You will be speaking as opening speaker at the upcoming IOM SUMMIT. What are the three keywords that we can label with?
human enterprise, co-designed change, collaborative business
The discussions at this year’s conference are very much at the edge of just being just social technology centric towards a broader scope of the transformation of work. How do you evaluate the state of the evolution from your research?
I believe we are at a critical cusp with social collaboration in the sense that after many years of experimentation, pilots and failed projects we are finally seeing a stronger business orientation and a more holistic approach to internal digital transformation. Especially in some sectors (financial services, telcos but also manufacturing being some of them) the business is now looking at employees as a critical competitive levers both as a way to reduce costs and as an opportunity to thrive on the high levels of volatility existing on the market. Going well beyond a naive “let’s get everyone connected” approach, companies are starting to realize that digital transformation is just a tool to accelerate your performance and to free your people by counterproductive latches. That said, the transformation journey will still be very long with highly variable levels of maturity and awareness between industries, regions and even inside the same organization.
What are the key forces and enablers on the maturity path to a more holistic approach of the digital transformation of work?
I’m always surprised at how most of the market is still stuck with only a few barriers to a successful digital transformation. Those barriers are:
- a lack of clarity on the business value the project will unlock
- an insufficiently communicated “what’s in it for me” for the end-users
- a change process that doesn’t match the culture, the power-balance and organizational structures the company is based on
- not enough buy-in and then of resources (focus, skills and time even more than money)
- the possibility to fail and learn as the only way to let the ranks get the ownership of transformation
More than a technology roll-out or simply a pilot, the goal should be helping the business to more easily achieve its long-germ goals. Addressing and overcoming the hurdles I’ve just mentioned should be part of the project as most organizations today are not yet designed with agility, transparency, empowerment and collaboration in mind.
Is it a mission impossible? Absolutely not.
So – what are the key operational challenges to make this work?
One the proper strategic direction has been defined, agreed and communicated.. well there’s even more work to get done. At the operational levels you’ll have to establish a series of conditions without which the project will most probably fail in terms of adoption or value realization.
A not comprehensive list should certainly include:
- Making the project a cross-stakeholder / cross-departmental initiative where IT or International Communications share the ownership with HR, Organization, Legal / Compliance and all the lines of business
- Engaging and mentoring senior stakeholders to let them understand what kind of returns they may expect from social collaboration
- Bridging high-level business goals coming from the executives with very tangible, concrete, day-to-day improvements requested by the rest of the organization
- Including end-users (employees) since the beginning in co-designing the needs, the content / service and in cultivating the new way of working
- Choosing the technology as a consequence of the user needs instead of having it as a constraint (in terms of usability and completeness) right at the beginning of the project
- Preparing the organization for the leap in terms of training, on-boarding, continuous support but also new structures such as centers of excellence, policies and guidelines, career paths, etc
- Dedicating the right amount of energy with the launch and community management phases
In a post in your personal blog – back in March – you related the challenges to the “inception paradox” – can you shortly explain this?
Thanks for mentioning it. A community is very similar to a living organism. There a number of not always obvious resources needed, in order for it to come to life, grow and thrive. Even the mix of those resources looks more art than science as it depends on the specific cultural and organization traits the community will live into.
The inception paradox tries to increase the number of successful community launches by explaining what those resources are and how their dynamics vary. Namely the three most important dimensions to consider are the investment, the level of interest and the realized value. I refer to a paradox because those three dimensions goes at different speeds and most companies give it up just before a breakthrough of user adoption happens due to a lack of awareness about the exact dynamics.
So what are the overall recommendations from this?
The main insights the diagram conveys is that value, both for end users and the organization, grows much slower than both the investment and the level of interest. Interest tends to fluctuate after an initial fase of hype. Investment on the contrary is very high at the beginning while it tends to reach a plateau after a few months.
The goal of the launch process is protecting the community (in terms of resources and buy-in) until users are able to realize a level of value that is higher than both the investment and the initial peaks of interest.
In a sense, changing the way the company works significantly pay but in the medium to long term as successful communities follow an exponential dynamic.
What are you looking forward to regarding the IOM SUMMIT?
I’m very glad to join IOM SUMMIT for two main reasons: being able to lively discuss my experience about the social collaboration market, its trends, its roadblocks with participating companies and to discover local peculiarities (culture, industries, councils, etc) that may not exist in other european or non european countries.
I’m convinced that the most important goal of social collaboration is building human organizations and a firm becomes more human when it is able to connect like-minded individuals regarding less of the language they speak and the varied cultural backgrounds.
Coming together and sharing local and international experience is key in that respect!