Challenges of Social Business in the Workplace

A couple of weeks ago the smart and talented folks from Bloomfire approached me through Twitter to ask me whether I would be willing to participate on an interview around Social Business and be featured on the series of bloggers and influencers they have got going on for a little while now. Of course, I couldn’t deny it such a generous offer, but even more so when the whole entire conversation and the follow-up interview happened through social tools (Twitter and Google Plus) and not a single email was exchanged throughout the entire process! That’s right! Here is a vendor that truly believes on walking the talk, leading by example, utilising other social networking tools than their own, that may be available out there, just to continue to add value into the overall discussion around open knowledge sharing, collaboration and getting work done more effectively. Who knew, right? Why aren’t more Enterprise 2.0 / Social Business vendors doing the same thing? 

While I let you all ponder around that particular question, I thought I would take a few minutes today to share over here some tidbits of the content of the interview itself we did go through that I think plenty of you folks may find rather interesting and perhaps a bit thought-provoking, too. More than anything else because in one of the questions put together we talked about what are some of the main challenges behind Social Business in the workplace today, June 2014, and somehow the answers that came through were not the usual suspects that you see coming up time and time again. 

So, what were the questions you may be wondering, right? Well, you could find them all at the interview itself under the heading “Meet Luis Suarez”, or check the list below: 

  • Tell me about your career 
  • What are some of your hobbies
  • What do you find interesting about the social space? 
  • Where are some of the challenges you have identified in the social space? 
  • What advice (or insight) can you share about utilising social tools to leverage workplace learning?
  • What are your top 3 favourite blogs to follow?

Yes, I know this may well surprised some of you and bring up a good giggle or two, but I do still read blogs. Daily. At a time where vast majority of the conversations seem to be happening through social networking tools, there I was suggesting what were my top 3 favourite blogs at the moment. Oh, don’t worry, won’t tell you about them over here, you would need to go and read the interview itself to find out. Yes, I know! I am just such a tease, aren’t I? :)

Talking about teasing you all about the content of the interview, I think I’m going to take the liberty now and include one or two of the questions and their answers over here, so you folks can take a look and see what you would expect from it and what we talked about. And since the title of this blog entry is around current challenges of Social Business in the workplace, what a better start than sharing the response to “What are some of the challenges you have identified in the social space?”: 

At one point in time I thought that one of the main challenges was technology itself where in itself it became a barrier of entry, specially, for those people who may have been a bit apprehensive of what it could do for them. But, over time, as you get more and more experienced in the field through lots of hands-on, walking the talk, leading by example, you realise that the main challenge we currently have at this moment is management, specially, senior leadership.

We are constantly witnessing how, time and time again, the traditional top-down hierarchy (and not just within the business world, but in a societal level as well!) feels very much threatened by this new way of interacting and participating called social networks where information is on longer power, and where we are transitioning from knowledge stocks into knowledge flows (cf. John Hagel).

That democratisation of knowledge where knowledge shared is power is becoming increasingly more of a challenge for management and senior leaders, more than anything else because they are finding it a bit of a challenge to transition from that command and control mindset into one of leading the pack through merit, participation and overall knowledge sharing as they are just one more of the nodes of the social networks they are part of already. The challenge for them is to transition from the traditional vision of management into one of leadership. Open Leadership.

From there onwards, and perhaps now thinking in more practical terms of how to get started with it all I also ventured into answering this other one question: “What advice (or insight) can you share about utilising social tools to leverage workplace learning?” as follows: 

To start using them TODAY! Don’t wait to be told it’s ok to make use of them to do your work. Don’t wait for your peers to dive into social networking tools, just because you don’t want to be the first one; or for your direct manager, or middle manager or senior leaders to tell you it’s ok to make use of them. Don’t wait for them. Just dive into social networks and start building your digital footprint, your digital brand helping people get better at what they do by sharing your knowledge out in the open, transparently, and collaborating much more effectively with those who may need of your help, skills and expertise.

Over time, you would start to understand how we are moving, rather fast!, into a world where we constantly have to keep demonstrating our thought leadership, expertise and what we really passionate about, so that it gives us a chance to meet up other people, connect with them, learn with them and eventually rather cooperate or collaborate with them to become better at what we do. So, again, don’t wait, start making use of social tools today, whether it’s a blog or any of the major networking tools out there and jump into the bandwagon. Leave that fear behind, the “what would they say if I start using …”, the “I don’t have time for this”, the “I don’t know what to share or talk about”, the “I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of others, never mind total strangers”, etc. etc. Just pick up that one or two topics that you are really truly passionate about and starting sharing with the world that passion for the next few years to come!

Thus, there you have it. The challenge AND the opportunity while embarking on the so-called Social Business Transformation journey. It’s now down to us all to make a choice and decide where we would want to go and what would we doing to help spark those social interactions. Yes, it’s a choice. And a personal one, for that matter.

So, what’s yours then? Keep hiding away or jump into the bandwagon of the Social Era with both feet?


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

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Working Out Loud with Google Plus – Part Deux

One of the themes around both Social and Open Business I have grown rather fond of over the course of the last 2 to 3 years is that one of Working Out Loud (Other related topics would be as well narrating your work or observable work, a.k.a. #owork). From the moment that fellow Change Agent Bryce Williams coined the term, nearly 4 years ago, to today, a lot has happened, but, surprisingly enough, the interest around this very same subject continues to raise the stakes that perhaps the realisation of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise is no longer just around how social you may well be, whether internal or external, with your peers, your customers, business partners or, even, your competitors, but maybe about how comfortable you may well feel when showing your work, out in the open, in a rather transparent manner, for others (even total strangers) to benefit from. What do you think? Are you ready to start working out loud as well? 

I can imagine how throwing yourself out there into the unknown, hoping for the best, may well be a bit of a challenge in itself. I mean, if you look into it, within the corporate world, all along, we have always defaulted to work in private, close silos with team colleagues whom we knew rather well, or even just our very own selves, as we have kept protecting and hoarding our own knowledge thinking that would make us all become indispensable to the business. Remember the good old mantra of “Knowledge is power”? Well, it may well have its days numbered… 

I know plenty of you folks out there would tell me that knowledge is power is still very much alive and kicking and, in fact, it pretty much rules everywhere, even in our social, digital activities, specially, when we just keep talking, referencing and sharing other people’s content and work items vs. our very own. Mainly, because we just don’t feel comfortable and open enough to think AND act different; to shift and change our very own behaviours and mindset; to show how vulnerable and limited we all are, after all, as we move on and transition into “Knowledge SHARED is power”. Yet, let me tell you, based on first hand experience, there is a lot to gain. And we are no longer alone. Not anymore. By far. Yes! It’s time to open up!

Like I said, over the course of the last couple of years plenty of people have been thinking and talking openly about the whole concept behind Working Out Loud. It’s become a mantra as well, for a long while now, for my fellow peers and myself at Change Agents Worldwide with folks like John Stepper, Susan ScrupskiJonathan Anthony, Jane McConnell, Catherine Shinners, Simon Terry, Dennis Pearce, Christoph Schmaltz, Patti AnklamHarold Jarche, Jon Husband, Eric Ziegler or Ian Thorpe talking about it extensively and, much more importantly, walking the talk in showcasing how it could work not just for organisations but for knowledge (Web) workers, in general, even when doing client work.

Oh, yes! We are not alone in this. Far from it. Plenty of other folks (to name a few), like Matthew Partovi, Dion HinchcliffeRogier Noort, John WengerMarshall Kirkpatrick, John HagelEuan SempleStowe Boyd, Stephen Danelutti, Greg Lloyd, Sacha Chua, David Burkus, Maria Popova (Reflecting on Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work), Hugh MacLeodJanet Choi, Sunder Ramachandran, Jessica Grose, Moyra Mackie, Louise McGregor, Laurie Webster, Rick Ladd, John Buonora, Jane Bozarth, Michael Sampson, CV Harquail, Inge Ignatia de Waard, Lloyd Davis, Bernie Mitchell, Nick Milton, Sarah Lay, Ewen Le Borgne, Mike Taylor, Russell Pearson, have been talking and writing about Working Out Loud for some time now, demonstrating how it’s not as scary as it may look like. Quite the opposite. They have been sharing plenty of first hand experiences and insights on what it’s meant for them all along and, if anything, it’s been pretty inspiring overall seeing how this topic is picking up more and more steam by the minute by everyone else.

Even organisations are jumping into it. Examples like Grundfos (Read as well Thomas Asger Hansen’s take on it), Deutsche Bank, National Fluid Power Association, Lowe’s, etc. etc. have been embracing this mantra as well of #workingoutloud (#WOL). Even some vendors like Salesforce, IBM or Podio have been advocating for it, too! You would probably say that, at this point in time, it’s an unstoppable movement towards opening up organisations, business processes and technology while inspiring, throughout the knowledge workforce, new, innovative ways of thinking different while doing business.

But what is Working Out Loud exactly, you may be wondering, right? Well, instead of me detailing a short explanation of what it would be like I thought I would point you to a short video clip of about 3 minutes, put together by my colleagues at Change Agents Worldwide, for Salesforce’s Chatter, that pretty much explains what it is and how you, too, could embark on it without too much effort or disruption from your already existing day to day work routines. Have a look and see what you think: 

 

So, after watching that short video clip you now may be wondering why am I putting together this blog entry in the first place, right? Well, after having embraced Working Out Loud for a good number of years while I was at IBM, as both a Social Business Evangelist and Lead Social Business Enabler, more than anything else as an opportunity to show and demonstrate how it would work through pure hands-on, walking the talk, and leading by example, I thought it’s now a good time for me to pick it up again, even as an independent trusted advisor, and show what it would look like out there in the Social Web.

The interesting thing is that this is not the first time that I do it. I have done it in the past through Twitter multiple times, and even through Google Plus itself as well, as I have blogged about it a couple of years ago over here. That’s essentially how #elsuasworkbook was born in the first place and while I am just about to get things started with client work around Social Business and Digital Transformation and things are beginning to settle down a bit with my new life of being an independent I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show everyone in my networks (and anyone else who may be interested for that matter) about what it is like Working Out Loud for yours truly. 

It’s bound to be an interesting experiment, since I know I will be trying hard to be as open and transparent as I possibly can, through my Google Plus profile, to describe the kind of work that I am currently involved with at the moment. Oh, don’t worry, radical transparency is a bit too far away for me at the moment, specially, while I am trying to taste the waters of a new working life, but over time, as I, too, myself get comfortable with the uncertain, the level of transparency will keep increasing more and more by the day. 

After all, if you would remember, transparency is one of the 10 Principles of Open Business and, to me, one of the key mantras I decided to adapt to over the course of time in my transition journey away from Social Business into Open Business. From not only talking about social, but also doing / living social AND Open.

Thus, if you would want to find out some more how things will work out for me from here onwards, check out my Google Plus Profile or just keep an eye on #elsuasworkbook every now and then to get a glimpse of what’s happening. Oh, and if you decide to jump in as well, let the world know (me, included, please!) about how and where we can find you, working out loud. For now, I will leave you all with a couple of rather inspiring quotes on the topic, as well as the prospect of enjoying the lovely weekend ahead of us. Mine is just about to get started now! 

Have a good one everyone!

 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus

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How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business – Finally, A New KPI in the Making

If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would notice how there is a certain topic that keeps coming back time and time again, as one of my main key focus areas I have always felt would help advance our overall efforts of pushing the boundaries of our various different social business transformation journeys: the overall client experience. And I am not talking about the traditional concept behind a customer. To me, everyone is a client in some form or shape: your very own colleagues, your managers, your executives, etc. are also even your clients. You keep serving them for whatever purpose through your specific cooperation and collaboration efforts. They are also the very same ones that keep you employed for many years to come, just like any other customer would do. Are you paying attention to them as well just as much?

While I was at IBM, working during those 17 years in multiple internal projects within 6 different business units, one comes to realise that even though you are working on the blue dollars (vs. the green dollars), there is always something you can do to focus on that client experience: delighting your clients. That is, help them achieve their goals and objectives, address and fix their potential business problems, and eventually help enable them to excel at what they are already rather good at. It’s an interesting, and a rather fascinating experience altogether, because, amongst several other things, it always manages to keep you sharp, in your toes, about the client value you can provide, even to your peers. To the point where, to me, it became my new KPI over the course of time in terms of how I would value and measure the success of my own work across organisation(s).

How delighted are your customers with your own work over the course of time is probably as good as it gets, whether internal or external, in terms of proving and demonstrating your value and overall contributions, so when the smart folks at CMSWire invited me to write an article around the whole topic behind “The Search for ROI in Social Business” I just couldn’t help writing about the need, for me (Perhaps for you, too), to create that new KPI that would help me successfully identify whether I am on the right track, or not, in providing value to the customers I interact with, specially, now even more so that I am an independent trusted advisor and have shifted focus from internal into external work. 

That invitation from CMSWire to write that article has also helped me frame something that has been in my mind for a long while, whenever I embark on the conversations of how do you measure the value of your own Social Business initiatives, and whether it’s time to go deeper, moving further beyond the overall low hanging fruit of just measuring the usage of social technologies. To me, we are witnessing the unique opportunity of not only going more in-depth into the overall value proposition of Social Business, but perhaps re-define a new KPI around the client experience which, more and more, gets defined itself by the overall employee experience.

In case folks may have missed that article over at CMSWire, I have now taken the liberty of also reproducing it here below, so you can all have a look and comment on whether there is a need to go deeper and reframe altogether new KPIs to help evaluate more effectively the overall customer value propositions around the Social Business Transformation journey or whether we should just stick around, with the easy part, i.e. with the low hanging fruit. Something tells me we shouldn’t, but I would let you be the judge of that sentiment while going through the article itself… 

How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business

“I remember when things were just getting started with Enterprise 2.0, then Social Business, how we were all trying to prove the business value of social technologies and even our very existence as 2.0 practitioners in the workplace. Do you remember how tough it was to justify yours to senior management? How things have changed since then ….

Fast forward to 2014, and while the conversation around measuring the business value of Social Business persists and is perhaps more relevant, the focus and intent of the questions have shifted. There is no longer a need to justify it, but rather an opportunity to evaluate the maturity of different initiatives as you progress on the Social Business journey. No one can deny the impact of social technologies at the workplace anymore — and that’s a good thing. We have *finally* moved on.

Beware the Low Hanging Fruit

The dialogue has evolved, although we may at times still have the impression we are running a circus, as Carrie Young brilliantly indicated in “Social ROI = Return On Insanity” This happens when we stop thinking outside of the box and the inertia kicks in that’s so pernicious in the business world: only measuring the low hanging fruit.

This is far too easy. Measuring the usage of social technologies at the workplace is far easier than the significant impact on the overall business outcomes. This is where the real challenge currently lies. I have advised clients all along that to measure the business value of your social business initiatives you should aim higher than the low hanging fruit for your critical business KPIs. The ones you have cared about throughout the years, perhaps decades. These provide the opportunity to truly change your business through the digital transformation.

There is also an opportunity to rethink how we approach these KPIs. In the Social Era it remains a challenge to measure emerging 21st century business models with a 20th century mentality. And that is where the circus begins…

There may be a better way. Let’s explore it.

A New KPI

The main business goal of most companies is no longer to just profit per se (although still a major driver), but essentially “to delight their customers,” as Steve Denning would say. Each of us can remember very well when the last time was that we had a delightful experience as a customer, and more importantly, when we didn’t. I bet our first reaction was: “Wow! What a delightful client experience. I wish I could repeat it again!”

And that’s essentially what we want for our customers — to improve their overall client experience. But in order to do that we need to aim at improving the employee experience as well, and that’s when problems arise. Very few people would deny that the client experience is defined by the employee experience. Happy employees = happy customers. It’s good for the business.

Unfortunately, employees are not very happy. Recent reports from Gallup claim that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. Yes, let me pause there — only 13 percent.

That essentially means that your business is being run by only a slightly over 10 percent of your employee workforce. If that’s not a worrying sign, I don’t know what is. How can we possibly define the client experience as delightful if employees aren’t there in the first place? Want to find a new business KPI that matches today’s No. 1 business problem? Look no further: employee engagement (commitment, involvement, compromise — whichever moniker du jour you favour).

I strongly believe (and always have) that Social Business can reignite a disengaged workforce, while also helping reengage vendors and clients. The apathy is permeating beyond your employees to your customers and business partners. We need to do better. We need to do MUCH better.

It’s a challenge to strike a renewed sense of purpose, meaning and more effective way of getting work done when employees lack a strong sense of belonging, of feeling appreciated, trusted, respected and valued. When you enable your employees to think and act differently through emerging social technologies — giving them autonomy, flexibility, responsibility and, above all, ownership of the work they do — you start to realize you’ve entered a different league when measuring the business value of Social Business.

Measuring the usage of social tools is helpful for clarity and awareness, but don’t stop there. Go deeper. Work with your knowledge workforce to co-create new KPIs based on their employee experiences. Chances are high they know better than you whether they are doing the right job with clients based on their interactions with them — out in the open, working more publicly and transparently, working out loud. Success will be their new reality when they reengage to delight their clients.

Showing the Way to the 21st Century

One of the many worthwhile examples that demonstrates how this can be done is TELUS, a national telecommunications company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner at TELUS, confirmed its employee engagement rates increased from 53 percent to 83 percent and that it correlated this to an improvement in business outcomes — a.k.a. revenue. I know what you’re thinking — wow! From 53 percent to 83 percent through applying and embracing social technologies and a new kind of leadership, Open Leadership.

That’s just one example of many of how we can aim higher to strike a balanced, measurable set of outcomes to prove the ROI of Social Business. We need to stop paying for the circus and get down to action. The *real* action.

So, who wants to jump the shark and move into the 21st century to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise? This is your new ROI: start by improving the client experience through the employee experience.

The rest is just a distraction and one that should be avoided. At all costs.”

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus


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