9 Suggestions for Going Social at Work

This is from Kevin Winterfield from IBM, and relates to his presentation on Making IBM Small. He’s definitely coming from the perspective of a technology vendor and a Fortune 500 company, so he probably is advocating

  1. Enable your employees and be patient – create an environment that allow users to better collaborate via multiple modalities, across timezones, organizational barriers, skillsets, know each other professionally and socially, know each other’s skills and expertise.
  2. Integrate your tools – look for integrated toolsets; must be open; incredible growth here.
  3. Be sensitive to culture change – be sensitive to generational acceptance and norms, country cultures; incorporate storytelling and cultural sharing; allow for human interest and encourage employee participation and generation of content.
  4. Constant communication – campaigns to help with adoption; show leadership modeling and permission; define usage policies; provide education.
  5. Know when you are risking too much – connect employees without creating chaos; define free-form sandboxes and focused work projects.
  6. Ensure privacy – define the line between work and play; socializing and work.
  7. Protect and secure your assets – ensure interndal data is safe; use tools that are well-tested from credible vendors.
  8. Develop fair policies, not fluffy ones – govern use without boxing in innovation; allow for play but maintain values of company along the way.
  9. Implement with a credible vendor – work with a credible vendor to select and implement for your specific organization. Don’t try it on your own, or start with something extremely safe.

This set of tips has much to commend it, but it runs directly counter to what the Best Buy experience was with their Blue Shirt Nation project, which we heard about earlier today. They started with at $100 budget and used open source software. I think the better approach would be to go for some quick wins (which might be like the last half of Kevin’s 9th point), and then you have a proof of concept that you can use to sell the complete solution.

Otherwise, if you come in with a multi-million dollar project, you’re going to get asked to prove the ROI. If the I is to big, they’re going to be more skeptical. But if the I is small (or next to nothing), you can proceed until apprehended.

What do you think?

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

0 thoughts on “9 Suggestions for Going Social at Work”

  1. Hi Lee,
    Great meeting you today at the conference. Thanks for sharing these lessons-learned by us inside IBM on your blog.

    One clarification, I definitely do recommend the “start small approach” and take your lumps there. The points about integration refer to the scale up phase to the enterprise. Our lumps have shown us that keeping integration, via open source and open standards, in mind as you pilot and scale, helps out greatly as we roll out the projects to a larger audience – as well as look for ways to cross-integrate the functionality.

    Our online Technology Adoption Program (TAP), which I referred to in the presentation, allows employees to start from an idea and test it out safely and incrementally – running it past users all the way.

    Oh, and feel free to share the presentation details with your readers. I would enjoy hearing what they think.

    Thanks and keep in touch. I love discussing these topics. We’re in very exciting and transformational times.


  2. Thanks for the clarification, Kevin. I really enjoyed your presentation, and you had lots of good stories. I think it’s really hard to go for mega budget approval for social media programs, especially since so many of the payoffs are somewhat difficult to quantify in dollars and cents. So yes, getting some early wins with low-cost or no-cost projects gets you some familiarity with the tools and starts to develop a business case. Then, when you want to scale up to the enterprise, a more experienced vendor may make sense. As you said, the final answer is usually…”It depends.”

    I think your point #4 is one of the most important.

  3. Hi y’all
    Kevin’s talking about using Social Media tools to fundamentally change processes and the way people work in the company, which would touch core business systems. You couldn’t do it outside the firewall and would have to do it properly wouldn’t you!?

    Kevin talked about having working areas and ‘free for all’ areas as well. As far as I can see Best Buy set up the ‘free for all’ space for their staff initially and wasn’t looking for much more than connections and discussion – they said it was outside the firewall, nowhere near their financials and core systems that run the merchandise and selling side of their stores.

    I think that’s an important difference and why BSN worked with little budget and security. Both gave us absolutely fabulous ideas!

  4. Good points, Paula. I agree that to the extent you’re wanting to use these tools in a completely integrated, transforming way in a big organization, you need to have the enterprise-strength solution. I just think something more like the BSN is the way to get proof of concept, and getting people engaged and using the tools, but without tying to “boil the ocean” (to overuse that phrase yet again.)

    Once you have a culture that’s familiar with these tools, an integrator that maximizes connection of social media to business systems would make sense.

    I just think you can easily get 60-70 percent of the potential benefit from social media at low cost. Then you can hire the vendor if needed to port the existing tools over to an integrated solution.

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