Enterprise 2.0 and social business : what’s next ? (Part 1 : the usages)

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Summary : what’s in store for enterprise 2.0 and social business in the upcoming months ? Improving community approaches and search for levers that will allow to sustainably and productively onboard the entire organization would be logical. But another way is possible : considering that most has been done on that matter and that we need to look elsewhere, on the process side (at last) as well as on the human resources and, more globally, on the human capital management and development side.

We’ve been talking of the impact of the social and 2.0 wave on organizations, whatever the name used, for 7 years and maturity is clearly increasing. It’s time for a reality check because keeping talking of emergence and experimentation after seven years would be being in denial. The matter is recognized, validated at the higher level of the organization, and the question is not to decide “if” but to find “how”. And “where” : starting with principles rather than tools, what will be the next part of the business activity that has to be impacted instead of chosing tools and make them the constraint of the transformation plan.

Opinions converge to say that a second breath is needed. At least for them who made the most out of their first. The most convinced took the lead, those who were only looking for a reason to join joined and some skeptics even followed them. Now it’s time to actually onboard all the rest. Approximatively…80% of employees.

At first sight it would be logical that all efforts converge toward improving community management and increasing engagement to boost those who’ve adopted and make others feel like joining them by finding the little something that will trigger the social lever inside each of them. Of course, everything can be improved and will be but I’m not sure the impact will be more than marginal.

As I rencently said, I think we’ve reached a sufficient level of maturity on community management and social networking. So we’re left with two possibilities : either keep on trying to make everything fit in communities or considering that a large part of people’s activities does not fit into communities, or are only more or less tightly related, what means we need to find how to apply social principles to their real work.

After all, as Drucker said

Knowledge worker productivity demands that we ask the question: “What is the task?“

Now let’s admit that very few people used to care about that until now. We’ve been beating around the bush, trying to add usages that came around and on the top of employee’s primary tasks, hoping they’ll bridge the gap between both themselves but few was done on the primary task. Here we are.

Let me also mention this wise advice John Hagel deliverd at the last Social Business Forum in Milan :

“the first thing you should ask is what business metric do you want to impact”

As obvious as it may sound, I’m afraid that very few people involved in or leading enterprise 2.0 projects are able to answer this question.

That said, we’ll have to explore people’s structured and semi-structured activities. Processes of any kind in the broad sense, known and unknown. Unknown because a growing part of our activity rely on emerging and barely identified processes…so unmeasured ons. They’re more and more numeros and their bare repeatability makes that few attention is paid to them. So any improvement caused by new usages will stay unnoticed. Not easy to manage anything in this circumstances.

For each we’ll have to identify blocking points where people have to handle exceptions and how to implement new approaches to access people and information. For those that are about unique cases, we’ll think in terms of templates of information and actions inherited from similar cases, making them easily adaptable to a specific new one. This second part is all about adaptive ase management. We’ll also have to rethink reporting, what part should be formal and what will be left to makin work observable. We’ll have to rethink decision making processes and how subsidiarity will apply. Then will come the question of defining the private and public part of a process because not everything can be shared with people who are not directly concerned. As a matter of fact, if we wait until tools have to be implemented to ask such questions, we’ll probably end up with the wrong answer because not made in the right context, facing the real problem.

Another main point will be about human capital management and development. Since “it’s about people” so let’s consider them first. Because giving them a social network to meet and communities to converse (and learning is a broader scope than conversations) is nice for whom want to initiate change without committing oneself but is a little light regarding to what’s at stake. Avoiding the question of resource allocation and, more globally, of managing people’s structured ans unstructured activities in a networked fast-moving environment won’t be possible anymore. Identifying needs, building learning processes, suggest others. Same for career management. Asking the always postponed question of the tracking of the value created through people’s collaborative and social activities. As a matter of fact that’s key to aligning compensations ans rewards with one’s contribution to the global performance in order to make thing coherent instead of asking them to do things that have no impact (or a negative one) on their performance review and the way they’re measured. Or maybe the goal is to make them carry the burden of change and take all the risks without changing anything and giving them anything in return. The business model of the knowledge economy is still to be invented as well as the one of the human capital in such an economy.

Of course it’s possible to avoid going so deep in the system. By killing gamification by using it improperly to finally discredit it, start praising engagement because manipulation does not fit well in the corporate discourse. In short infantilizing the workforce on the one side while increasing the pain caused by the lack of coherence and alignment on the other. Businesses have been mastering all these approaches for decades, so why changing ?

Our industry needs to get a move on instead of resting on its laurels and curling up on the networking and communities field, locking itself in a fortress as those it pretends to replace have done before.