Intracom panel in review

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As I said in my last note I attendend an intranet 2.0 experts panel at the last Intracom conference in Paris. The three panelists (Jane McConnell, Padawan..and me) had to give their vision of intranet 2.0 and answer questions of an audience that seemed to be very interested in this new era of intranet and its stakes.

A proof of the audience’s maturity was questions didn’t focus on tools but on their surrounding : what does it imply, are tools opportunities to make something else, are those new practices risky ? At the end we talked a lot about the context in which tools are used, what I think is a very good thing. People often focus on tools, forgetting which is their primary purpose, and success implies every stakeholder in the projet always keep in their mind the reason why they choose to use such tools.

So here’s a small digest of what I retain from the panel and some conversations I had during the pause.
Could we put 2.0 tools in an 1.0-managed company ?

Yes of course ! Will they be useful ? I’m not sure.

Any tool, and especially if it’s people-centric, will never do anything but what you want it to do. You want a minimal adoption, without making wavec ? You want a massive adoption which will deeply affect some certainties ? It’s up to you (project manager or manager of the people who will use the tools) to decide and give the right tempo. People are given a wide new range of autonomy but will expect management to show things are effective, what are the limits, and to what extent things are changing. Act as much (or as less) you want them to and they’ll follow your steps. They won’t do more because they’re still affraid of crossing the red line.

So if you want 2.0 tools to be useful, you’ll have to move to 2.0 behaviors to an extent you’ll determine yourself according to what is acceptable in your current context and the enterprise’s culture.
Does the project need to be supported by general management ?

Yes and no. Of course, a kindly support from your general management is a good thing. But it won’t have a big impact on adoption. 2.0 tools are made to make a lot of daily tasks easier. They have to do with everyday job and, since, they have to be fully supported by operational management, which is closer to people and closer to their daily work.

And, talking about operational management, when I say fully support, I’m no longer talking of a kindly support, but of a total implication in uses and practices. They have to show the example. They have to be examplary.

The best way to teach someone how to swim and don’t fear water is to go with him in the pool. With intranet 2.0 it’s the same.

Of course you may still try the “under the rada”r method. It requieres a good context, the right users, a leader who can launch the project under the radar and who’s strong enough to bear it once the project goes over the radar. One more thing : an open minded general management who will not shoot the project once it’s to obvious to be hidden for the sole reason they hadn’t been involved from the start and things have been done behind them.

You can make it under the radar…but only in a specific context.

What garantees do we have people will play the game ?

Everybody will play the game if there are shared goals, consciousness of being a group and having to work together to succeed together, if the management shows the way… in short if you adopt the vision according to which 2.0 tools are not made for global use but community use (also read here).

Nothing new : if a group subscribe to a goal, is involved, and is conscious of his role in the enterprise’s successs, everybody becomes aware of his role within the group and the risk factor aims to zero.
This answer should also reassure those who are affraid seing things going out of control. Nobody makes a faux pas when they want thing to improve. You just have to forget to “install the same tool for 50 000 users” and think in terms of “installing the same tool within 500 communities of practices”.

I can’t remember having been told about any case of “faux pas” in companies using intranets 2.0 on a community network scale.

Whatever, the only massive destruction weapon for faux pas professionnals will still remain the email.

But it will change everything in the enterprise ?

Yes and no.

Yes because if you invest time and money in a new solution it’s because you want to improve things. So you’ll act in order to make the tools help you in your plan.
But, as writen above, tools will only do what you want them to. With the limit you’ll set to some practices, and the incentive you’ll set to others.

So it’s up to you to build what you think is the best context around the tool, considering your purposes, corporate culture and values.

2.0 tools will change the enterprise only if you want them to. They’re just tools, not more.