Let employee collaboration lead the way

Let employee collaboration lead the way

I’m all for the idea that a great way to get senior-level buy-in for (and drive momentum with) a social collaboration initiative is to find a handful of really good use cases which clearly demonstrate the value of a more open, networked approach to working. However, very often I find that instead of looking for internal scenarios involving employee collaboration, organisations often plump first for externally-facing opportunities – for example a community for engaging with customers, or with supply chain partners.

Now, while I can see why this happens – because these are the places where a successful initiative will get the attention of senior managers, potentially making the biggest immediate impact on actual revenues – there is a huge flaw in this approach, and that is that you are basically using customers and partners as a testbed for what is often a completely new way of working. If it’s an immediate sparkling success, then that’s fantastic. But if it fails spectacularly – or more likely just limps along pitifully until it dies quietly – it’s probably worse for the organisation’s reputation than if you hadn’t tried in the first place.

As any organisation that has embarked on an initiative to drive adoption of a social collaboration platform will tell you (and as I have written, blogged and talked about many times) getting that momentum going is hard, and takes time and a lot of persistence. If your internal culture is not already embracing social collaboration, it will be so much harder to maintain an externally-facing community. Very often, it comes down to one or two individuals who become the figureheads of the community, whereas if you have already established an internal culture of collaborating openly and interactively, it’s much easier to extend this beyond the organisation’s boundaries to include customers and partners. What’s more, it will come across as much more convincing, because it isn’t forced, it’s simply mirroring the internal culture of the organisation.

So as you look for your first use cases for social collaboration, I would encourage you to look inwards first; look for opportunities to better-connect parts of the organisation, build on existing collaborations, identify events or activities where a social collaboration platform can speed up processes, help overcome over-use of email or surface information that is normally locked within a single department. Learn your lessons internally, and then you can embrace the outside world, full of confidence and with the knowledge that you can succeed.

This post was originally published on the AIIM community blog, where Angela posts monthly as an invited Expert Blogger.

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