Welcome Enterprise 2.0…

Have you heard about somebody in a global company complaining about how to coordinate international internal communications? Yes: and what did they do to foster great dialogue with employees worldwide and coordinate intercultural working groups? Let me guess: send out e-mails, print an information leaflet (English only), and promise a video conference every six months?

And the outcome? Difficult to evaluate, you say. Non-responsive employees, I see. Video conferences too expensive. Really?

We relate to each other every day, exchange information, are curious, and solve problems together. In fact, it’s through communication that collaboration and cooperation occur. The value of Web 2.0 for internal communications doesn’t simply lie in its technological innovations; it lies in its function as a multiplier, intensifier of human communication behaviour.

Now Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 (if you apply blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks in internal communications) is about taking the energy resulting from each communication need and turning it into a more open, transparent and collaborative work environment.

“Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”
(Andrew McAfee, Associate Professor Harvard Business School)

Companies such as Adidas, Deutsche Bank, BT and of course IBM and many more have implemented one or several Enterprise 2.0 tools to give their people more freedom and flexibility, and hence to make their own businesses more capable of maintaining stability.

It’s not about replacing the traditional cascade communication system, but adding some valuable new tools that are essential to implement sustainable internal communication strategies throughout different countries and cultures.

Networking has always been a fundamental part of good business practice. It creates communities on the same level and avoids hierarchical cascade communication – which in comparison is slow, inefficient and top-down orientated. Social networking is one of the most useful Enterprise 2.0 tools to foster a collaborative environment rather than a top-down approach in companies. Internal social networking has the potential to create a more resilient organisation, according to the recent Network Citizens report, published by Demos, think tank for everyday democracy.

“Humans are social animals, spinning intricate webs of relationships with friends, colleagues, neighbours and enemies. These networks have always been with us, but the advance of networking technologies, changes to our interconnected economy and an altering job market have super-charged the power of networking, catapulting it to the heart of organisational thinking.” (Foreword: Network Citizens).

Here are some basic principles you should take into account when implementing social networks in-house:
• Check there’s an actual need and don’t just follow the latest trend. Always look for the benefit!
• Make sure social networking tools align with other already existing communication tools
• Define clear user guidelines and don’t allow any anonymous postings
• Maximise opportunities for staff to share views, suggestions and concerns with their colleagues and managers
• Don’t separate social and professional networking. Attempts to control employees’ use of social networking software at work may damage the organisation by depleting its network capital
• Don’t control but mediate

Enterprise 2.0 will not create an open, transparent work environment by itself. It is wholly dependant on having a positive and communication culture in the first place.

But one thing is clear. In times when employee collaboration is crucial for business, it makes sense to use the best tools available.

“Enterprise 2.0 can’t just be about a wiki here, a blog there forever. Taken together, the emergence and convergence of Web 2.0 and IP communications is what will determine whether there’s truly an Enterprise 2.0. It’s a new architecture defined by easier, faster, and contextual organisation of and access to information, expertise, and business contacts – whether co-workers, partners, or customers. And all with a degree of personalisation sprinkled in.”
(Information Week, Issue 34, 26 February 2007)

UPDATE: This blog post „How To: Use Social Media For Internal Communications“ by Thomas Crampton provides a great summary of a Watson Wyatt report focusing on Social Media as used by 328 organizations that collectively represent 5 million employees in various regions around the world.

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