Bringing it all together: Enterprise 2.0 – Airservices Case Study Part III

Finish Line

(Photo credit: jayneandd)

This is my third and final post on Airservices, the government owned service provider for many important aviation related services, such as aeronautical data, telecommunications, navigation services and aviation rescue and fire fighting services. It is part of a larger group assignment on this case study for a masters unit at QUT and if you like this post or you just want the complete picture of this case study, you should definitely check out my team members blogs:  Candice, Claire, Aurelie and Andrew.

So, let’s do a quick recap to get you up to speed. My journey began with an interesting (I might be biased, tough ;)) post on blogging and company-wide communication, where I analysed the internal company-wide communication within Airservices. I explained that the currently dominating form of  communication (email) is not an optimal solution and recommended to start using an internal blog for company-wide announcements.

In my second blog post, I continued with a look at a possible use case for wikis in collaboration with external parties. Despite having a large technical division in-house, Airservices is still dependent on different external service providers to function properly. To guarantee the highest reliability of its services, it’s important for Airservices to coordinate well with these service providers. I recommended a wiki-type collaboration plattform open to the external service providers to facilitate this coordination and further cut down on email overload.

Now, it’s time to outline how we can bring these ideas and social tools together to make our case study Airservices a successful enterprise 2.0. So, how do we do this?

We implement a enterprise social network that integrates all of the enterprise 2.0 tools and features we talked about into one coherent web interface.

You don’t really know what an enterprise social network is? It’s just what the name suggests: a social network for the use within an enterprise. It typically offers functionality similar to facebook or twitter, allowing users to connect with other users, share status updates, consume personalised information from a newsfeed, create groups, events, etc.. Many enterprise social networks, however, go beyond these features and provide additional functionality. For example: extensible user profiles, wiki type functionality, project spaces, document storage and edit capabilities, sophisticated access controls, enhanced security as well as sophisticated monitoring and statistics reports.

So, enterprise social networks of today are basically a fully integrated suite of enterprise 2.0 tools that are able to support and enhance almost any workflow. This has major advantages over the implementation of several independent tools:

  • A single interface to all of the relevant information. Change is always hard; to make it easier on everyone it is important to not confuse employees with too many different interface styles and layouts. Another aspect is that to drive adoption it is important to provide obvious value to the user. Integration of services provides just that: if there is one place where you can get everything you need, when you need it, you provide obvious value to the user.
  • All of the data is in one place. Gathering data in one place has many advantages, including: No duplication of information; a real time, always up to date feed of data; sophisticated reports and datamining; etc..
  • Maintenance is easier. If you only have one system to maintain you certainly have less to worry about: Everything is designed to work together reducing the need for customisation; only one software needs to be updated; there is only one support to call; etc..

However, there are also major risks or disadvantages connected with this approach:

  • There is more at stake. The implementation of an integrated enterprise social network is by definition a bigger project than the introduction of a independent blog or wiki. It’s goal is to reach every employee and connect them where and when appropriate. If successful, this will touch and support every aspect of the company and it’s clear that the implementation process for such a encompassing system will be a major, resource intensive and complex project. Dependent on the company, this scope might even be perceived as invasive and threatening and met with rejection. A failed project could therefore not only lead to significant loss of investment, but even company-wide productivity decreases due to disarray of employees.
  • Legacy software & compatibility. A major advantage of an enterprise social network is the aggregation of all relevant information in one place. Getting the information there, however, might prove difficult if closed source legacy software is in use. Another aspect is the duplication of functionality that could lead to data silos and more than one version of truth.
Old two pan balance

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weighting these advantages and disadvantages is an important part of strategy development and obviously depending on the company doing it. In my opinion though, there are only a few cases where I wouldn’t recommend going with a fully integrated solution. Good and engaged top management should be able to create a powerful business case or pitch that’s necessary to sell the enterprise social network to the employees, as its benefits are – as I tried to outline in my posts – generally clear, close to and empowering for employees. Other inherent risks are pretty much similar to any big software implementation project and can be mitigated by good project management.

Let’s asume that Airservices assessed the advantages and disadvantages, followed my recommendation and decided to undertake the implementation. The step left is to recognise that the implementation is not going to be an easy feat. One good account of the more important aspects to keep in mind can be found in the McKinsey Quarterly from February 2009. Michael Chui, Andy Miller, and Roger P. Roberts identified six ways to make Web 2.0 work:

  1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top.
  2. The best uses come from users—but they require help to scale.
  3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used.
  4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs—not just their wallets.
  5.  The right solution comes from the right participants.
  6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk.

The list is pretty straight-forward and basically sums up what I have been preaching in my other blog posts already. Following these guidelines, I will conclude my post with 6 recommendations for the implementation of an enterprise social network within Airservices:

  1. Airservices top-management needs to empower employees and lead by example.
  2. New use cases will likely be discovered during and after implementation. Airservices should be open to new and creative ideas and create a supportive, empowering work climate. This is again tightly linked to top management support.
  3. Using a unified interface for all online services, will create a new virtual home for employees. To realise the greatest benefits, as many activities as possible should be integrated into it, making it a central part of every employees daily workflow.
  4. The capabilities of the enterprise social network will allow users to document their feats and build a personal brand within the company. However, to get the ball rolling it is important to nominate champions that demonstrate how to do this. Top management should once again lead the pack.
  5. It will be important to find the right champions that can help the other employees understand the power of the enterprise social network. A good way to do this will be to listen to the employees themselves. Who is adapting quickly? Who has authority?
  6. Introducing an enterprise social network means giving a powerful tool to the employees. It is important to realise that this can spell trouble if employees are not monitored correctly. There needs to be a policy in place that governs the use of social media. Most important is the requirement for employees to post with their real name, making every post traceable to the source.

Once again an extensive blog post, but I hope you enjoyed it and maybe gained some insight into enterprise social networks and what to think about when you implement them. Now it’s your turn! Do you have any feedback? What do you think of enterprise social networks? Are they overhyped or can they really revolutionise the way a business works? Have you ever worked in a company using an enterprise social network? Question after question….

Cheers, Alex!

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20 thoughts on “Bringing it all together: Enterprise 2.0 – Airservices Case Study Part III

  1. Pingback: Internal Social Networking for Airservices: Can getting employees to talk to each other boost engagement? | candiceruddle

  2. wow so much information haha, great post, I really thought your six recommendations were great. I like how you point out you need some leaders to set an example on how to use it so that other employees would follow and use it as well. Great blog like usual but gets the point and your opinion out there.

  3. yeah big post man, but loads of useful info. I can’t help but notice the similarities to many of your strategy points that echo those of guidelines to successful implementations of ERP software. And you know, it is in many ways almost exactly the same. Only with these tools you don’t have to spend millions and millions of dollars to implement them. 🙂
    Also, i’m not sure you need as much Top management support throughout the process as you purport. I think middle management is more than capable of driving the sort of shift you talk about. Especially as they are generally going to be heavily involved in the creation of content as well as its consumers. So as a consequence will also be able to identify the champions.
    Laters dude!

    • Hey, andrew!
      yeah, that’s right in some drafts of the post I was literally referring to ERP software implementations 😉 I think it’s a pretty valid approach though as both can be projects of (almost) similar scope… transforming a company in its very core… but you are certainly right, there is definitely less money involved. Interesting would be comparison of possible benefit gains… I don’t think that a successful E2.0 project would be much behind an ERP project in this regard.

      mhh good point about the management. What I meant to stress was, that people in charge (starting from the very top) should always lead by example to demonstrate commitment and emphasise their message. Otherwise you can run into trouble. I wouldn’t argue that you can’t create change without the CEO leading the pack, but I certainly think that it would make implementation and adoption much, much easier…
      For me it’s also a matter of principle: An organization should be a group of people striving to reach a common goal. To be really effective in that every action you take should be aligned with that goal and carried by everyone. However, not every person is going to like every decision… I would argue that the best way to resolve that dilemma is to demonstrate that every decision is made with the higher goal in mind and applied to everyone in a constant or fair way. This way it’s not about bosses imposing stupid rules, but reasonable sacrifices you have to make to reach a goal you agree on. This would certainly require the highest degree of top management support for such an transformative project as an enterprise social network. What do you think? Am I already overboard or still able to be saved? 😉

      Cheers, Alex!

      • Just building on from Andrew’s comment, i found a good strategy in getting people to become more consistent with contributions could be to assign a champion to each platform and have that champion observe contributions that people make to the platform; the champion will help foster employees who adopt the important “shaper” role within the platform.

        Of course it is important that the changes are viewed as a change in work culture, rather than just ‘orders from the top’ as you put it Alex. Getting everyone on board is the ultimate goal at the end of the day and if people in key postions fail to be a part of the community put in place, they are not going to be able to understand the change in dynamic of their company and will fall out of touch with their staff.

  4. Hey Alex,

    Great post. I always need to set myself up with a coffee and a biscuit first, but your posts are always worth it. 🙂 There’s nothing wrong with a lot of information, as long as it’s relevant and delivered in a way that’s interesting to read.

    Loving the idea of using the social network as a single platform for delivering all of the E2.0 needs of Airservices. The only major risk that I can see with that is the whole, all your eggs in one basket thing. If a software update causes the platform to crash, then staff will be without all their tools and information until the bug is fixed, rather than just their social communication channel for example. The other problem that could occur is when contracts need to be renewed with the software supplier. If Airservices decides that they want to try a different platform from a different supplier, then employees will lose everything. I know that data will be backed up, but transitioning it over to the new program would be a near impossible task, and staff would be discouraged from adopting the new platform in fear of the same thing happening again.

    Also totally agree with the need for management to show their support in order to encourage staff to get involved. I was having a word to my manager regarding Yammer (which sadly has recently be shut down due to concerns that the ICT manager has over the security risks it poses), and he basically told me that he had no intention of using it and did not plan on encouraging his staff to use it….not really a great way of marketing it eh?

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog this semester.

    Candice.

    • Hey Candice, thanks for the kind feedback!

      yeah I have trouble cutting my writing short. Even my emails often tend to get pretty long… I think it’s mostly because I do have a lot to say and feel the need to explain where I’m coming from so that other people have the chance to argue with me in detail. I try to live what I preach so to say 😉 But yeah, I should definitely try to become more concise in the future.

      BTT: Great observation you made in your comment. It is a all eggs in one basket situation and as Andrew pointed out, I definitely think E2.0 is very similar to an ERP implementation. If you see it from this perspective this is actually the biggest benefit of this approach as I tried to explain in the blog post. I don’t think that your first point (platform crash) is very valid though. While most enterprise social networks (ESN) are fairly new, they are proven systems, built on top of mature technologies and already in use in major companies throughout the world. And I haven’t heard of big disasters due to technical problems, yet.

      But I think you raised a very very valid point with your second point (barriers to switching). If you look at it from the ERP perspective this wouldn’t be an issue really because of the degree of investments you have to make into the system: once committed, you just can’t or don’t want to change systems if at all possible. However, E2.0 is different in the sense that investments are obviously lower, so that the demand for a change of systems might actually arise. I believe that this situation is actually a big hinderance for large scale E2.0 adoption in general but could be alleviated by the use of an social protocol for the web. One example of this would be http://www.tent.io. The idea behind this is that you standardise the way connections, posts, etc. work and store them decentralised from the apps which use them to provide services. This way you would always be able to change systems and take your connections and data with you (there are more benefits, but have a look on the tent website for that). The problem is that this is a fairly new idea and not well established, yet. In general, I believe that we should work towards supporting a protocol like that but it’s really a tricky situation because it’s gonna take a while until software comes out that is based on an open standard like that. It would be great if an big organisation like the Queensland Government could commit to supporting such an idea and maybe speed up the development.

      Once again long comment…. damn have to work on that 😉

      Cheers, Alex 🙂

  5. Hey Alex,

    Great blog posts as I found it to be both informative and helpful since there was quite a lot of relevant information to read. In regards to the fully integrated IT solution I think in today’s world, businesses require a really compelling and persuasive case as to why they should undertake IT projects in general. Gone are the days where businesses throw money at any IT projects that has any hint of getting any form of benefits. While you have already mentioned two disadvantages I would like to add that nowadays in general, a massive IT project that requires a lot of money and resources has a higher chance of failing and I think that would most likely be a major contribution to delaying or even never implementing the project at all.

    • Hey e2student,

      thanks for the feedback! I totally agree with you on the need for an compelling business case, that’s what I was trying to do in my post 😀 If you are not convinced by this post alone you should have a look at the full picture and the other posts my team made. I believe we have a strong and compelling case for the use of enterprise social software within Airservices. And while I’m not arguing that any IT-project has the chance to fail, I think I outlined some good guidelines as to how to make this specific project a success.

      However, I didn’t outline the pitfalls of IT-projects in general as the post was already pretty long :D. But you certainly have a valid point there, IT-projects are never easy to realise in budget and on time. I would argue though that the worst days of project management are behind us as almost everyone is acutely aware of the dangers associated with IT-Projects. There are many great project management methodologies out there (PRINCE2, PMBOK, etc.) that help projects to deliver what they promise.

      What do you think?

      Cheers, Alex 🙂

  6. Good post. In fact, its seems to me that this summarise not only your last posts and current case study but also all case studies that you came across. I think the data and the literature you gathered from your case study can be transferred to an Academic paper. Seriously, you only need some extra justifications and references to support your observations and recommendations.

    100% agreed on the importance of top-management role to put these recommendations into action.

    All the best
    Abdul

  7. Your summary is really good , after the entire semester , I have also concluded myself that , social media and web 2.0 standards are closely related to each other , and by adopting this , it would help an enterprise achieve 2.0 standards as well . I am sure you are seeing one symptom too , which is the adoption .

    Many companies are reluctant in adopting this technology / platform because they perceive that it incurred high cost and the return of it is not tangible or rather not within short period . Also it may also be due to that no one is taking the lead to implementing such strategy in an organization . I believe that such adoption trend will gradually increase because no enterprise would wanna be left in the lurch .

    Again , I enjoyed reading all your posts this semester . Cheers bro .

    • Thanks for the feedback, Adrian 🙂

      Yeah, I talked with Candice in the comments about that, don’t know if you read that 🙂 I personally believe, that we are heading pretty much in the direction of an always connected world and if that’s really going to happen, companies will have no choice but to use these tools to stay competitive… Might as well start now and get a head start 😉

      Cheers!

    • Hey Kris,

      I don’t really know if I understood you correctly, but I think that the challenges that organisations face when implementing E2.0 software and the capabilities needed to succeed will be pretty much the same throughout any company. The level of risk stemming from that challenge or the improvement needed to attain that capability might be very different though. The theoretical background for my statement would be the concept of capability maturity models (refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_Maturity_Model for an example in the domain of software development).
      So to the point: I think these recommendations apply to any company (as they are pretty general), but the actual steps necessary to satisfy these recommendations will be very different from company to company and department to department.

  8. Pingback: Social Networking: How to take advantage of the human web « AURELIE @QUT

  9. Hey Alex,

    Again Great post, I always like it when people take both benefits and risks involved with making the change of implementing social media/networking into the company/organization because you need to assess things first and sometimes the change isn’t for all companies (weighing up the good and the bad). and the “six ways to make Web 2.0 work:” are straight forward but true steps to follow. Following your detailed recommendations are well summed up. Yes there is a lot of information to take in from your post 😛 but it was all relevant and worth reading from top to bottom. 🙂

    • Hey mihi,

      what you say actually makes me a little sad 😦 I’m an idealist by nature and I would hope that change for the better – and I would see a world of open contribution and collaboration as ‘better’ – is always possible…
      However, I get what you are saying… you can’t build rome in one day. It’s a unique process, different to every person or company.

      and thanks for the nice feedback 🙂

      Cheers, Alex

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