Creating Org 2.0: get the most from social tools

Today’s post is by our guest blogger, and friend, Jeff Wilfong.  Jeff has assisted with web 2.0 and business strategy for a number of large-scale organizations like Conoco-Phillips, the City of Sacramento and a multinational conglomerate based in India.  Jeff is currently earning his PhD in Organization Development with emphasis in Web 2.0 management. Learn more by visiting his site, E2.0 Pros.

The old adage: “If you build it, they will come,” does not seem to work as a strategy for the roll-out of social media tools in organizations. A vast majority of users will simply go about working the same way they always have. Case studies exist describing successful implementations which lead with technology (see Bill Ives’s consulting engagement with Booz Allen), most data shows that many technology-led efforts are in vain. Simply put, many managers complain that employees do not use the tools once they are designed.

One study indicates that worldwide, IT projects consistently fail, and a record $6.2 trillion dollars were wasted on them, various other studies show only about 40-50% of projects succeeding. This data on IT failure rates is not new, and McKinsey consultants have found this rate to be consistent over the last decade or two. Many reasons are given for the large failure in technology. For this article I wish to focus on two reasons of the failure of enterprise solutions, the lack of a collaborative culture and ignoring the end-user.

Designing a wiki, requires that people will want to work in collaborative ways. People will not collaboratively work together if the culture does not reward them to. In the book, Collaboration 2.0, David Coleman and Stewart Levine, successfully argue that any collaborative culture will need to balance 1) technology, 2) people, and 3) process. Many times, IT designs a tool and does not communicate successfully with the business user. Often, the business user ends up not using the tool or side-stepping by using a product from another vendor. In a collaborative culture, IT would work hand-in-hand with the business user, gathering all the necessary data, designing the tools with the end-user in mind. This is working with the people. Next, a process would need to be designed by change management to focus on encouraging users to adopt and use the tool. One method would be to work with champions, encouraging the important people within the organization to work collaboratively together. This may start with them simply using the tools and adding content to the wiki or blog. Another method would be for managers to change their reward structures and begin to examine ways of assessing collaborative work for employee performance reviews. This is focusing on the process.

The people and process are often neglected. It is my belief, that unless companies move towards designing, encouraging and rewarding collaborative cultures, that social media tools will be limited. Either employees will not use them or they will not be used to their fullest potential. The power of 2.0 technology, social media being one of them, is in the social network effects. We learn more when we reach out to others, we can build great things when we work together. After all, the reason why we create organizations is that the power that comes from ‘many’ is much greater than the power of ‘one.’

Simply proving new tools does not mean people will

  1. want to use the tools
  2. have the time to use the tools
  3. know how to use the tools
  4. develop any expertise or find new knowledge from the tools if the culture is not collaborative

In my future posts, I will write on ‘Org 2.0,’ the new evolving cultures of participation, collaboration, and innovation that is potential when leadership, structure, culture, and processes are aligned with technology and the core knowledge that exists within the organization. We are in a new era of business thought and I would like to explore this area.

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