Posted: Tuesday 27th November 2012
I had a great time at the Online Information conference 2012. This is a summary of one of the key themes - “Social Business and Effective Collaboration”.
Lee Bryant (Dachis Group) and Alpesh Doshi (Fintricity) explored the impact of Big Data and Social Media on business - both in the mindset of employees and the business structure as a whole. I think there’s a strong connection between what they were saying with what some commentators have termed the “Millennials” and the Web 2.0 values they bring to the business world - Millennials have very high expectations of the ability to collaborate remotely and also the usability of the software they are provided with.
I loved a quote from Lee early on in his presentation about a formula for excellent insights: “It’s amazing what you can achieve when you combine people with passion and really good data”. Couple this with a quotation by Economist Joseph Stiglitz: “If you don’t measure the right thing, you don’t do the right thing” and you have a Big Data manifesto. Put the best people with the right data and make sure they measure the right thing - sounds obvious but if you miss any one of these you’re wasting your time.
Lee suggested that the old-school business leaders operate on ‘gut instinct’ while the ‘nu skool’ find success through Big Data and number crunching - instinct Vs careful analysis. He then made this more personal by discussing the Quantified Self - we’re measuring and monitoring ourselves more than ever, our smartphones can collect and report a huge amount of data about how we live and perform. Are we going to know too much about ourselves and shatter the illusion?
Both Lee and Alpesh drew parallels between shifts in online social networking and the gradual (tectonic) shift in business structures. They see a move away from hierarchical, fixed structures towards a more fluid, mobile and remote way of working. Employees now also expect to have more direct and transparent contact at any level within a company. Gone will be the straight-jacketed processes and structures, in comes a more service-oriented or “Podular” method of working.
Employee motivation will move away from big carrots and big sticks and will instead come from Big Data. Our performance will be measured in new and unavoidable ways. This public record of how sloppy we are at our jobs will create a willingness to improve. In turn we will each have a personal “window” into data which is relevant to our work allowing for greater self-management to improve productivity.
While Web 2.0 has all been about sharing, Lee believes it’s now less about sharing but more about ‘working in the open’.
Leon Benjamin (Virgin Media) provided us with a case study as to how Virgin Media are introducing collaboration tools within the business. Both Leon and Catherine Harding (Department of Energy and Climate Change) provided some great tips as to how to get users to adopt new tools like this.
The first is to ensure that individual users understand “what’s in it for them?” How will it make their life easier? While this may be a reasonably straightforward idea, the challenge is to make your case relevant to 1000s of individual employees. The second recommendation is to publish the results of your user surveys. Rather than get the views of everyone using your new intranet and keeping the results to yourself, instead publish the fact that 95% have uploaded a photo to their profile but that no-one has from the Accounts department. Letting people know how they fit into statics is a great way to change behaviour.
Picking up on the Social Business ethic mentioned earlier, Leon suggested that the biggest roadblock to user adoption is the culture of the organisation. While a “closed, selective and controlling” culture can force users to fill out their biography on their profile, an “open and collaborative” culture of permission will gain better traction where users take the tools and experiment with them. Culture matters.
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