What’s your social collaboration raison d’être?
One of the most frequent pieces of advice I offer to organisations considering a social collaboration initiative is to be clear why your organisation needs to be more collaborative. It’s not enough for your goal to simply be “better collaboration”, you need to unpick exactly what advantages better collaboration will bring you, and how these relate to your organisation’s broader strategy. Not only will this make it much easier for you to convince key stakeholders that this is a worthwhile investment, it will also help you plan and focus your strategy for bringing about the necessary business change involved.
When I’m writing case studies about early adopters’ success with social collaboration, this is one of the areas I try to draw out because it’s this that underpins the ultimate value that the organisation is able to demonstrate from its investment. I have a healthy library of case studies now, and it’s an interesting exercise to identify the key themes across them. Here are some of the most common or interesting business drivers, along with examples of them within my case studies.
- Better connecting a distributed workforce. This is an extremely common raison d’être for social collaboration initiatives, where there is a need to create greater unity across the organisation, helping different parts of the business to recognise and understand each other, and to expose their commonalities to enable the sharing of knowledge and best practices. Two great examples of this are IT professional services firm CGI, which needed a centralised platform to support its growth strategy, and technology firm Ricoh, which turned to social collaboration to support the process of integrating its business following an acquisition.
- Supporting a business transformation strategy. Transforming the operations of any organisation places considerable stresses on the workforce, and so anything which can maximise the transparency of change through clear channels of communication will help to ease the process. Yellow Pages Group in Canada is a great example of this; the firm has been going through a broad digital transformation exercise over the last few years, expanding from a purely paper-based publishing model to a digital media and marketing solutions service provider for Canadian businesses. The company’s CEO recognised that it was important to improve the level of communication and collaboration between the different business divisions and regions, to speed up the rate of information exchange between them and to make decisions more quickly and confidently.
- Supporting innovation to drive business differentiation. Lower barriers to entry across many markets mean that there is a constant need to ensure processes are as efficient as possible and to find new opportunities to meet the customer’s needs. As a large, distributed player in an increasingly competitive market, Portuguese engineering and construction firm Mota-Engil wanted to develop a more innovative culture across its organisation, encouraging employees of all levels to contribute ideas about new business opportunities and improving existing business processes, and then to enable these to be taken from idea to reality in a managed, collaborative and visible way.
- Improving staff morale and engagement. In traditional, hierarchical organisational cultures, the flow of information can be painfully slow and constricted, and corporate communications (and increasingly HR) leaders often turn to social collaboration to break down the boundaries across the organisation, connecting leaders more directly with employees, and increasing the speed of communication between employees. This was the case at Southeastern Railway, where staff needed a better way to share information about train services in real time, to respond to increasing demands from customers and provide a better level of service. At Danish rail operator DSB, against a background of poor staff morale, the communications team sought to motivate employees to develop a more proactive and customer-focused culture where performance is celebrated rather than questioned.
- To better engage with customers and partners. While social collaboration is often internally focused, in some organisations the driver focuses on extending a collaborative culture outwards to engage more openly and interactively with customers or partners. Healthcare specialists Sg2 wanted to enable the company’s advisory capability to become more viral, to encourage discussion and interaction around its findings and ideas, and position Sg2 as a hub for people in the industry to collaborate and communicate – not just with Sg2’s experts, but with each other – on healthcare issues, thereby increasing the number of potential customers it could reach and its penetration into the marketplace.