Living social business – an insider’s perspective
About six months ago I wrote an article on CMSWire about leaving behind my friends, family, and job in Sydney, Australia to move to New York to take on the role of Director of Global Community at Sitrion (formerly NewsGator). For the couple of years prior to this I’d been a customer of NewsGator; I knew the company and their vision really well and this felt like the right next step in my career as an enterprise community manager and future of work evangelist. This was an opportunity to make a real change, and to impact the spread and uptake of social as a valuable business tool. This post reflects on the last six months since that post.
Global Community Manager
My day now consists of working with a few thousand of our awesome customers, who are just like I used to be. They pave the way every day for greater adoption of new-age business software and mindsets in enterprises that can be super tough and slow to change. They chip away day by day, department by department, working at transforming the way people work and helping them to ultimately work better. Our customers come from some of the biggest and most progressive enterprises all around the world from big global financial institutions right across the spectrum down to small charitable organizations in Australia. No matter what their size or reach, they all share common triumphs, common business challenges, and common concerns. I help them address and share those in our online community called Engage.
Adoption in the enterprise
In my previous career at AMP - a big financial firm of about 6,000 staff in Sydney, Australia, my role was all about getting more staff to use the intranet, SharePoint, and our social network. I’d do this by running campaigns and educational programs to increase participation and usage, and to help unearth the business value from our investment in the various collaboration technologies we were rolling out to staff. There’s no doubt our intranet was state of the art, but getting users onboard with a new and different way of working was always an uphill battle. We’re not just talking about doing one thing differently every now and then, we are talking about a major shift required in how people do their jobs to meet our cultural aspiration of openness and sharing. This is no easy feat! Especially when the middle majority of office workers are predominantly non-digital natives, change averse, and extremely busy! This is what enterprise community managers do every day. We continue to overcome resistance amongst our peers, and spread the word from the forefront of emergent technology.
Social – the only way to communicate
Here at Sitrion the story is different. I was pretty excited (and still am!) when I learned that adoption of social wasn’t a focus here. I’d never worked anywhere before where everyone actually used social, and you didn’t have to convince anyone of its merits. Social is the primary way we communicate and work around here. Period. And rightly so given it’s our bread and butter! We live in work-world consisting of Microsoft SharePoint and Sitrion Social Collaboration and we do all our work there, out in the open. We work in a public activity stream on our intranet called “HAL” and it’s pretty common to have someone from another department, another state, or even country chime in on what you are working on and help you improve it, question your thinking, or applaud your effort. We live social. There is no question about whether or not we should do this – it’s just how things are here. So many times at conferences and on the web I’ve heard discussions about the ‘day social becomes the standard way of communicating just like email.’ Well here at our company, that day has already arrived. And I’d be lying if I said it’s not great. There are few companies in the world which have 100% adoption of social tools so working in one was really different for me. It was also exciting! All of the things I’d been preaching for years we actually did! But what is it really like?
The benefits of working social – my real-life observations
We talk a lot in this industry about increased productivity, working better, collaboration, faster access, being more connected and more engaged, and so on. But what does it all mean when we have full adoption – does it really pay off the way we always said it would? The short answer is yes! Here are a few of the tangible benefits I’ve personally noticed:
- Genuine collaboration - This occurs when everyone is actually collaborating! Here we collaborate across departments and organizational functions on a regular basis. We’re a highly-disbursed team, and having a tool that allows us to connect in the digital realm means we can play to our strengths and share the knowledge we have quickly and on-demand. Having this speed and access means we can get things done quicker, and move onto other projects sooner.
- Working in the open actually makes everyone more open - Because we’re being open with all of our work, we feel more open as a team and a company. We instinctively share information and knowledge, and this means, in turn, we’re more likely to get the help we need faster.
- The organization is flatter - Since we’re more open, operating as one team, and empowered to be passionate about our work, a complex organization chart simply isn’t necessary. Everyone has daily interactions with our CEO and the executive team who give direct, honest feedback on what we are doing. Multiple and/or complex tiers of management are simply not necessary.
- We manage signals better and on our terms - There are so many things flashing up on my desktop! Lync notifications, new emails, dings from our internal social network, dongs from my myriad of personal social media accounts, and of course my four personal email accounts – the list goes on. Working in the social tool, means I can manage a lot of the work ‘noise’ by creating custom views of different activities that I can consume on my own terms. I like to use the tool to reduce email (and it does do that!), but some of our staff use email notifications to interact with the social network because that’s what works for them. We encourage choice and flexibility.
- We are more connected…with our product, with the company, with our internal and external messaging and with each other. Whichever way you look at it, the ability to connect in the social network around our work, communities and each other is a huge leg-in especially when your company is globally disbursed. We collaborate in real-time with our colleagues all over the globe, and if they’re offline they can consume the notifications the next day.
Enterprise-wide adoption starts to take flight this year
While we might be there already, most companies are just starting their social journey (or not even considering it yet). 2014 will be the year when we will first start to see enterprise collaboration shift to be mainstream, expected, and the norm. I’m excited for the day when more companies join the ranks of those who are truly reaping the benefits of using enterprise social technology to its full effect like we are! The grass is greener!