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.
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:
- The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top.
- The best uses come from users—but they require help to scale.
- What’s in the workflow is what gets used.
- Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs—not just their wallets.
- The right solution comes from the right participants.
- 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:
- Airservices top-management needs to empower employees and lead by example.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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….