The Triumph of Peer-to-Peer, Bottom-Up and Open Source
Some Video Advice from Two Companies On Using Online Communities of Practice

Implementing Social Media: A Tale of Two Case Studies

A couple of interesting posts from Nathan Wallace on his organization's experiences in implementing a wiki and then a year later, a customized microblogging platform called Jitter. You need to read both, but here are some key points:

The organizational wiki seems to have been adopted more quickly and used more extensively than the Jitter solution. This is in part, Nathan says, because the wiki was responding to a need, while Jitter was trying to create demand:

Open collaboration and idea sharing are common organisational goals, but that doesn’t mean there is latent demand among the people of the business for the tools that enable it. With any new organisational capability, always stay focused on end users and helping them to solve a problem.

While Jitter is a highly flexible tool that people are already using for a wide range of purposes, we didn’t do enough to position this new communication medium or to demonstrate the business value. People didn’t know how to use this new tool. Some feedback was negative, but overwhelmingly people asked “What do I post to it?”, “What’s the business value?”. Without clear answers, people just waited to see what others would do.

Related to the idea of launching a social media solution in response to a particular need, the organization's wiki was piloted as an information source related to the moving of the company's head office. As Nathan points out, "Nothing drives traffic like a seating plan for a new office."

He also has some great advice on dealing with people's concerns about people making "improper" changes to a wiki:

Predictably, the main argument against this system was fear of improper changes to content, particularly for information subject to regulatory control. I would counter this argument in two ways:
  1. There are two ways to control people's behaviour: social forces and technical forces. Currently, we successfully rely on social forces to control a wide range of things like who calls or emails the CEO with their latest crazy idea. Technical forces are powerful, but with each technical feature we increase training and raise the bar against collaboration. Surely, we can see if social forces will be enough for all but the most critical of content?
  2. Anyone can choose to monitor any content that they are concerned about (e.g. automatic email alert with changes). So, they can quickly jump in and correct any mistakes.
  3. For exceptional cases, we may choose to lock down critical content and define clear ownership and responsibility for its maintenance.

It also seems that there are real challenges to implementing microblogging in the enterprise:

Microblogging is particularly difficult to position as a business tool since it’s so hard to say anything worthwhile in so few characters. For an organisation starting the journey of sharing ideas and thoughts, blogging may be an easier starting point. Posts can be more serious and business like. Blogs are better known, and at worst look more like normal web pages. Authors can craft and position their entries to meet the political challenges and communication realities of the enterprise. Even if your organisation is ready for fast thoughts and short posts, authors can evolve towards really short blog entries.

Note that this doesn't say that microblogging shouldn't be used in the enterprise. Nathan suggests that it might not be a great starting point though.

Finally, check out this excellent article on implementing Web 2.0 in a 1.0 Culture. In it Nathan discusses the two cultural barriers to collaborative tools in the organization--sharing knowledge adds more work and sharing knowledge increases personal risk. Then he outlines some strategies for minimizing these barriers. He also proposes four values for building Enterprise 2.0:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Ease of use over comprehensive training.
  3. Flexible tools over completeness.
  4. Responding to needs over creating demand.

Really great stuff, well worth your time. 


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