This year looks promising for moving our business to a more social, collaborative way of doing things. We have clear corporate objectives that almost cry out for social media tools.
However I am increasingly a realist. Every time we’ve managed to introduce a potentially exciting new tool, it ends up being a disappointment in the end, because of restrictions and compromises needed to get them running on our systems, or to meet our policies etc.
But I’m still hopeful because one of the best things about collaborative tools is they don’t need exceptional systems to run reliably, with the exception of video and we’ll put that to one side for a moment.
Simplicity is the key, and realistically we are going to need to use tools that don’t provoke fear and loathing from key potential stakeholders (like IT, Risk etc). This means it (probably) has to be behind the firewall, so the choice is use something functional that is already available (like SharePoint) or jump through hoops of fire to get something a bit sexy and fun like Elgg, Grou.ps or maybe bloomfire approved.
Right now I’m looking into SharePoint, seriously. Yes it’s a compromise but it steamrollers over the initial barriers because:
- We already have it
- IT are comfortable with it
- It is massively customisable (with a little knowledge and practice – that’s the kind of challenge I love).
So for now I’m in the process of getting my own little sandbox to play in and I’m sketching out my plans for what we are going to use it for.
There is another option, call it the wildcard – Salesforce.com have a social platform which appears to be free to existing customers, which we are. This has interesting possibilities because one of our other objectives this year will be to get more out of our sales teams. Getting more out of Salesforce.com is one potential way of doing this.
I’m also considering a combination of all three because I’m not convinced (yet) that one single platform fits the needs of the many. I know there are obvious benefits of creating one place that everyone can connect and collaborate to break down silos etc, but perhaps the different needs of each group require different tools to maximise their participation and results. I can see us using Sharepoint as the core(porate) platform, whilst running Salesforce.com amongst the customer facing teams and perhaps using the likes of grou.ps for specific projects.
I think it would be a mistake at this early stage to rule anything out – the key this year is to experiment strategically; Subtle use of collaboration in projects that have clearly defined links to corporate objectives that also have measurable outcomes. The benefits of this approach are that we will create pockets of fluent collaborators around the business – paving the way for the masses, get a better feel for what the appetite is, whilst getting a better feel for the best tools for the job at the same time.
The alternative is spend all year (or more) planning the implementation of some white elephant that nobody uses (see our LMS for expensive details).
The other key factor to success this year is language. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now and in the past couple of days I’ve stumbled across 3 excellent posts that have confirmed I’m on the right track:
So from now on – no more social its all about collaboration. And forget learning because the business are really not interested in learning, at least not explicitly – the business care about profit, shareholder value and meeting their corporate objectives.
Our job is to support the business to do all these things more effectively and Collaboration is a message they are willing to buy at the moment.