Posted tagged ‘web 2.0’

Introducing the Social Intranet Index

9 July 2012

There’s a lot of talk about social intranets these days. It even threatens to overtake the blogosphere’s current obsession with gamification.

But what exactly is a social intranet…?

Everyone seems to have a different opinion, from a human-centred platform, to the intersection between portals, team sites and social sites, to a system that ties the business’s processes and data to the employee’s social behaviour.

Which one is correct? They all are.

You see, a “social intranet” is simply an intranet with social media elements that allow the users to interact with the content and with each other.

While everyone’s definition covers this functionality more or less, what is different is the degree of the functionality.

So, to introduce a common language and some standardisation to our discourse, I propose the “Social Intranet Index” (SII).

Smile Clusters

The Social Intranet Index is a metric that denotes the degree of social functionality afforded by an enterprise’s intranet. From 1 through to 10, the SII represents an increasing level of sociability…

1. An intranet with an SII of 1 is the traditional, old-fashioned broadcast medium. Its content is published by a select few (usually members of the Communications team) and remains read-only for the target audience.

2. An intranet with an SII of 2 accommodates special account holders outside of the golden circle. These are typically highly motivated individuals, because the backend is clunky and illogical.

Unfortunately these individuals tend to find themselves in the unenviable position of publishing content for other people, because said people are either too dumb or too lazy to learn how to do it themselves. Strangely, though, they all know how to use Facebook.

3. An intranet with an SII of 3 introduces a star rating or a “like” facility. The target audience can interact (albeit minimally) with the content by judging its quality and relevance.

4. An intranet with an SII of 4 introduces a commenting facility. Beyond a reductionist score, the target audience can now post free-form comments in response to the content.

5. An intranet with an SII of 5 bolts on third-party social applications such as Yammer, Compendium and Confluence. While these apps aren’t components of the enterprise’s intranet proper, they’re accessible from there and thus form part of the network. The target audience is empowered to generate their own content within these ringfenced zones.

6. An intranet with an SII of 6 integrates social media elements such as a discussion forum, blogs and wikis into a single sign-on solution. The user experience is seamless.

7. An intranet with an SII of 7 maintains a bank of user profiles that includes everyone in the organisation and is accessible by anyone in the organisation. The profiles are rich (including photos, contact details and subject matter expertise) and integrate with the other components of the intranet (eg the discussion forum) to facilitate social networking.

8. An intranet with an SII of 8 enables the users to personalise the interface. This typically involves the selection and arrangement of social widgets (eg a particular blog, a discussion sub-forum), a filterable activity stream, plus external functionality such as a customisable RSS feed.

9. An intranet with an SII of 9 empowers anyone in the organisation to publish and edit “regular” informational content beyond the aforementioned social media elements, though still within certain ringfenced zones. For example, a team site may host user-generated content pertinent to that team.

10. An intranet with an SII of 10 is the poster boy of heterarchy. All content is easily publishable and editable by everyone in the organisation. Devoid of ringfences, the platform effectively becomes a giant wiki. The corporate community pitches in to produce and maintain organic knowledge.

Outlandish and unworkable, or innovative and game changing? At the very least, I say an SII of 10 is aspirational.

Concurrent trends associated with the Social Intranet Index

From 1 to 10, the Social Intranet Index represents a series of concurrent trends.

Most radically, the direction of publishing shifts from one-way to two-way to multi-way. This is typically associated with an increasing ease of use, which in turn encourages an increasing number of content producers.

Knowledge contained in silos is increasingly shared, and a broader community blossoms. As governance loosens, the organisation puts more trust in its own employees. Effectively, its hierarchy flattens.

As more control is relinquished by the company to its people, however, the risk of something going wrong increases. The content that is generated by the users might be flawed, and in extreme cases an individual might abuse their privileges and do something malicious.

On the other side of the coin, though, loose governance does not mean no governance. Sensitive content may still be locked, while an approval process and a reversion facility can prevent disaster.

Moreover, it may be argued that the shifting paradigm places an increasing obligation on the SME not only to share their knowledge with the wider organisation, but also to maintain its currency and relevance. Those who can’t or won’t will soon get found out.

Business woman using computer

Clearly, a “social intranet” is not just about the technology; it’s about the culture of the organisation. Just because sophisticated functionality is available does not necessarily mean it will be used!

Notwithstanding this truism, I submit that culturally speaking, an SII of 1 is poles apart from an SII of 10. The former is characteristic of a restrictive, distrustful, clunky organisation, while the latter is characteristic of an open, empowering, nimble one.

Which organisation do you think will be more collaborative?

Which one is more adaptable to change?

Which one will ultimately perform better in the market?

Closer to home, what is the SII of your organisation’s intranet…?

A circular argument

18 July 2011

Much has been said of the “circles” feature in Google+, and rightly so.

Google+ Circles

I really like the idea of targeting my messages to just friends, or just family, or just whomever. It makes sense.

It’s Google’s trump card against the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Slap in the face

The achilles heel of Facebook is that its friending system is binary: either you are my friend or you are not. If you are, I’ll be sharing my family reunion updates with you, and conversely I’ll be sharing my experience of burning a police car during the Canucks riot with my mum.

Clueless Facebook update

Few of us are aware you can “customize” whom you share your updates with, but selecting individuals one by one is hardly user friendly – especially if you want to update 67 people.

Indeed, Facebook has a “friends list” feature which allows you to filter your incoming news feed. You’d think it would allow you to filter your outgoing news feed too. Granted, I’m no Facebook expert, so maybe this can be done. But that’s the point: so much about Facebook is onerous and secretive. I’ve got better things to do.

Bye bye birdie?

Then there’s Twitter. Some commentators have heralded the death of the popular microblog at the hands of Google+ because, unlike its alleged nemesis, its messages are restricted to 140 characters.

Dead Twitter bird

I couldn’t disagree more. The 140 character limit is Twitter’s saving grace, and ultimately its competitive edge. Fellow tweeps, I love you all – but in very small doses. If I want more, I’ll read your blog.

As for targeting messages, Twitter can’t do that. However, it’s easy enough to manage multiple accounts with a client such as HootSuite.

Hammer time

Forget Facebook, forget Twitter. The one who has the most to fear from Google+ is Yammer.

Don’t get me wrong: Yammer has revolutionised social learning in the workplace. (Twitter dropped the ball big time by failing to introduce corporate accounts.)

To me, Yammer is the most similar to Google+. In particular, its “groups” feature allows you to direct your messages to a particular bunch of people. You can also assign people to groups – even if you’re not the group’s admin.

All good for Yammer, right? Wrong.

Yammer logo Google Hammer Mario Version

You see, everyone on the planet has heard of Google, but relatively few have heard of Yammer. And guess who’s shifting their attention to the business sector.

Social media extremism

7 February 2011

Since I wrote my article last week about critical theory, I have been more attuned to the messages being propagated by my peers.

For example, some of them have been blogging and tweeting about the role of social media in driving the pro-democracy protests in Egypt.

I see I’m not alone (here and here) in being a little less inclined.

The truth, I suspect, is that the protests in Egypt have been catalysed by the amassing of the population for prayer.

Good centuries-old social networking.

Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers in Egypt during the 2001 protests

Bloggers and the Twitterati are self-evident social media fans, so it’s to be expected that some of them will adopt an evangelical view of the role of Web 2.0 in world affairs.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to underplay the role of social media in connecting people with each other and with the outside world. It certainly played its part in Tunisia and Iran, for example. Besides, if it wasn’t useful, oppressive governments wouldn’t try to shut it down.

No, my point is that while social media is a significant component of the Egyptian pro-democracy movement, it is one among equally or even more significant components.

Put it this way: the protests would still have happened if the Internet did not exist.

The fact that it does exist means the people have a universal communications tool at their disposal.

Closer to home

Drawing all this down to the less heady world of e-learning, I can certainly see a parallel.

It’s important to recognise the role of social media in facilitating social learning in the workplace. However it’s not a panacea.

Relying on truisms such as “all learning is social” and on altruistic notions such as “collaborative learning” is a cop out.

Your learning architecture needs to include much more, such as on-demand self-paced learning resources (eg wikis, simulations, e-books) and – dare I say it – formal training (eg virtual classes, online courses, assessments).

My point here is that while social media is a significant component of the corporate learning model, it is one among equally or even more significant components.

Put it this way: learning would still happen in the workplace if social media did not exist.

The fact that it does exist means we have an effective learning environment we can leverage.
 

How not to do social media

1 December 2010

As my friends can attest, I’m a big Socceroos fan.

Socceroos fan

I grew up playing football (aka soccer) and although a few different codes compete for my attention in my home town, the World Game is the one I truly care about.

It was to my great joy, therefore, that the national administrators of the sport comprehensively revamped the local league several years ago. I think it’s fair to say the previous administration was widely perceived as incompetent, so it was no surprise when it was scrapped. The Football Federation of Australia (FFA) was born, and in 2005 the A-League kicked off.

Side note: I wasn’t the only one scratching my head when West Sydney wasn’t a founding club. Maybe it was a sign of things to come.

Around this time I was getting into Facebook. I had become a “fan” of a couple of other sports clubs (eg Wests Tigers) when I noticed there was no Facebook page dedicated to the Australian national football team. So, being the passionate fan that I am, I started one.

In no time I had attracted over 10,000 fans. I dutifully sent out updates for upcoming matches, and I even provided the details of local TV coverage for fans who couldn’t attend in person.

This went along swimmingly until I got a message from Facebook HQ telling me that I had no rights over the page and my administration access was suspended. The message said I could submit an appeal outlining why I should be granted access, which I did on the basis of the page being a “fan” page. I even suggested that the title of the page be changed to “Fans of the Socceroos”. Naturally I staked no claim whatsoever to any IP such as the Socceroos logo.

Lo and behold, Facebook never replied.

What can I deduce from this? Obviously some clever dick in the FFA had the bright idea of jumping on the Facebook bandwagon – and the easiest way to do this was to hijack the fan page that I had lovingly curated.

The irony is I would gladly have handed them the reins if only they had the professionalism to ask.

But they didn’t. Suffice to say it left a bad taste in my mouth.

A different approach

The sorry affair was a faded memory as I watched Grace Gordon from Soap Creative present at last month’s SMCSYD.

Bubble O' BillGrace was busting social media myths when she mentioned a brand that piqued my interest: Bubble O’ Bill.

For those of you who are not aware, Bubble O’ Bill is an ice cream that was first launched in the US in the 1980s, but achieved peculiar success in Australia soon after.

In 2009, customer Nick Getley liked the brand so much he created a Bubble O’ Bill page on Facebook that – at the time of writing – has 844,276 fans!

Switched on Media tells us how it came about:

The history of the Bubble O' Bill fan page

It is the penultimate sentence that resonates with me:

Overwhelmed by the warm support for this Aussie icon, Streets Ice Cream contacted Nick and offered to work with him to make the page official.

Take a bow, Streets. You approached social media in the spirit that was intended, and now you are reaping the rewards.

The difference between right and wrong

So what does this have to do with e-learning?

Well, as time goes by, e-learning is increasingly converging with social learning through social media. The two marketing cases outlined above teach us that when we implement a social media strategy, there is a right way and a wrong way.

The right way is to be inclusive, collaborative and supportive. If you empower your champions to follow their passion, they will lead the charge on your behalf.

The wrong way is to be draconian, faceless and isolationist. If you burn your champions, you will lose your allies.

The proof of the pudding

So to conclude, let’s compare fan bases.

The fan bases of the Socceroos and Bubble O' Bill pages on Facebook (01/12/10)

The Socceroos, the pride of a nation, has 144,378 fans on Facebook.

Bubble O’ Bill, the ice cream cowboy with a bubblegum nose, has 844,276 fans on Facebook.

Whose social media strategy will you adopt?

The 4 lessons Kid Fury teaches us

10 October 2010

Today I read about the Twitter misadventure at H&R Block whereby a call centre employee assuming the name “Kid Fury” urged all his followers to phone in and ask for him.

It was his final day of work with that employer, so he thought it a harmless last hurrah. That was until it went viral and H&R Block call centres across the country were jammed with fools asking for Kid Fury.

The incident is kinda funny, kinda shocking, kinda scary.

So what can it teach us?

1. Treat your employees well

Yes, the kid’s stunt was probably an innocent bit of fun, but I wonder if he would have done it had he loved the company? Why was he leaving anyway?

2. Document your policies

I’m not 100% convinced that a formal Social Media Policy is necessary – especially if your Employee Code of Conduct is up to scratch – but in any case, you need to document what your employees can and can’t do on social media. And you need to ensure they know it.

3. Scan the web for mentions of your brand

In this age of Web 2.0, if you don’t scan Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and other forums for mentions of your brand, you don’t know what your customers (and prospective customers, and employees, and ex-employees) are saying about you. That means you can’t respond.

4. Be careful how you respond

Most cases of negative social media that I am aware of were (or would have been) best dealt with through participating in the conversation. In the case of Kid Fury where the antagonist was an employee, the employer still had to be very careful. I don’t suggest letting anyone off scot free, but how would it look if a multi-national corporation sued a likable young fellow?

So thank you Kid Fury for teaching us those lessons – whether you meant to or not!
 

Square pegs and round holes

28 September 2010

What’s your role in the workplace?

How does that compare to what you do on a day-to-day basis?

I ask you this because what we think we should be doing and what we actually find ourselves doing are often two very different things.

That concerns me because I’ve been blogging a lot about a revamped learning model which relies heavily on Web 2.0 technologies to support informal learning.

In the back of my mind, I realise that revolutionising the learning model in this way would shock some organisations.

To work effectively in those environments, the model would demand significant shifts in roles and responsibilities away from the status quo, towards what I suggest the employees should be doing instead.

Allow me to elaborate…

Various pegs in their right holes

The role of the learner

In my view, every employee has the obligation to drive their own development.

An Informal Learning Environment (ILE) empowers them to do just that. It’s a space where they can explore content, ask questions, and seek help from their peers.

This relieves the L&D professional from alternately spoonfeeding and coercing grown adults into doing what they should be doing for and among themselves.

In short: the role of learning should be assigned to the learner.

The role of the subject matter expert

Taking the logic one step further, every employee also has the obligation to share their knowledge with their colleagues.

Web 2.0 empowers them to do just that. With tools like blogs, wikis and discussion forums, they can contribute content, participate in the conversation, and keep everyone up to speed in their domain.

This relieves the L&D professional from developing and managing content over which they have no authority.

In short: the role of knowledge sharing should be assigned to the SME.

The role of the manager

Must it be said that every manager has the obligation to manage the development of their own staff..?

With the help of their subject matter experts, managers should identify required competencies, assess proficiencies, assign development goals, fund and approve training, and hold regular development discussions.

This relieves the L&D professional from getting bogged down in technical matters over which – again – they have no authority.

In short: the role of managing the team should be assigned to the manager.

The role of the L&D professional

So if the L&D professional is no longer responsible for babysitting and strong-arming employees, conjuring content, and doing the managers’ jobs for them, what on Earth are they responsible for?

The answer is plenty, including consulting, training needs analysis, instructional design, developing content for which they are the expert (eg development plan templates, development discussion workshops), facilitation, community management, training evaluation, research and governance.

In short: the L&D professional supports the learners, subject matter experts and managers in playing their parts to improve the capability and performance of the organisation.

Change management

In the 99% of organisations in which a greenfield opportunity does not exist, my revamped learning model represents a paradigm revolution.

Given legacy systems, entrenched practices and perhaps a less-than-booming corporate culture, successful implementation would require skillful change management to say the least, not to mention a lengthy, multi-phased rollout period.

Dare I suggest the new paradigm may also prompt a review of the organisation’s recruitment criteria?
 

How to revamp your learning model

7 September 2010

In my articles Online courses must die! and The ILE and the FLE in harmony, I advocate the development of a virtual Informal Learning Environment (ILE) to work in tandem with the Formal Learning Environment (FLE) to support both the learning process and its administration.

Heeding the advice of Bill Brandon, I will now flesh out that idea with an illustration of how it might be implemented in a real organisation.

Informal learning

I believe in the power of informal learning. In fact, I go so far as to say it should be the central philosophy of the organisation’s learning model.

In a practical sense, that means we need to provide our learners with tools and resources that they can use to drive their own development.

This is where the ILE fits in: It’s a space (like a website or intranet site) that centralises those tools and resources.

The ILE illustrated

There are a thousand and one possible combinations and permutations of an ILE.

However, if I were to consider (read “fantasise”) a greenfield opportunity (read “pipedream”), what would I design?

Essentially I would base my design on three core components, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Informal Learning Environment, consisting of a wiki, a discussion forum and personal profiles

Figure 1. Informal Learning Environment

Core component #1: Wiki

The primary component of my ILE is a comprehensive wiki.

In a big corporation like the one I work for, knowledge is distributed everywhere – on obscure intranet pages, in random folders, in people’s heads – which makes it really hard to find.

A wiki enables the organisation to centralise that collateral, whether directly (by inputting it) or indirectly (by linking to where it exists elsewhere), thereby functioning as the first port of call.

A wiki can contain – or point to – all manner of media, such as text, graphics, documents and multimedia. The learner can search and explore the content that’s relevant to them, just-in-time if need be.

The flexibility of a wiki also allows anyone to contribute content. This empowers the learner to share their knowledge with their colleagues, build on the knowledge that has already been contributed by others, and communally keep it up to date.

Core component #2: Discussion forum

The secondary component of my ILE is an open discussion forum. I say “secondary” because my rationale is that, if the learner can’t find the knowledge they need in the wiki, they can crowdsource it via the forum.

A discussion forum enables the learner to post a question to their peers, thereby leveraging the collective intelligence of the organisation. Of course the learner can also share their knowledge by answering someone else’s question, and they can learn incidentally by reading the questions and answers of others.

The questions posted to the forum may also serve to expose knowledge deficiencies in the organisation, which can be remedied by updating the wiki!

Core component #3: Personal profiles

The tertiary component of my ILE is a bank of personal profiles. I say “tertiary” because my rationale is that, if the learner can’t find the knowledge they need in the wiki nor via the discussion forum, they can target an SME directly.

For example, if the learner is struggling with a Java programming problem, they can look up a Java expert in the system and send them a direct message. The SME may be recognised as a “Java” SME because they have said so in their profile, or – if the technology is sophisticated enough – their contributions of Java-related content in the wiki and participation in Java-related conversations on the discussion forum flag them as such.

I’m in two minds as to whether a full-blown social network is useful for internal learning purposes. Apart from profiling, I’m not convinced that friending, status updating and other Facebook-like activities add much value – especially when a discussion forum that accommodates groups is already in place.

Formal learning

Self-directed, informal learning is great. However, there are some things your employer must know that you know.

The most obvious example is compliance, eg privacy, trade practices and OH&S. If you breach the regulations, the company will be in hot water, so they’re not just going to take your word for it.

There are plenty of other examples, such as a certain level of product knowledge, that may be critical to the role.

In a practical sense, this means we should map required competencies to each role and assess the employee’s proficiency against each one. That probably leads to a development plan, which in turn forms a subset of the performance agreement and is subject to regular appraisals.

Then there are formal training events like courses and workshops that are important and require documentation, and some people want their informal learning (eg reading a book) recorded too.

The FLE is a space (like a database or platform) in which all this administration is done.

The FLE illustrated

Again, there are a thousand and one possible combinations and permutations of an FLE.

However I base my design on two core components, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Formal Learning Environment, consisting of an LMS and reports

Figure 2. Formal Learning Environment

Core component #1: Learning Management System

The primary component of my FLE is a Learning Management System (LMS).

The LMS is an oft-derided yet invaluable educational technology. I suspect the typical organisation under appreciates it because it uses it illogically.

My advice is to use the LMS for what it’s designed for: managing learning. Competency maps, auto-marked assessments, registrations, completion statuses, grades, transcripts, performance agreements and performance appraisals are what the LMS does well. Some even extend into talent management and other HR domains.

Conversely, my advice is to avoid using the LMS for what it is not really designed for: managing content. Leave that to the ILE, which is a much more open and flexible environment, and is purpose built to support “learning”.

Core component #2: Reports

The complementary component of my FLE is the range of reports that can be generated from various systems to provide useful data. Such data may include productivity statistics, quality scores, complaint volumes, engagement indices… whatever can be analysed to identify training needs and/or evaluate learning outcomes.

At the end of the day, learning must support performance.

Putting it all together

My revamped learning model, then, comprises two discrete but related virtual environments:

1. An ILE, and
2. An FLE.

The former supports the process of learning; the latter supports its management.

A revamped learning model, consisting of an ILE and an FLE

Figure 3. A revamped learning model

Separating the two environments like this aids in segregating them in the human mind.

Why bother?

Because learning should be a joy.

By definition, an ILE should be unforced, unscored, unthreatening.
It should be a safe, open space where people are excited to go because they want to learn, without the burden of forced navigation and pass marks.

Simultaneously, an FLE should focus on what really matters. Too often when formal and informal learning are mixed, goals blur and we run the risk of formalising for formalising’s sake. We don’t need to monitor our colleagues like Big Brother; we just need to assess them when necessary.

How long is a piece of string?

Of course, many more components may be reasonably argued for inclusion in the learning model.

An onsite classroom, for example, is obviously a part of the formal learning environment. So too is a university campus on the other side of town.

In terms of informal learning, the water cooler, a cabinet of books – and even the pages in a book – may be considered components of the ILE.

How about a library of online courses? That might be considered a component of the ILE if the learner is free to explore it at their convenience, but it will suddenly revert to the FLE if the learner is instructed to complete a particular course.

Clearly then, the ILE and the FLE are elastic concepts, highly dependent on perspective and context. That’s why I have focused on the core components that I think can provide a universal framework for a revamped learning model.

The two virtual environments are constant; everything else around them is variable.
 


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