Wasting time on the social intranet!

“Where do we draw the line? At what point are we becoming too social and therefore non-productive?”

This question was posted today on my board in our internal social intranet, in a discussion on the level of social presence by people with an ambition to present themselves as social business consultants. I guess you've heard it before, or similar questions implying that social equals non-productive and can only be tolerated in limited doses. “Social media and social intranets are a waste of time”

Last time your talkative friend phoned you and talked with you for a little less than an hour about nothing, did you blame the phone? Or maybe your friend? Or maybe yourself for not being able to cut them short?

Or the last time the neighbour caught you just outside your door and kept you busy listening to their complaints about the other neighbour's pet?

Chatterboxes waste our time if we let them. Whatever the medium and context.

I use our social intranet to communicate:

  • I ask and answer questions openly, to maximize the possibility of additional contributions as well as re-use of answers in the future by others with the same issue
  • I share knowledge and experience so others can build on mine instead of starting from scratch
  • I reuse knowledge and experience from others for the same reason
  • I scan the flow of updates on boards, blogs, wikis, bookmarks, activities to maximize the potential of stumbling over inspiration or discovering knowledge I didn't even know I could benefit from
  • I collaborate in communities and activities (task management) with efficiency and with the time zones, reducing the need for us to work off hours just because the people involved happen to be on another continent

Wasting time? Rather working efficiently and maybe investing some time for the good of both my colleagues and myself.

For what do we get paid in a social business?

John had worked four weeks on the proposal.

Days, evenings, some weekends and even two nights. Finally, John and the team heard the words they had been fighting for so hard: We have decided to award you our business. And then – even better - …the solution you have suggested is more complete and smarter than your competitors and you have also done a better job of presenting the benefits our company will reap by choosing you and your solution.
Time to celebrate!

A week later, after the first turmoil of getting things started, John thought it could be a good idea to share the winning proposal with his colleagues through the social intranet. First, he hoped that such a strong proposal could help colleagues elsewhere win even more business. Second, John, who was a nice and empathic fella, wanted to save colleagues some trouble and hardship in creating proposals for similar deals from scratch. After all, he knew very well how unhappy he and his family had been with his workload during those four weeks. Finally, he realized that sharing the proposal would build his reputation as an expert in this field and as a good salesguy. Win – win – win!

But, first he needed to cleanse it from confidential information, client identifiers, financial details etc. It took him two hours to do so. But then he shared the file and posted about it in a couple of forums and – of course – in a status update on his profile page. (He added a couple of relevant tags to his profile too, while he was at it, by the way).

Over the following weeks and months, colleagues around the world re-used John’s shared proposal, tailored it to their needs and managed to win several deals around the world, spending only half the time and much less weekends and evenings in doing so. How many millions was it worth for the company?

What did John get out of this? Indeed, his reputation got a boost and people from near and far asked him for supplementary information. Flattering, but time consuming. He probably spent another day’s worth of time on answering such supplementary questions over that period. Still, John thought of the good business he helped the company to make and the gratefulness from colleagues who could work so much smarter than he had been forced to do.

But apart from some thanks a million in mails, chats and over the phone, what did he get out of it? Did it show on his pay slip or in the appraisal by his manager? Not at all. On the contrary. His manager said John, you winning that deal for us was great. But since then, you seem to have lost focus and keep chatting away with colleagues across the world. But out business is here. Our department is measured on the profits we generate from our clients in our local market. Not on some deal in Farawayland. We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball, you know.

Social Business brings fundamental changes to the way we reward our employees

For ages, workers’ pay has been based on what they produced. Number of widgets produced, seams welded, kilos of produce, hours worked etc. Our pay has been in direct relation to what came out of our hands or our time worked. Only very few people have been paid for what came out of their heads: artists, writers and maybe a few others.

But Social Business breaks this direct relationship between our effort and the benefit to the company we work for. Our shared knowledge and experience can mean so very much more to the entire company than our original effort actually did. But – and this is the tricky part – we are unlikely to know where or when those benefits are generated and there is no good way of tracking the benefit to the company from what an individual has shared. At least I haven’t seen any, yet.

So, HR folks will have to work out new formulas to reward us for what we bring to the table.

And suppliers of social intranet software or other software manufacturers will need to come up with ways of identifying re-use and benefits reaped from shared knowledge

If they don’t, luddites will keep coming up with the same excuse for not collaborating and sharing: What’s in it for me really?

It will be most interesting to see what they come up with.

4 great reasons not to write headlines or tweets like this one

I too, have read the research claiming that headlines/tweets promising a list with a set number (figure, not in text) of <reinforcing adjective> things to read/to do (or avoid) to produce some desirable result.

Here’s why they rather turn me off, than on.

  1. Everybody else does. I’m not questioning the research saying that clicks increase. But what works well when a few people do it may not work as well when everybody does
  2. How original do you look really, when you keep using the same formula over and over?
  3. It tells me that clicks is what makes you tick, not sharing great knowledge or spreading bright ideas. You’re merely a crowd pleaser, regurgitating what you have read elsewhere, in list form – or at least, that is what your headlines tell me. If you’re the Real McCoy, it’s a pity your headlines scare me away
  4. If I feel this way, how many others do too? If #3 actually applies, can you afford the risk of turning clickers away this way?
Please, next time, give me a question, a surprising fact, an intriguing expression, a double meaning, a pun, a chocking insight or just a plain, simple statement. Anything but a list of “X creative ways to bend a banana”

Why do you keep changing my towels, when I don’t want you to?

Dear guest, to save the environment of our planet we need to conserve water and reduce the use of detergents. We ask for your help in doing so by only changing your towels if you leave them on the floor. Therefore, if you are prepared to use your towel one more day, please hang it on the rail

Who hasn’t seen signs with similar messages in hotels around the world, even in countries with abundant access to clean and fresh water. Tell me; do you really change your own towels daily? Well, I don’t and nobody I know of either. So, honestly, why would I expect it to happen just because I’m in a hotel.

Of course, we all understand that this idea of not changing towels has very little to do with the environment. It’s about saving money on cleaning, handling of laundry and reduced wear on towels – disguised as care for the environment. Just like when the airline (SAS for example) ask us to help them save the environment by not leaving our newspapers on the seats when leaving the aircraft, but to bring them with us and shove them down a chute after leaving the aircraft. It just might be a way of reducing the time the aircraft is stuck in cleaning on the ground, speeding up turn-around time, rather for the sake of the environment. What do you think?

So, I open the soap package, wash my hands, take a shower and…. leave the towels hanging, go to work (to the beach or whatever is the cause of my visit) and come back after the cleaning staff have been around, doing their thing.

What do I see, when entering the bathroom on my return? I guess you’ve seen it too. Pristine-looking towels and a new, unbroken package of soap.

This is exactly what happened to me on 15 April in Marriott, Milano.

Dear hotels, please instruct your cleaning staff to leave my towels alone! Even though I don’t believe for a single second that your towel handling initiative has anything to do with environmental care, your environmental lip service statement would be just a little bit less annoying if your guests actually could see that the towels haven’t been changed? And please tell them that I find it utterly wasteful to throw away soaps that have been used only once or twice. I don’t do that at home either.

On the serious side of things, I bring up this example to illustrate the importance of walking the talk in everything you do these days. Paying lip service to environmental care but: 1) doing it for such obvious reasons of profitability and 2) then not even ensuring that it is evident that you actually carried it through, raises doubt about you walking the talk in other – maybe more important – aspects.

If you believe your guests are stupid enough to believe reducing towel turnover has anything to do with your environmental conscience, in which other ways do you try to fool us?

PS While you’re busy passing this on to your cleaning staff, could you please ask them not to rearrange my stuff by the sink, apparently to highlight that they have been doing their job.?I realize anyway that they have been around, because I didn’t make that bed.

Bye, bye internal email?

On the first day of work this year, I took the big leap. I activated out-of-office for the rest of 2013 (for internal senders only, that is), telling them to post on my board on our social intranet instead of sending emails.

ooo

It’s a bit like converting to an electric car while the infrastructure around you is geared up to service the diesel cars everybody else drives. It takes an extra effort, some people think you’re crazy and others cheer you on, but you do know that you’re doing the right thing, at least for the long run. And you can be pretty sure to reduce pollution (cc’s) straight away.

The questions I’ve been getting fall in three categories: 1) Why do this? 2) Do you seriously believe in switching entirely from mail to social communications and 3) Why are you so negative towards email?

Let me respond in reverse order.

Why am I so negative towards email?

I am not negative to email per se. I am negative to many of the ways email is misused in large organizations like the one I work for.

  • The more distributed organizations become, the more we work remotely, the more unsure people seem to be that people important to you and your future realize how great a job you really do. I mean, a boss on another continent cannot see how diligently you work, can (s)he? The universal remedy seems to be to cc every Tom, Dick and Harry on all emails, just to show you work. I email, therefore I am.
  • There is a tendency and temptation to use email as a way to throw tasks over the fence for others to do and then go on with your the stuff you’ve decided to keep for yourself. People dump tasks on each other, large and small, this way without first checking if people have capacity to complete them. The inbox has turned into a to do-list, prioritized by others.
  • cansBut most of all: Email restricts the spread of knowledge and inspiration throughout the organization and there are much better alternatives available today, both regarding efficiency and effectiveness. Email locks knowledge in

Do I seriously believe in a 100% switch from email?

No I don’t. There are still good and valid uses of email: many, but limited number of recipients, system-generated mails, confidential or personal information and of course forwarding of any such mails. So, instead of going 100% electric, it’s more practical to get yourself a hybrid. And of course, there’s still phone, chat, txt, meetings as well for communications.

Finally, Why do this?

I do this for the benefit of my colleagues, my employer and – of course – myself.

  1. Colleagues looking for information will have their queries exposed to my extensive network and not only to me. Anyone can respond, even if I happen to be travelling or busy. That’s a much better OOO-function than just a response telling people that you’re not around and when you will be back
  2. Since conversations on profile boards are visible to all colleagues (at least in a social intranet) – and searchable – the knowledge from these conversations become common property and we all become more capable for each such conversation
  3. For colleagues in my network who support others by answering questions in public conversations (like my board for example) this is a good chance to show their expertise to the collective of colleagues as well as that they are nice guys and gals. Is there a better way to build your personal brand?
  4. My employer benefits by knowledge getting shared and easier to find and by improved visibility of and ease of finding experts. Less time wasted on looking information that would otherwise have been locked into brains, hard drives or mail boxes.
  5. For me, finally, I waste less time on processing mails and feel less pressure to answer questions. I learn from more knowledgeable colleagues who take time to respond to questions on my board and my reputation gets a boost too as a valuable resource, not only for my own knowledge but also for being a hub for “the right people”.

A bit more than a month into this quest, it progresses nicely. My load of traditional mails has decreased drastically, I still have to “shift to diesel” once in a while but, best of all, my quest seems to have inspired others to move in the same direction. Colleagues even send me emails just to get my OOO-message to copy. I am documenting my experience, learning tips and tricks to facilitate the shift and also various categories of mails that are a challenge to get rid of.

So far, so good.

(Jag bloggar om detta projekt på svenska på IBM Sveriges blogg www.ensmartareplanet.se ifall du hellre läser där)

Social intranets grow faster than you probably think – only Facebook reached the first million users faster than IBM Connections

When discussing digital social networks, the discussion easily circles around Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and, more recently, Pinterest. It comes pretty naturally. They are all public and visible for all.

Social tools within organizations – often called Social Intranets or Collaboration tools – don’t make it as easily into the discussion. They are not in plain view, hidden behind firewalls full of information that companies and organizations naturally are unwilling to let loose externally.

The happier was I recently when I laid my hands on the chart below, as it shows that only Facebook reached the first million users faster than one of the leading social intranet platforms – IBM Connections. LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter needed considerably more months to reach their first million users.

I might just as well anticipate a couple of obvious questions:

  1. The IBM Connections numbers refer to users outside of IBM.
  2. The IBM Connections numbers are based on “Authorized users of licenses sold”. I.e. not only licenses sold.
  3. Arguably the different platforms reached their first million users at different points in time, but that does not change the point I want to make: exciting stuff is going on behind the firewalls and it’s probably happening faster than most people think

Image

Naturally there are factors that prevent direct comparison, but not enough to change that main point of mine. While the decision to use a public social network is taken individually, the implementation of a social intranet is made for you, also which platform to use. Still, it is the individual employee who chooses to make use of it or to keep working the old fashioned way. On the other hand, the decision to join a public social network may well be instantaneous, while a decision on a corporate social network takes a long time and includes financial aspects we don’t need to think of as consumers.

When I lectured at a course on Social Intranets given by the Swedish Association of Communication Professionals (Sveriges Kommunikatörer) on 9 May, I had the opportunity to listen to the moderator, Kicki Strandh who used an expression that caught me instantly:

Social Intranets are what we hoped Intranets would become

Just think of all the predictions of free-flowing information, inspiration and collaboration or about the open corporation we heard some 10-15 years ago when intranets started appearing. Do they apply to how intranets turned out until recently or do they apply to a social intranet? Ref: Social Business is about People and Opportunities

But, it does not suffice to just let loose some new software, even if it’s great. Companies, organizations and their employees are creatures of habit, fully busy with dealing with ongoing operations, usually supported (or maybe rather “constrained”) by established processes and policies that safeguard status quo. Capturing the opportunities that come with implementing a social intranet requires executive level commitment and conscious and targeted efforts.

But more about that in another post!

Good selling is about “helping people to buy”

This is a post I have drafted  several months ago, but didn’t complete until today.

A tweet by Marie-Christine Schindler promoting a guest blog entry by Danna Vetter called The 5th P of Marketing is People in Brian Solis blog triggered me to complete it.

Kotler’s famous Four P’s are so passé.

They belong in a past era of mass marketing of interchangeable consumer products, with dominating producers and uninformed consumers.

Today, with information overflowing and readily accessible for anyone, those days are gone.

Nowadays it’s not about selling. It’s about helping people to buy.

Kotler’s P’s need to be viewed from the buyers perspective. Here’s my take:

  • From Product to Offering – we buy composites of products and services
  • From Price to Value – the key is what the offering is worth to me the buyer, and I pay not only in money, but perhaps in waiting time or through other sacrifices
  • From Place to Availability – it’s not only about where to buy, but how to buy and when. Is the sales process easy and self explanatory? Can I shop online or only physically between 11 and 18?
  • From Promotion to Communication – shouting messages in any kind of megaphone won’t get you many customers nowadays. Engaging in dialogue, listening to your customers will, at least if you want them to come back.
Sure you can stay old school if you’re ok with drive-by sales and one off customers. If you want any kind of lasting relationship with your customers, you had better listen to them and respond. In any kind of media; live, offline, online, social.
Sales training used to talk about the sales process. I prefer talking about the buying process (adopted from Joe Danielson)

Helping the prospective buyer to move from identifying Needs via becoming Aware of what you have to offer, Evaluating alternatives, Deciding to buy from you, Actioning on the decision and finally Experience what they bought from you

The job of marketeers and sales people in combination is to help prospective buyers progress through this process as smoothly as possible – to help them buy.

  1. It all starts by the customer becoming aware of a need they have, possibly by you making them aware of it
  2. Next, they need to become aware of you and what you have to offer. You need to make it to their short list, to be eligible
  3. Once you’re eligible, you need to provide sufficient information and arguments for them to be able to make a decision in your favour
  4. Finally, they decide. Perhaps since you have managed to strike a chord with some key, well thought-out argument. But it doesn’t end there…
  5. You need to help them take action on their decision. If your store isn’t open when they have the time to buy, they may well go elsewhere. If your online shop is difficult to manoeuvre or the check-out is complicated, you might lose them too
  6. Finally, you had better live up to expectations, to deliver on your promises. If you do, they are likely to both progress much faster through the process when it’s time for renewal and they may even spread the word, introducing other customers to you with an initial, positive mind set
It’s worthwhile noting that points 1, 3 and 5 are primarily Rational while 2, 4 and 6 are more emotional and more influenced by your branding efforts. This does not exclude your involvement on the Rational side. Supplying potential customers with facts allowing them to evaluate and offering a smooth sales process are very much within your reach.
This model works just as well for B2C as for B2B, for fast moving consumer goods as well as for major investments. The process is the same but the media, arguments, sales process etc differ and the process may be more or less time consuming and repetitious. But the basics are the same.
So, stop selling. Start helping to buy
ps. of course, this way of reasoning does not apply only to traditional buying as in paying money. With a little bit of flexibility, it can also be applied to convincing people about your point of view, to give money to charity and so on