Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Most organisations have an internal social network without realising it!

Recently, I've been working on a project for an Australian automobile manufacturer. For those of you who are up with the news, the days of manufacturing automobiles in Australia are quickly coming to an end. The project I'm working on, has seen the company migrate close to 3000 mailboxes from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook. A number of people within the organisation have never known anything but Lotus Notes. Therefore, there has been considerable change which people have had to come accustomed to.

In today's world, there is little value in moving from one e-mail platform to another. Almost all of them provide like-for-like capabilities. The biggest problem is that there is little to be gained by making such a transition. Does it provide a better way of working? No.

We need to look beyond e-mail platforms and traditional ways of communicating. We must seek better ways to collaborate and share information. One of the biggest selling points for making the move from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook, is the ability to integrate better with other Microsoft products. I've been looking at how this integration brings additional value to the work experience of the employee.

Today, I was particularly keen to understand how SharePoint and Outlook work together. For most communication within the business, E-mail is no longer productive nor is it considered to be efficient. Conversations get lost easily and information becomes duplicated and out of date. The purpose of e-mail within an organisation needs to move to a one-on-one messaging approach. Communication that includes groups of people needs to be held in an online environment. Typically, this environment needs to be social. By this, I mean that it needs to be based around people and the work they are trying to do.

A simple example of this, would be in line with some of the testing that I was doing today to try to build some simple use cases. SharePoint provides a capability to create sites which allow people to share information. This information could be documents, online discussions, activities and tasks, A team calendar and various other pieces of information. As I mentioned before, e-mail should become more of a one on one messaging platform, however SharePoint and other collaborative platforms should provide team communication and collaboration. For instance, if I have a message which I would like to share with the project team, then I should be using an online discussion forum. By doing this, everyone in the team is able to access the discussion. Where they feel appropriate, they are able to join the discussion and share their ideas. With e-mail, this discussion would only be available to the select few whom it was sent to in the first place. By luck alone, another team member may be forwarded the e-mail at a later time.

People need access to the correct information at the right time. I am often having to make decisions, but to support me in making these decisions I need the right data. If the data is not available, the decision making process will be severely slowed down. Worse still, the wrong decisions may be made. In both cases, this sort of decision making processes will have a direct cost to the business.

You need have a mindset which supports the sharing of information, rather than the sending of information. For example, in SharePoint if I have a document which other people need to have access to, I am able to share the document with them by sending them a message. Rather than having a copy of the document arriving in the e-mail, they receive a link to the document which can be opened through the use of an Internet browser. The key thing about this, is that the user is driven back to a single source of the truth. Let's say, someone shares a document which includes the agenda for a meeting which is to be held in two weeks time. It is likely that that document will change between now and the time of the meeting. Traditionally, updates to the agenda would be e-mailed every few days. People would attend the meeting, not knowing if they actually have the most current version of the agenda. However, with SharePoint's capabilities, new versions of the document can be created without the link which was e-mailed, ever expiring.

Chances are, that you have tools within your organisation which, if used correctly, could help you to operate as a modern day social enterprise. An enterprise where the focus is on its people and the expertise they can bring to the organisation. The key thing is, that the modern enterprise needs to come to terms with modern forms of collaboration and communication which is happening in the privacy of the home, and to workout how businesses can benefit from the wealth of human capital which exists within its ranks.

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