All posts by Nikka Rosenstein

Business Social – Reason #88: Connecting Communication From Multiple Sources

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Business social is great for connecting communication from multiple sources. Linking the social network to scanned materials, emails, and other intranet sites is a great way to utilize business social’s collaborative potential, turning “one-way” information into “two-way” communication.

Business social connects people, of course. However, connecting other forms of communication to the business social platform can be equally powerful. For example, email announcements from divisional communication routinely link back to the business social platform as a place for feedback and conversations. There will always be multiple people with the same questions after an announcement, but with business social, all of those discussions and answers can happen in one place, saving everyone time and frustration.

Nearly everyone still uses printed material and email to communicate to an audience. Increasingly, we should see people including links to the business social sites where readers can find more information or provide feedback. Links on printed materials such as posters provide a link back to the business social platform where people can get further content regarding the event or initiative.

Another increasingly common approach is to include business social links on intranet sites and vice versa. While some groups might move their entire intranet presence to the business social platform, others retain their current platform but include links. This drives traffic both ways. The traditional intranet can remain the home for official or static information that doesn’t change often, while the business social platform is the location for sharing, discussions, Q&A, invitations to events, and so on.

What can business social do for you?

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Business Social – Reason #18: Connecting People With What’s Important to Them

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Business social is not only good for connecting people to other people, but also it connects communications professionals with the all-important snapshot of “now.” Water-cooler discussions become published feedback that can drive needed change and innovation.

Part of the nature of business social is to connect people: people who do the same job, share the same interests, need answers to their questions, are looking for experts, etc. Scheduling and planning more “formal” opportunities to do this is becoming increasingly common. Creating scheduled discussion forums where people can either ask an expert or group of experts on a specific topic is a great way to get people familiar with how business social works, give recognition and exposure to experts and teams and collect expertise around a topic that is searchable and ‘discoverable’ after the event has concluded.

Less tangible but equally as powerful for the communications community is the ‘finger on the pulse,’ being able to keep your ear to the ground in order to understand what people are talking about. Historically, this information is typically gathered through large, time-consuming surveys. Jive provides an extremely useful channel for listening ‘in the moment’, not waiting for a point in time survey to be issued and analyzed. Jive provides an informal, content-rich treasure trove of what is on people’s minds, what they’re excited about, what gets them frustrated.

My favorite excuse from communications people is, “I don’t have time to keep up with what’s on Jive.” I would push back and suggest that understanding your audience and what they’re talking about/thinking about/working on is part of our jobs as communications professionals and Jive offers an extremely useful tool to enable you to do that.

What can business social do for you?

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Business Social – Reason #9: Easy Access to Executives and Senior Leadership

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Communications between different levels of an organization is essential. Business social can create easy access to executives and senior leadership, letting them share critical feedback in quick, simple, and easy ways, endorsing good work and encouraging positive initiatives.

It’s universally accepted that employees want more access to senior management and that senior management want authentic engagement with their organizations. To facilitate that, senior managers are increasingly using communications that let people comment and ask questions (Coffee and Q&A is a great example of this). Face to face events are important, and yet their usefulness can be limited to the people sitting in the room.

Senior managers that aren’t comfortable blogging or posting status updates on a business social platform can start with “Likes” and simple comments (“thank you”) on work and behavior they want to reinforce. Additionally, creating open discussion threads with management is a great way to connect people. Ask Me Anything (AMA) discussions are open discussions where a senior manager (or other ‘expert’) starts a thread, introducing themselves and asking people to, “ask me anything.”

Even executives who are reluctant to provide original online content can see the value of providing feedback on other content or simply recognizing good people and good work. A public thank you, comment, or even hitting the ‘like’ button ripples throughout the platform and is a simple, convenient way to reinforce results and behaviors that executives want more of. Communications professionals, with their knowledge of their respective organizations and access to executives, can curate content ahead of time so executives can provide meaningful feedback to their organizations in just a few minutes each week.

What can business social do for you?

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Business Social – Reason #26: Digital Deep Dive Discussions

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In this post, we draw an example from one enterprise’s successful use of a business social network to support a real-time bi-directional digital deep dive discussion that was inclusive of hundreds of attendees.

Anyone who’s at all familiar with the modern workplace knows that scheduling 26 people to be in one room together, or on one phone line together, is nigh impossible. Answering the queries of all those who attend in a mere 80 minutes is equally unimaginable.

Yet on Tuesday, December 17th, 2013, twenty-six people participated in a multi-directional conversation that, in under an hour and a half, covered 19 different topics. 200 more people were content to watch and listen (“lurk”), but could easily have commented or contributed without disrupting the meeting. Furthermore, everything discussed was logged, saved, and remains available on the intranet in an easily searchable format.

This miracle was made possible by business social.

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All questions and answers are easy to view, search, bookmark, and share. The most junior members of the meeting could ask questions, and receive answers in real time, from the most senior. Date and time stamps on each entry indicate the relevance of the data for all future readers. Avatars and contact cards let any user identify and contact a subject matter expert long after the original meeting comes to a close.

The content itself is worth a read for anyone connected to the meeting topic. Meeting participants could easily link to and from other websites and content, creating information bridges that remain open for all  users. A public weekly meeting, which was not well known but which is open to all who seek further discussion, was exposed and remains exposed to every future employee who browses this space. In short, there is no shortage of valuable data left behind.

This confluence of content and communication would be extremely difficult in person or over the phone. Creating a record of the meeting with such depth and detail would be nigh impossible.

Using a business social network, however, allowed this all to happen smoothly and successfully.

What can business social do for you?

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Business Social – Reason #4: Breaking the Vicious Meeting Cycle

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In this quick illustrated article, we look at how a business social network can replace an unending cycle of increasingly inefficient meetings with real-time collaboration and productivity.

It’s difficult to work in a corporate environment and not become familiar with the Vicious Cycle of Meetings. I’ve been here less than a month, and I’m already spinning painfully through its turbulance.

The Vicious Cycle of Meetings works something like this:
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First, it takes weeks to get everyone you need in one place. Then you hurry to cover weeks of content, which is impossible in the limited time given. People are late. Key people suddenly can’t show up. Work that had to be completed before the meeting wasn’t. The meeting runs over and steals time from other meetings, perpetuating the issue of lateness.

More meetings are required, not only to follow up on discussed topics but also to cover topics missed. The cycle perpetuates, feeds on itself, and forces everyone to spend all their time running from one meeting to another.

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All right, it’s not that apocalyptic. “Dilbert” is still satire. Mostly.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative.

Social collaboration tools aren’t just fancy workplace substitutes for Facebook and Twitter. Jive can break the cycle. Here’s how:

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  1. First, contribute content. Ideas. Issues. Things that could or should work better. Questions about something you don’t understand. The results of things you’ve been working on. Successes. Failures.
  2. Second, react. It’s not enough just to read what other people have posted: you have to show your feelings on the subject. Vote on polls. Give “likes” if you like things. Sharing and bookmarking through Jive’s right-hand toolbar tells Jive that this is interesting content, and Jive can, in turn, promote it or ignore it.
  3. Third, comment. If you have something to say, say it! Don’t think of Jive as a website, think of it as a meeting. The point of a meeting is to get input, feedback, and opinions.

The more you take your ideas and discussions to Jive, the more those you work with will do the same. Instead of endless meetings, each idea has its own digital space to accrue opinions, updates, and collaboration.

Unlike email, a business social platform serves as a one-stop digital record of all input on a topic. No need to ensure that each email is sent to a massive list of involved people you may or may not know, or aggregate thirty responses.

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As the pointy-haired boss likes to say, let’s work smarter, not harder.

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Business Social – Reason #19: A Crowdsourced Wikipedia Style Dictionary

YourPedia

This article explains the concept of a business social “Wikitionary,” a crowdsourced wikipedia style dictionary. Here are some reasons you should consider building one for your enterprise or business unit.

Every corporate environment comes with its own set of jargon. To those in the know, acronyms and shorthand phrases save time and make communication efficient. To everyone else, they’re just so much Crazily Random Acronym Pileup. In the past, there’s been no easy way to translate intra-office jargon without the services of someone who speaks the language. Any list of terms quickly becomes lost, or worse, outdated, leading to further confusion when terms with multiple definitions are being discussed.

Now, business social networks are here to help.

A social platform is the perfect environment for creating community terminology encyclopedias, with individual documents for each term in an easily searchable database indexed by categories and tags. Each entry can be altered, discussed, updated, or removed individually, and definitions can contain hyperlinks to sites with more information.

Here’s an example for the term “TCO: Total Cost Ownership” (warning: there’s sometimes humor involved!).

YourPedia

With a business social crowdsourced encyclopedia, new colleagues can spend less time playing catch-up, colleagues in other groups spend less time being confused and they send less emails for clarification, and everyone benefits from the efficiency that shorthand communication brings.

What can business social do for you?

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Business Social – Reason #20: Collaboration has Historically Proven Efficient

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In this article we look at some history worth repeating: how the lessons of ancient and modern advances encourage us to adapt to digital social collaboration technologies for increased efficiency.

It sounds something like a joke: what could the Nile river, the interstate freeway, and the enterprise intranet have in common? This question, however, is not a joke, but a riddle, and its answer holds a key to boosting productivity and communication in any modern business setting.

To briefly recap ancient history, the Nile is a massive river that flows through an otherwise uninhabitable desert in Africa’s north-eastern corner. Thousands of years ago, when people discovered the secret to farming the Nile’s rich floodplains, small communities began to form along the river’s impressive banks. Once able to feed themselves, the Egyptians discovered vast natural resources: gold, copper, jewels, stone, and a cornucopia of agricultural varieties. Unfortunately, most of these resources were isolated, making it difficult to maximize their use.

Yet, transporting goods and services via camels or horses was difficult and time-consuming, especially when seasonal flooding could wipe out roads for months at a time. Naturally, then, Egyptians turned to the river itself as a method of transportation. As communities unified into a country, local authorities organized massive trades of goods between areas in large boats. National municipal projects created locks and dams along the Nile to make such transportation faster and easier.

Suddenly, metal and gem mines in drier areas could import enough food to maintain large populations of workers. Increased wealth from these commodities encouraged fertile areas to organize large-scale farming projects that produced even greater quantities of food, which in turn allowed for greater excavations and larger projects. The inevitable surplus allowed other communities to advance and excel in making luxury items and advancing scientific research.

It was this collaboration of diverse specializations that allowed one of the earliest human civilizations to ferry millions of tons of stone hundreds of miles and create monuments that still inspire awe and wonder today.

Fast-forward a few millennia to a more familiar era, one in which America was building its economic empire. Politicians and entrepreneurs alike saw a situation not too far removed from the one in Ancient Egypt. While railroads crisscrossed a vast country as best as they could, many resources remained locked in areas where railroads were either geographically impossible or economically unsupportable.

Enter the Interstate Highway System. President Eisenhower championed the creation of a great road network running smoothly across the country. An absence of traffic stops or sharp curves allowed for higher speeds, decreasing travel time and increasing efficiency. This pinnacle of American roadwork perfected the interstate as the “Nile” of America, allowing goods to move rapidly from the smallest village in California to the most remote town in Main. Many historical experts agree that the evolution of the freeway was what allowed America to boom in the mid-to-late 20th century.

Today, the economic world has a new kind of river. The idea of the internet as an “information superhighway” is old, but that only encompasses a small portion of what such a river can do.

Imagine a business as a country of small communities. Each section has its own specializations and focuses, but often they each much support themselves in other ways, much like a mining village growing its own food. Social collaboration and networking tools allow divisions to “import” and “export” work smoothly through a vast network, allowing each group to focus further on their own goals.

With such an increase in focus, the smallest of changes can have major impacts and results. Perhaps one group within a corporation discover, by pure chance, a method for saving a considerable amount of time when completing a certain task.

In the village metaphor, this discovery would spread slowly or not at all as word-of-mouth trickled out from the village. Perhaps the local mayor hears of it, and issues a bulletin about the discovery, but then that information has to seep down through layers of management to get back to the people whom it could affect.

With social networking and centralized collaboration, this discovery rockets out of the village and onto the nearest major highway, where it zooms down to a central distribution center. From there, it divides and spreads out through the whole surrounding area. Thanks to increased specialization and information management, the time-saving method is delivered directly to those who could best implement it. Or perhaps it’s delivered equally and personally to all individuals: instead of being buried in a mass email, each targeted user sees a cheerful notice strategically placed next to information related to the time-saving method. The potential methods of delivery and applications of technology are limited only by the imagination of those navigating the intranet river.

Perhaps the metaphor isn’t perfect, but it does illustrate the key point. History has taught us that a fast, centralized method of traffic can greatly accelerate the productivity of everyone connected to that network, no matter if that traffic consists of boats, cars, or digital information. All that remains is to use this modern river to the best advantage.

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The Internet is the New Black

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Thee secret is out: Internet is the new black. Everyone who’s anyone is wearing a website, clamoring for designer styles made from the very latest in digital technology. As the trends change, we accessorize with Java and Flash, forums and chats, videos, slideshows, and more, vying for attention and feeding the hype.

But we’re not 17-year-old girls any longer, carelessly throwing on whatever will turn heads. We’re important adults now, cultivating corporate images and distributing essential data. Perhaps it’s time to sit back for a moment and think about what technological apparel we’re wearing, and why.

Yes, it’s cool to be sporting the very latest styles, but are they necessary? Do they match our business’ complexion and complement our corporate goals? Are our internet websites really attracting customers, and are our intranet websites assisting our employees?

These are tough issues to face, especially now that we all have wardrobes stuffed with websites that the salespeople assured us were flattering and hip. By asking the right questions, we can decide what to buy, what to keep, and what to give to Goodwill.

The most important question to ask of any Internet apparel is, how much do we need of what, and why? It’s important to have outfits suited to different excursions, but having ten swimsuits makes it harder to find that personnel directory when we need it. While it might be tempting to buy a dozen pairs of beautiful high heels, it might be more practical to wear flats if we’re constantly on-the-go: the fancier the website, the harder it might be to view on mobile devices or in remote areas. 99% of the time, those gorgeous Java and Flash pages will clash horribly against cellphones and tablets.

In addition, “new” and “expensive” are not always “better.” Fashions may move in and out of style, but if you have a few well-tailored matching pieces and a few tasteful accessories, a little mixing and matching can fit any occasion. Flexibility and subtlety are often better in the long run than outfits that shine for one occasion and then can never be worn again. And no matter how much something is “in” this season, if it doesn’t look good on us, we’re better off without it.

The bottom line is that, while we all know that we need websites, we need to remind ourselves why we need them, and what we’re trying to do with each site. We should craft web presence in the same way that we craft wardrobes, based on a combination of style and practicality. No matter how cool or unique a site is, if it doesn’t actually fit our needs, it’s not worth it.

One last note: make sure all under-code is machine washable. Fancy lingerie may look nice, but if we have to take it to some ridiculously expensive programmer every time it gets stained, it’ll be a massive waste of time and money and a constant headache.

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Business Social – Reason #33: Locating Subject Matter Experts on the Corporate Intranet

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In this article we consider the difficulties of locating subject matter experts in a corporate setting and look at several digital solutions.

Despite all the FAQs, the tutorials, the walkthrough videos, the information databases, the reference resources, the troubleshooting databases, the searchable help indexes, and the advice blogs, there are still times when it’s necessary to find a real person. Perhaps an expert opinion is required on a specific topic, or a solution is needed to a problem that no one else has experienced before. When these occasions arise, users need methods of locating actual people who are experts in these fields.

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Unfortunately, the phonebook is no longer a reliable option. Attempting to search the internet directly from Google is akin to the proverbial hunt for an honest politician: it’s hard to distinguish actual experts with real knowledge from those who fake it for financial gain. While these fakers will always sneak their way into the mix, there are two methods emerging on the internet for identifying real experts with sound advice. Both of these systems can be employed within a corporate setting, allowing people from all corners of a company to seek and share the best of their knowledge.

The first and more obvious solution takes its cue from LinkedIn. Originally imagined as a Facebook for business professionals, LinkedIn has become the phonebook of the internet, allowing users to list their areas of expertise and find other experts based on an assortment of criteria. Translating this to a corporate environment makes a certain amount of sense: having a method of finding all the experts on a particular subject who work within a company can make the process of consulting such experts faster and easier.

Having a “directory of knowledge” within a company isn’t difficult, but it isn’t always enough. Anyone who has tried to manage a collaborative effort knows that the process of emailing multiple people and getting pages of contrasting advice can be a headache and a half. It’s hard to tell on a directory who might be too busy, or away, or simply unwilling to help for any number of valid reasons. Thus, while an up-to-date directory that includes areas of expertise is an important tool, it doesn’t quite solve the problem of drawing on expert opinion.

A better solution is to form what some term “communities of interest.” These are groups of people connected through a forum or other social collaboration medium, united by an expertise and interest in a particular topic. In such groups, a question can be posed, discussed, and answered by any and all members who are available to address the issue. Additionally, such groups can direct more specific queries to experts in those areas.

Such communities are already widely popular on the Internet, and highly useful. Technology companies often create such forums and open them to the public to help users collaborate and troubleshoot issues. Other groups are formed out of a desire to discuss topics with other interested parties and inadvertently become problem resolution teams. Programmers, developers, artists, and writers have carved their own spaces on the internet in which to share their expertise and collaborate on difficult issues.

In a corporate setting, such collaborations can be invaluable. By organizing people of expertise into collaborative groups, they can aid each other, bringing their combined strength to each of their individual tasks. Instead of hunting down and meeting or emailing a dozen different experts, those who seek help can turn to a group that already exists, and use the benefits of a forum setting to work out the best solution to their issue. What’s more, the employees themselves are happy to help, as so doing helps them form their reputation within the organization, which can lead to new opportunities.

There’s an old saying: two heads are better than one. By employing these strategies, an individual gains not a second point of view, but a dozen, allowing any smart employee to quickly brainstorm issues with those best suited to solve them. Human resources are amplified through the power of social collaboration, sparing everyone a good deal of time, effort, and aggravation.

For an enterprise, utilizing a enterprise social network to create Subject Matter Expert directories and focused communities of interest creates essential repositories of knowledge that not only benefits users attempting to locate SMEs but also eliminates the time and effort often wasted as traditional email and in-person requests are passed around from one contact to another. Creating an SME database as well as collaborative communities of interest connects seekers directly to the correct expert, getting questions answered, requests processed, and problems solved with speed and efficiency.

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What Wikipedia Can Teach the Enterprise [Cont’d]: Tagging

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Search engines, no matter how advanced, cannot read our minds. Whenever we look for virtual content, on both intra- and internets, we are required to phrase our request as a series of words and parameters. Sometimes this is enough: studies over the past three years claim varying numbers, but they agree at least 34% of Google users click the first link in the search results.

Yet this is not always sufficient. Unlike physical libraries or filing cabinets, the internet has no standard means of sorting data.  With the sheer amount of content now filling the digital universe, and the ambiguity of our language, it’s becoming more difficult to locate specific information using word-based search engines.

Wikipedia has invented a simple concept to deal with language ambiguity, coined a “disambiguation page.” Whenever a name or word could potentially refer to multiple topics, a page is created with links to all possible uses of that term. For example, the disambiguation page for “Mercury” contains links to the articles on the Roman messenger god, the first planet in our solar system, and the metallic element.

At least, that’s how the page starts. The massive list of article subjects called “Mercury” includes two towns, a bay, a group of islands, automobiles, trains, planes, ships, spacecraft, songs, albums, prizes, bands, comics, software, programming terms, sports teams, magazines, radio stations, films, TV shows, coins, books, roads, insurance, and no less than 22 separate newspapers.

The fact of the matter is that the English language has a limited number of words and is constantly being recycled. No matter how relevant a particular piece of information is to a topic, it’s impossible to guarantee that a search for related terms will return the appropriate data. Considering that 94% of Google users don’t even check the second page of results, no matter whether or not they’ve found what they need, it’s become more important than ever to find better ways of cataloging information.

Fortunately, within a closed system – a blog, a website, or an intranet, say – there’s an easy solution: tagging. As the Dewey Decimal system did for the library, tagging can keep an information database organized, navigable, and accessible without wasting time clicking through search results.

On paper, tagging is the equivalent of file-folder labels, or post-it notes. If a social-collaboration database is a virtual filling cabinet of articles and posts, tagging is the digital means by which that data is sorted into folders. Proper tagging means that when a user wishes to find information on a topic, selecting a “tag” is the equivalent of opening a folder under that category. Ideally, every article or post concerning that topic will be filled there. In addition, unlike paper files, digital data can be tagged into multiple topics, allowing one article to appear under all relevant “file headings.”

Wikipedia provides an excellent example of this in its category tagging features. At the bottom of every article is a series of links to the larger folders in which that article resides. Scrolling down an article about Mercury, the Roman god, reveals links to categories including “Roman gods,” “Messenger gods,” and “Deities in the Aeneid.” Clicking on any of these links brings up a page of all included articles in that category. Similarly, at the bottom of the page on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, category links lead to other planets and other solar system objects. However, because the planet is a more substantial topic, there are other links: “Mercury Exploration,” “Mercury Geology,” “Mercury in fiction,” and so on.

The application to a corporate environment is obvious. Searching for a term such as “Sharepoint” might return hundreds of results, even within the parameters of an enterprise intranet. This will include casual mentions of the software and text in which the software is brought up but not the focus of the writing. However, encouraging proper tagging techniques provides a tag of “Sharepoint” that, when clicked, brings up all data in which Sharepoint is an important topic.

However, no filing system works if it isn’t used properly. If there are no standards for tags, programs may not understand that abbreviations or alternate punctuation and spelling may mean the same thing: if one user tags his post “Powerpoint,” another “power point,” and a third “MSPowerpoint,” most software will consider these as three different subjects. (This is another reason why tagging has a strong advantage over simple word searches, if tags are used correctly.) Some users also suffer from “overtagging.” Worried that they aren’t certain of their categories, they tag an article with random words and phrases, creating dozens of useless tags that make tag-based navigation harder. Fortunately, modern software gives administrators system-wide control over which tags can be used and who can create new ones. If controlled by moderators who work actively to maintain the system, tag standards can be set over an entire system, making it even easier for users across buildings and continents to find information relative to their needs.

Of course, in the end, a system must be used in order to work to anyone’s advantage. Encourage groups to use tags constantly and effectively, and they can become a virtual data-search shortcut that works quickly and smoothly. With a proper digital fi

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