Better productivity, lower travel and communication costs, higher customer satisfaction, more innovation, increases in revenue and profit, faster access to knowledge, improved connection to internal experts and more.
Why wouldn’t every organisation flock to this vision of an agile, connected, transparent, people-centred and more efficient business?
Some organisations have glimpsed the future and recognised that survival and growth in an increasingly competitive environment requires new attitudes, new thinking, new business models that can adapt and change to a volatile environment. In short, they are tapping into the phenomenal rise of “social interaction”, where knowledge and information is freely exchanged and where new paradigms for employee and customer relationships can provide opportunities for innovation and co-production.
But what of the rest? There is only so long that an organisation can wait before it becomes too late. Competitors and customers have moved on. Attracting new talent becomes more difficult; employees become moribund.
Doing nothing is the new business risk.
But it’s not always easy to make the necessary changes, particularly in large and well-established organisations. Some of the typical barriers that challenge large organisations include:
- Fear of change. People are generally risk-averse. Organisations more so, after all they are accountable to shareholders and other stakeholders. “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” is the usual mantra.
- Command-and-control. Who says every organisation wants to be transparent and flexible and invite participation from every quarter? What if senior management do not want a pluralist organisation where democracy rules?
- Profusion of tools. The explosion of social software tools is a source of great innovation, but also a lot of confusion. Organisations can easily end up with several enterprise social networks used by different teams or departments, or for different purposes, along with social applications for purposes such as project management or employee recognition, each coming with their own user profiles and activity steams and notions of how connections are formed.
- Lack of integration. A legacy patchwork of IT solutions that have only ever been superficially integrated and where every application has a threshold of “good enough” integration to make the system usable but never quite perfect.
- Competition from free public social networks. Staff will inevitably compare their experience on an enterprise social network with the one they enjoy on consumer sites such as Facebook. This can be a problem if the enterprise experience suffers by comparison by being awkward to navigate, frustrating to use, or missing important features.
- Compliance requirements. Regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare must pay particular attention to whether an enterprise social network meets compliance requirements such as data archiving. Moreover, they might tend to see more risk than benefit in a technology that makes it easy to share information widely when they have a responsibility to keep some categories of information under tight control.
- Fit with business processes and workflows. Enterprise social software should ultimately make business and work processes more efficient and adaptable to a fast-changing environment (internal or external). How will improved knowledge flows and opportunities for collaboration and co-production be channelled into the existing business/work processes.
These are just some of the issues that will be covered at the forthcoming Social Workplace Conference on 24th May. There’s a great line-up of speakers and sponsors who will be sharing their experiences of building enterprise collaborative solutions and how they’ve addressed the barriers to organisational change.
A great opportunity to tap into the post-industrial age of “fluid knowledge”.