I have just spent a couple of pretty full on days in Prague at Social Connections, the conference for the IBM Connections and SmartCloud user group in Prague. A packed agenda, a thoroughly good time and some headline takeaways to share with you.
It’s not about technology, it’s about people
A recurring theme, but this message came through loud and clear again in every conversation I had and every session I attended. IBM Connections, Smartcloud or any other social business software platform is simply an enabler. It’s time has come as the digital generation enters the workplace and the true benefits become clear. This is not a simple upgrade of other tools, it is a whole new way of working. One guaranteed way to fail in a deployment of social business software is to hand ownership of deployment over to your IT department. The process needs to be transparently backed and led by senior management, people who are focused on day-to-day business issues. Depending on the nature of your organisation it could involve significant cultural change. It’s a strategic level decision to become a social business. Not everyone is ready for that but the early adopters will, over time, gain genuine competitive advantages. The growing number of use cases we saw in Prague showed that time and again.
We’re moving from hierarchies to “wirearchies”
The traditional top down command and control structures which we all know so well have ceased to be relevant to the way people actually work. The digital world facilitates easy dialogue across departmental and geographical boundaries. People will find the fastest route to solve their problems. That does not mean looking up and down the decision tree. It means sideways, diagonally, any which way it takes. It’s the strength of your network which will help you succeed not your relationship with your boss or direct reports. Understanding and accepting that is a great start to succeeding as a social business.
“Work Out Loud” should be the new normal
Basically, this is a Luis Suarez mantra which suggests you should share EVERYTHING you do with your colleagues. That means making public where you are and what you are working on as the first task of your day. I struggled with this concept but I’ve now seen the light. Sharing your calendar and to-do list not only informs your network but it also stops people asking. It can also act as a prompt which helps you out …“if you’re working on that you should check out this”. If you happen to be in Prague, maybe someone there wants to get in touch or maybe someone wants to recommend a place to visit. I can’t do justice to the value of this approach here but I will blog about it in more detail soon. Until yesterday I was unconvinced. Not anymore.
It’s not “social” business, it’s “open” business
There is a growing consensus that the word “social” is actually impeding the progress of social business adoption. Mixing this up with Facebook and Twitter misses the point. It’s about a whole new way of working. It means making your work and knowledge open and transparent across your network. It doesn’t mean there is no confidential information; this is simply about sharing knowledge as the first step towards mutual benefit. The successful organisations of the future will be in the hands of those who are best at sharing, not those who guard their knowledge as a perceived source of power. This is a big pill for today’s leaders to swallow but the sooner they grasp this nettle the better.
Face-to-face meetings will never go away
The very fact that 250 digitally savvy people got together in one venue to talk about social enterprise software tells you something. We do still like to press the flesh and engage face-to-face. That’s not going to change any time soon. Meeting and sharing online line does not replace that, it enhances it. It meant that when we got to the conference we knew who was going to be there, we had already connected with the people we wanted to meet (new and old contacts), and we can now follow up much more efficiently and effectively afterwards. Social business tools help you work smarter offline as well as online.