Journey into the World of Enterprise Social Networks

On May 27, I will celebrate my three year milestone since commencing the journey into the world of Enterprise Social Network (ESN).  A lot has changed in that time & for me, there is much to celebrate.

Our ESN is my organisation’s on-line tool for communication and collaboration. It provides my organisation a ‘virtual’ workspace for the exchange of messages, ideas, data and resources and for the management of groups, activities and projects.  It is used within our organisation to facilitate collaboration, encourage sharing of information beyond traditional boundaries and leverage capital of the organisation by providing a platform for contributing to and sustaining corporate knowledge over the long term.

In my role I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with business units across my organisation, helping them to translate their vision of moving either a new or existing business process into the world of wiki.

Now, I’m sure there are some of you reading this blog thinking ‘this stuff is just for the Geeks’ or ‘I dont use Facebook, its not for me’.  I appreciate this point of view.  Coming from a non IT background, I too found the world of ESN’s to be somewhat overwhelming initially.  However, counteracting my lack of IT skills (truth be known, I still get some interesting looks from the team when I attempt to convey my understanding of technical issues!), I have a genuine love for process improvement.  I am a systems girl through and through and I get a huge kick out of working  through a process / issue, mapping the value and non value adding steps, and working with subject matter experts to find ways of getting the most efficient and effective outcome, collaboratively.  Besides the obvious metrics, reductions in cost, time and effort, the cream on the cake for me is the people improvement. I’m referring to people being more informed (at a local and organisational level), I’m talking about skills improvements (because people have had an opportunity to engage throughout a process, not just for one distinct, siloed part) and all the cultural benefits that come along with people having a voice to air their ideas, thoughts and suggestions.

There are others who may be thinking, this is just some sort of organisational folly.  I can assure you this is far from the truth. Organisations around the world are moving towards Enterprise Social Media. In Australia, the ICT team at KPMG are leading their organisation globally in this space with the introduction of a collaborative platform very similar to ours in November of last year.  The Department of Education and Training in NSW has undertaken the huge task of socialising their intranet and use signals to communicate across 140k staff.  In Victoria, the Organisational Capability team in NAB have introduced Web 2.0 technologies into their learning and development platform, The Academy. So how does my organisation stack up? I’m proud to say, extremely well. So much so we have been approached by multiple State and Interstate government and private sector organisations to share our experience.  In the spirit of collaboration, we have developed a close relationship with multiple government agencies and have helped them with their Enterprise Social Network implementation, and these relationships have remained ongoing.  In addition to presentations, our organisation has also be recognised in print with the recent release of a case study by OVUM, a global organisation which conducts independent research into best practice in technology and business process.  We are also the major case study for a South Australian based PhD student, who’s work is due to be published in the later part of this yearSo, you may ask, who is actually using this thing in my organisation?  The down side of allowing private groups in our ESN is not evident to all exactly what is going on.  The upside to allowing complete autonomy, is anyone within the organisation has the ability to create groups and workspaces that are meaningful to them.  As I mentioned before, I am in a very lucky position. In my role, I’m privy to witnessing some great initiatives across our organisation and when invited to team meeting of other business units,  I always take the opportunity to talk up the great work of various groups and their workspaces (and provide a sneak peak or two where appropriate).  There are many great examples.

The team at SafeWork have done an amazing job using the ESN to facilitate a major project (the implementation of a national model of Work Health and Safety Legislation).  It took one person, in that organisaton to have the vision – which she had to ‘sell’ to the organisation – no easy feat in any organisation. I would have love to have been a fly on the wall during those initial conversations ‘hey I’ve this great idea!’
This is just one example, there are many others.

I read a really great blog this week in Forbes which I encourage you to read.  There are many ‘take homes’ for me in this article.  For those of you who can remember, it reminds us of the change we went through in our workplaces with the introduction of email but most of all, it reinforces this message, this new way of working is not about just the bottom up approach, nor the top down, but both.  I wont quote endlessly from this particular article (however I’d like to!) but I would love to hear your thoughts. Agree, disagree or anywhere in between…

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