly going to help employees contribute to the business goals. Relating business goals and the organizational mission to the intranet goal is a good starting point.
Furthermore, if you’ve listened well (in step 1) the goals of the intranet will fly at you. And if they don’t, maybe you don’t need an intranet after all.

What the goal of your (social) intranet? Is it communicated regularly? How was the social intranet goal defined? Were you asked how the intranet can improve your work?

Building Your Social Intranet - Step 1 Listen

In a previous post I shared my slides about building your social intranet. I also gave a definition of a social intranet. This post is about the first step towards a social intranet: Listening.

Most IT-projects start out with collecting functional requirements and by defining the goal and strategy of the new tool. Both are important, but I think the goal and strategy should come in second place when working towards a social intranet. And collecting functional requirements should be more implicit.

My advice is to start out with listening. Listen to 3 things:
  1. The organizational structure and -processes. With this I mean, how is the company run? How is it structured and defined? What does the hierarchy look like? Why is this important? Well, your intranet should relate directly to it to have the potential to be successful. This doesn’t imply the intranet will be highly structured. Because when you look closely at the organization you’ll see that about 20% is defined in processes, procedures and related tools. The other 80% of the company is where the daily work is done. It gets done in networks. These networks are the oil of the processes. If the networks don’t flow the organization will come to a grinding halt. But what do we do to support these networks in organizations? Hardly anything. We give employees email and organize meetings. Here’s your opportunity for internal social media. They can potentially facilitate those internal networks, make them visible and faster. This does not replace the old way of looking at the organization, the process focus, but it’s a supplement and improvement to it. Understanding and relating to this implies you’ll improve the core of the organization with your social intranet.
  2. Also look at how employees get their work done. Related to the previous point in which we try to understand the organization, understanding employees is just as or even more important. The organization consists of a group of people with a shared goal/purpose. How do these people get things done? Again, you’ll be amazed how much is done in networks. Employees know or don’t know each other, the like and dislike each other, they work or have worked together, etc. All this can’t be fixed in processes and procdures. As I said, networks are the oil of the company. Connect your social intranet to them. Most internal social tools are appreciated for just this reason: they relate to how people get their work done and make their work visible, instead of fitting them in mechanical processes and procedures, and dito tools.
  3. Lastly, after we’ve listened to the organization and employees, listen to the real problems and challenges the company has? When listening closely you’ll see where the process pipes are clogged and where the networks don’t flow. List these and use them as a reason to work towards a social intranet.
These three points also say a lot about the kind of person working on a social intranet. He/she needs to have good knowledge of the business, be able to talk deeply with people, and be a good translator of business to technology.

Does this step make sense? What’s your first step towards a social intranet?

Can asking why also be wrong?

I enjoy reading Seth Godin’s daily posts. I share them via Twitter regularly.
Recently Godin posted a short one about importance of asking why. I agree, we should ask 'why' more often. It’s an essential question. Easy to ask and hard at the same time. It’s a great way to find out:
  • what the other thinks,
  • what their underlying convictions  are,
  • whether someone really means what he/she is saying,
  • etc.

However, can asking 'why' also be wrong?

I’ve been in an environment where lots of people asked 'why' all the time. But not for the better… Asking 'why' was a way to kill innovation and slow down the organization. It was used to make sure new ideas were not shared openly and conforming with the status quo was norm. 'Why' was used so that the questioner didn’t have to think about the idea he/she was confronted with before asking 'why'.

To me someone can ask me 'why' and I just know it’ll start a great conversation. And other times when someone asks 'why', I just feel the question isn’t asked so that both of us will learn.

I’m curious if you share my experience. And how do you handle these two ways of asking 'why'? Why? Because I want to learn from you!