4 comments on “deliberately provocative: #socialsoftware is temporary & won’t replace #email or #intranets :) @IntranetMatters #e20 #socbiz #socialbusiness”

deliberately provocative: #socialsoftware is temporary & won’t replace #email or #intranets :) @IntranetMatters #e20 #socbiz #socialbusiness

Summary: This article is my reaction to the vast amount of reports and papers on the selection of social software. I have decided to formulate this article in a provocative way, hoping for feedback and other perspectives. So: I don’t believe that social software will replace e-mail or intranets and I consider a stand alone use of social software (aka internal Facebook or Twitter) to be a temporary echo on the enterprise 2.0 hype.

Quick definition to be on the same page…

Whenever I am referring to social software I am referring to stand alone business software that is built on the principles of social media. Activity feeds, pers. profiles, networking capabilities, information enrichment (eg tag, comments, likes, stars etc), information sharing etc. are key functions of social software. The more mature a solution is deeper and broader the feature set incl. unified communications, roles/rights and group/community management, search and convergence with established productivity and data management software.

For this article I am resonating only on the stand alone use of social software. I am not judging/evaluating vendors. The less social software is visible by itself (an explicit social service) to the user the less relevant the use case is for this article.

The temporary echo on the enterprise 2.0 hype

I believe that enterprise 2.0/social business doesn’t need social software. Enterprise 2.0 requires – beyond new ways of leadership and management – business IT that is inspired and infused by the principles of social and (explicitly) commercial internet services. The vision and mission of social software is to unleash the power of individuals and groups based on the principle of networking, transparency and access to expertise and experience. The digital workplace however, requires much more than social functionality. It has to provide information and knowledge workers with the means to be more productive, spend less time with routine tasks and thereby increase their available time share to be an active and valuable node in a network. Principles of relevance matching in the commercial space (eg search marketing, contextual advertising, behavioral targeting) are essential building blocks for the automation in information and knowledge work. Automation itself is a key building block for productivity. The more data, expertise and knowledge connects itself to a user based on situation, context and explicit action the easier it will be to make use of the entire intellectual property (= the corporate DNA).

Services to tackle the key challenges in information and knowledge work however, have to be an integrative part of the actual WORKspace. I truly believe that knowledge driven companies now have a tremendous opportunity to successfully address

  • information distribution
  • information retrieval
  • data enrichment
  • communication consistency
  • activation of human capital

This has to happen in direct context with operational work and therefore the goals that individuals are measured against *. Limiting the availability of the functions that I’ve set out in the ‘same page’ section of this article to the social silo will not deliver the same value.

Social has to be integrative – not just as a single page element but in its principles and offerings towards the users of workspace services. Browsing through the latest Enterprise 2.0 User report from Forrester I actually feel confirmed in my perspective since only 22%** consider the social software as vital to their job – and those you might want to count into the early adopter segment.

Social software will not replace intranets

In line with the above statements I don’t believe that intranets will be replaced by internal social media platforms. What I believe in is that the concept of intranets will be substantially change. Two weeks ago I’ve attended the INTRAnet Reloaded conference in Berlin. A speaker (@IntranetMatters) of InfoCentric Research AG put the following slide up on the screen:

(c) InfoCentric Research AG 2012 at INTRAnet Reloaded 2012 (Berlin)

This way of describing it is spot-on. The intranet has to turn into a workspace. It has to become the main service (if not the single destination) for information workers. One might argue now that stand alone office software and the always-on requirement of such a workspace is some kind of k.o. criteria. Well…we are talking about the future of information work here, not just the outlook for the coming 3 years.

Back to the subject: social interaction and surfaced networks of people and content will be an essential (I might even say crucial) part of the modern workspace – there is no doubt about that. Information distribution that resonates very much on the formal aspects of companies, however, still has to have its place. That HR or quality management departments will publish key/mandatory content just through micro blogs and Wikis is highly unlikely. That employees will be guided to formal content via ‘Everyone’-emails in the future is as unlikely.

Intranets aren’t (in its current state) interaction or communication focussed services. They are structured (in the best case: transparent) data and information repositories. Therefore they cannot be replaced by social platforms per se anyway but they will benefit from a new way valuable (or mandatory) content can be distributed/promoted/enriched.

Social software will not replace e-mail

Period. To change behavior that was established and nurtured in companies for almost 20 years isn’t going to happen by just replacing one tool against another. No matter how many users are on Facebook or Twitter. The corporate side of things is different.

We will be able to re-channel 90% of all e-mails to more appropriate, consistent and sustainable channels – social channels amongst them and maybe even taking on a substantial share of the ex-email content. Thereby we will bring back life to a tool that enables asynchronous, secure and efficient (I would like to add attachment-free) communication between specific senders and recipients.

Referring to my recent posts on certainty for users I even dare to predict that this change/transformation will take a long time. Longer than many social business enthusiasts might think…

So, what do you think?

If you have made it down to here you must have found something in this article that you either agree or disagree with. See the comment field? Right down there? Yes 🙂 Use it! Now…

Thanks 🙂

* As part of the cultural change companies have to alter the performance management models as well. If collaboration is the new mantra measurements have to resonate on that. Collaborative/collective goals have to be established as the standard – not the exception.
** Source: The Enterprise User Profile: 2011 by © 2011, Forrester Research, Inc.
2 comments on “a #fluid-organization is powered by networks; #hierarchy = ice; #socbiz #e20 #enterprise20”

a #fluid-organization is powered by networks; #hierarchy = ice; #socbiz #e20 #enterprise20

Today I was inspired by a good friend of mine who works as communication coach and trainer. We were elaborating on the inability of large and decentralized organizations to really resonate on reality and detail when it comes business planning and steering. The larger a company gets and the ‘higher up’ a manager sits within a hierarchy the more likely it gets that Excel (or a similar tool) turns into his/her touchpoint to reality. Abstraction is considered necessary for managerial decisions that aren’t influenced by subjectivity or prolonged by dealing with too much detail. But from expereince we all know that numbers look different if someone’s – unfiltered – perspective is added to it as a commentary.

A couple of years ago I was bold enough to announce at a conference ‘Hierarchy is dead – long live the networked organization’. Oh well, this statement might have been slightly over the top and I have altered it since then to ‘Hierarchy can no longer be the dominating dimension of steering a company – value has to be created by networks of experts and expertise’. Then a week ago I have attended a conference where a picture similar to this one was put on screen:


I have modifed the picture to the extend that I have decided to include the nodes of the formal part of the organization into the network on the right side. Thereby I want to express two things in particular:

1 – Formality determines an individual’s location – network nodes determine an individual’s value
Some people feel comfortable in the role of a ‘free radical’ – buzzing through an organization without really caring of hierarchical position or title. The majority (I dare to say 95%) of employees however, require some certainty of where they stand and which part of the engine they represent. This certainty is required to make sure that role and responsibility are clear and expectations can be set/measured accordingly. As long as companies haven’t decided on measuring collaborative and joint performance/success as the key indicators this particular circumstance will not change.

What a formal role doesn’t incorporate is the potential value of an individual for an entire organization. Making a certain expertise or experience only accessible to a limited part of a company could even be considered ‘negligent’. Now the connections come into play… The more connections one individual has the more effective can that individual’s value be for the greater good. A connection must not necessarily stand for a people-relationship. It could even represent the virtual affiliation with a group, a subject or a project challenge. Enabling companies and employees to access this potential from both sides – creating and utilizing the connections – can unleash the hidden value that lies within information and knowledge work.

Just as a side note: I am 100% aware that taking up this discussion with union councils is far from easy…

2 – The fluid organization
Water is able to adjust to all situations and to unleash power that can overcome almost anything that is put in its way. When water turns into ice two interesting things happen: it loses all of its agility and ability to adjust and it increases in volume.

For me hierarchy stands for the aggregate state of ‘ice’. The more established (frozen) it is the more agility gets lost for an organization to adjust to challenges or changes in the environment. Gerhard Wohland, Matthias Wiemeyer elaborate in their book ‘Denkwerkzeuge der Höchstleister: Wie dynamikrobuste Unternehmen Marktdruck erzeugen.‘ on how high performing companies are able to withstand competition but can turn into victims of significantly changing environments (an awesome read by the way). Furthermore – and I can see all readers nodding – hierarchies tend to be ‘bigger’ than the sum of all individuals…

Keeping it fluid however, doesn’t mean that an individual doesn’t have a fixed location anymore. Each water molecule consists of the required atoms. Their location – as far as it’s possible in modern physics – can be determined. Still molecules and larger groups of molecules still are agile enough to form according to situational requirements.

Referring to the illustration above: left is ice, right is water – the fluid organization, in which atoms and molecules have their position but are connected and agile enough for form powerful instances according to potential and challenge.

Organizational and leadership challenge of enterprise 2.0
Combining the fluid organization with the actual state of hierarchies that resonate on decentralization and globalization will be one of the major challenges for consultancies dealing with organizational management and social (networked) business.

This should be taken into account when initiatives are put into place to establish the new way of working. As long as a company is not open enough to ‘blend’ (literally throwing it in a blender…) their established structures the potential success will be limited. Networking stands for overcoming personal limitations and organizational barriers – professional as well as geographical. But it has to start with a solid connection to business operations and individual people’s goals.

5 comments on “my digest of #intra_reloaded 2012 #collaboration #networking #futureofwork #enterprise20 #socialbusiness”

my digest of #intra_reloaded 2012 #collaboration #networking #futureofwork #enterprise20 #socialbusiness

Summary: my take on 2 days at the conference ‘INTRA.reloaded – From communication to collaboration’ (April 17/18 2012, Berlin). In an increasing number of companies the ‘intranet’ is more and more seen as a potential starting point to create a operational workspace. Optimizing information access and transparency and motivating collaboration are the key drivers at the moment. Still: there is no blue print available yet. However, the thoughts and belief are moving in the right direction and the ones in charge become more persistent in their will to support employees in achieving their goals and improve their access to experts and expertise.

Bridging companies and customers
An increasing number of companies is rolling out services to connect their customers with the organization. Either for the purpose of service or for going after improvements and innovation the wall between corporation and customer seems to become less solid. Particularly successful seem to be the endeavors in which corporate leaders (aka C suite) are involved as sponsor and in which they acknowledge the multi-folded value of such an initiative.

Increase value and involvement with internal services
The tendendcy was clear: modern intranets have to be value adding workspaces, whereas today most portals still serve the purpose of information distribution and corporate communications. Servicing the right information at the right time to the right user in order create real work support is an endeavor some companies have startet to pursue. People in charge are much more conscious of the importance of (unfortunately rarely executed) rennovation work for information architecture and taxonomies. Otherwise the automation of digital services to become situation aware work tools will always experience data quality (= findability) as the major limitation. ‘Rubbish in, rubbish out’ is understood – at least my most protagonists.

Consciousness for active change management
Guiding employees through change with marketing style activities or dedicated advocates and community managers is really fashionable now. Just throwing a piece of IT at employees hoping that the majority of them will catch it and find some reason behind has been identified as a ‘no go’ – in particular by the reps of IT departments I was able to speak to. That management has to get involved and play an active part in the change and execution process is definitely perceived as a key success factor.

Asking the right questions
What’s still challenging is the way of figuring out the right starting point and how to bridge vision and reality. Throughout the conference I had the feeling that user and challenge centric thinking is still overruled by the quest for the right tool. It’s functionality (e.g. microblogging) that is introduced to employees – not a service that resonates to a particular challenge and thereby automatically makes its use obvious to employees. The tendency however, is definitely a move towards more user focussed approaches.

Summing it up: the future for information and knowledge workers looks brighter than three years ago. As soon as companies have overcome their internal blockage that only ERP projects can be funded with three digit millions the future will be even brighter. To unleash the potential that’s currently buried in the heads of talented people and network drives new ways for information distribution, retrieval and enrichment have to make their way into organizations. Getting some inspiration from social and commercial media seems to be a good idea because a lot of references at the conference were made in that direction.

I would like to close with the advise of our last speaker @d_ott: decentralize, simplify, advise & train…and be nice to your users.

I couldn’t agree more 🙂