Tag Archives: enterprise 2.0

I Started a Blog But No One Cared


Image Courtesy of Flickr user cogdogblog

As many of you know, here at Booz Allen, we’ve got an internal suite of social media tools available on our Intranet – hello.bah.com. While it’s garnered a lot of publicity, won awards, and really changed the way we think about virtual collaboration here, I get asked this question and others like it (e.g., why isn’t anyone asking questions? How do I get people to read the blog? Why isn’t anyone editing the wiki pages?) at least once a week.

These aren’t trivial questions – people take the time to create a blog post or add content to a wiki because of the promise of emergent collaboration. They hear stories about people getting entire white papers written by people they don’t even know because it was posted to an open wiki; they see blog posts with dozens of comments that lead to new initiatives; they read forum threads dozens of pages long with input from people across the organization and they want to realize those benefits too. Against everything they’ve learned over the years, they post some content to this open and transparent platform with the hopes that people will flock to it, adding comments, having discussions, linking to additional resources, and interacting with their information. When that collaboration and interaction doesn’t happen, they quickly get turned off and will either A) assume they did something wrong and not go back or B) believe that they’ve been sold a lot of snake oil and this social media stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

As you might imagine, neither of these conclusions bode well for the long-term health of a virtual community behind the firewall. So, what do I tell these folks when they ask me why no one is reading their forum posts, commenting on their blogs, or editing their wiki pages?  I start by sending them these eight bullets –

  • Write interesting content. You’d be surprised at some of the mind-numbingly boring stuff government consultants blog about. Realistically, out of the 20,000+ people at the firm, how many of them are really going to be interested in your jargon and acronym-filled blog post about the latest developments in IT Service Management? Write something that more than the 20 people on your team will be interested in if you’re looking to get greater engagement.
  • Email is still king. Despite all its successes to date, hello.bah.com isn’t a daily, in the workflow destination for most of our staff. They see the potential of it, and use it occasionally, but visiting the hello homepage to check out the latest blog posts and wiki changes isn’t exactly at the top of mind for most people yet. Post your blog entry, wiki content, forum thread, etc. and then send out an email with a link to it.
  • Cross-promote. Include the link to your content in your team newsletters, meeting agendas/minutes, email signatures, briefings, Yammer messages, and any other communications vehicles you use. Just because you’re the boss/team lead/project manager doesn’t mean people have automatically subscribed to everything you do and are waiting with bated breath for your next post. When our senior VP started blogging internally, we sent out a mass email with each post that included a link to the post, a short blurb on what it was about, and directions for how to subscribe for future posts. We did this for the first five posts or so until people were aware that the blog was out there.
  • The world doesn’t revolve around you. Don’t just post and then whine about people not commenting on your content. Ask yourself if you’ve gone out and commented on anyone else’s blogs. No? Then why are you surprised that no one is commenting on yours. Go find other posts and wiki pages related to your topic and engage there. Include links back to your content as “additional information you might find useful.”
  • Give people an action. Why are you posting in the first place? Do you want to get people’s opinions on some new initiative? Do you want cross-team collaboration on a white paper? Are you asking your team if they have questions about the new reorganization? Be clear about what you want from your readers.
  • Tell them what’s in it for them. Tell me what benefit I get from taking time out of my day to click over to your blog/wiki page/forum and read it. Will I get an opportunity to influence future policy? Will this be the new location where all of our meeting agendas and minutes will be kept? Is creating my profile required for my performance assessment? Will I get to get answers directly from a VP instead of some anonymous email address? Don’t just tell me that it’s there and to click the link because that’s not enough. Entice me. Whet my appetite for what I’m going to get for my time.
  • Do some internal “pitching.” I’ve had colleagues reach out to me and ask me if I’d blog about their programs on my blog. People have asked me to go out to Yammer and link back to their wiki pages. I’ve received internal emails from people pitching me on their project and asking me to “get my team to engage with their content.” This isn’t because I’m some subject matter expert, it’s because I happen to have a popular internal blog and my readers and friends tend to read what I write and click over to things I link to. Find people like me and make them aware of your content and ask them to get involved. No one wants to be the first person to respond – they want to see that other people have read it and commented on it too.  Aren’t you more likely to read a blog post that has 20 comments than one that has none?
  • Lastly, be a community manager.  When the comments on our VP’s blog all started to skew toward the “thanks for posting – great job” variety, the value of those comments went way down (our VPs don’t need any more self-esteem:).  That’s when I started to post some more contradictory/controversial comments and posts.  I wanted to model the behavior that people could/should take when participating in that online community. Other people needed to see how to interact in this new environment.
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The Evolution of the Social Media Evangelist

Do the EvolutionI’m currently going through my annual assessment, and in completing my self-assessment, I had some time to reflect on the last year and subsequently, over my six years at Booz Allen. As I combed through old emails and files, I thought back to 2006 when I first realized that social media was a game-changer in the government space. I remembered all the briefings I did, all the emails I sent, all the debates I had with people, and that’s when I realized the evolution that had taken place over the last three years. While I can say that being a social media evangelist has hasn’t always been easy or fun, it’s always moved forward – sometimes more slowly than other times, but always forward.

Since that first day back in 2006, when I realized the opportunities that social media presented me, my company, and my government, I have evolved from an opportunist to a leader (I hope!), and I can only hope that I’ll continue to evolve in the years ahead. Here are the seven evolutionary stages that I went through as a social media evangelist – I’m interested in hearing if you find yourself going through a similar evolution, or if you skipped a few steps and went straight from an amoeba to advanced human 🙂

Phase One – The Opportunist

In the first phase, you are an Opportunist. In this initial phase, you’ve identified an opportunity – this can be for you, for your team, your division, or your organization. You start by doing exhaustive research to see if this opportunity is feasible and realistic. Your ambitions run wild as you focus on all of the raises, promotions, and accolades that are potentially available if you are able to take advantage of this opportunity. In my case, this is the stage where I first read books like the Cluetrain Manifesto and Wikinomics and when I first started using Intellipedia. I started talking with my mentors about social media and why it represented a huge opportunity for improving communication and collaboration internally and with our clients.  At this point, ideas of all kinds are running through your head, but they’re primarily driven by personal gain – I will be able to save time, work more efficiently, make more money, win an award, etc.

Phase Two – The Idealist

The next stage is the idealistic stage.  This is where you start adding outcomes to the ideas you’ve come up with. You start thinking things like, “If the intelligence community can collaborate on a wiki, then why isn’t every organization?  If only I could show them what we could do with a wiki, there’s no way they could turn that down!”  While in the Idealist stage, you don’t consider real-world issues like firewalls, policies, changes in administration, funding, or internal politics. You are going to change the world with this wonderful idea or product of yours and the masses will ask, “why didn’t I think of that?” You work almost solely in the land of potential and while this passion for social media starts flowing into all aspects of your work, you start to realize that passion and potential alone isn’t going to cut it.

Phase Three – The Pessimist

Quickly following the highs of the Idealist stage come the lows of the Pessimist stage. This is where you will most likely be brought back to earth by the policies, management, and politics of the real world.  You will be called naive. You will be told by people being paid much more than you that your idea can’t be done. Seemingly, everyone you talk with have a reason why your idea or dream can’t be accomplished. They will tell you things like, “we’ve never worked like that before” and “there’s no way that will work because of the policy.”  You will start to question if you made the right decision to pursue these ideas, if you’ve wasted your time going down some rabbit-hole that you’ll never be able to get out of.  You will get incredibly frustrated as you give what seems like the 100th briefing on what social media is, what it isn’t, and how it can help, and then see no tangible movement follow. You’re left wondering, “what’s wrong with everyone – this seems so obvious to me, and I just don’t get why they don’t recognize it too!!”

Phase Four – The Workaholic

In the Workaholic phase, you’re working 9-5 on your “real” job, and then 5-9 on your idea, your passion.  You’ve gained a critical mass of supporters and people have started to recognize you as the primary resource on social media. You’re fielding dozens of questions every day about what social media is and why it can be beneficial. If available, you’re one of the most active bloggers or wiki editors. If not officially yet, you’re functioning as the de facto community manager for the social media tool that you’ve inevitably already started. You’re trying to get others as excited as you are by being extra active – commenting on every blog, giving briefings to anyone who will listen, sending out emails to articles extolling the virtues of social media.  You’re suffering from both the Hatred of Losing Information (HOLI) and the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).  This is the stage that I found myself in for the longest period of time, and I think it’s because I was focused on bringing social media to a 22,000+ person organization.  For smaller orgs, I’m guessing this phase is much shorter.

Phase Five – The Egotist

The Egotist phase sometimes overlaps with the Workaholic stage. This is where you get an overinflated sense of ego and might start calling referring to yourself as a social media expert or guru. You’ve now got more supporters than detractors. You’ve probably won a few awards and might have even gotten a raise or a promotion, due largely to your social media evangelizing efforts. In the Egotist stage, you start feeling a strong sense of ownership over all things social media, and think you have more control and authority than you do. You may even start arguing with people, saying, “you’re not doing it right!” The Egotist can be a very nasty stage, one that ends up actually inhibiting your overall goals. When I reached this stage, I was lucky because I had surrounded myself with lots of very smart, honest people who called me on it, and explained that I couldn’t control everything related to social media in an organization as big as Booz Allen. I learned that I could no longer be involved with every single social media-related effort – I had to become a teacher.

Phase Six – The Teacher

The Teacher phase is one born out of necessity. At some point, the desire for social media knowledge and expertise within your organization is going to grow so large and so widespread that it will be impossible for you to manage it all. You will no longer be able to keep up with the entire community’s activities. You won’t be able to fulfill every request for a briefing. You’ll need to teach others the same philosophies and methods that you’ve learned. You’ll have to help them determine how to navigate the political and administrative barriers that you’ve had to negotiate to get where you are now. This is the most critical phase, the phase that will determine if your social media efforts blossom into a scalable, organizational-wide effort, or just looked at as a proof of concept with potential.

Phase Seven – The Leader

The final phase (at least thus far) is the Leader phase. At this stage, you’ve formed your team and you’ve learned what you need to get involved with and what you can entrust to others. You’re not only managing the work of others, but you’re leading them as well. All your work to this point has set you up to be a leader of social media, not just an evangelist.  People respect and seek out your opinion, not because they have to, but because they think you have something to add. You’ve taken the “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach now and have totally reversed position on other social media leaders in the organization. You no longer feel threatened as you did in the Egotist phase. Rather, you now feel proud to see other people throughout the organization start to realize the value that social media can have. You officially transitioned from a grass-roots initiative to an accepted, respected, and valued service offering, capability, or culture.

So what’s the next phase?  I’m not real sure at this point. I think that I’m currently transitioning from the Teacher phase to the Leader phase, but I’m not entirely sure what’s next. My hope is that social media will just become so ingrained in people’s lives that it will be time for a new evolution to take place, an evolution that uses social media to help further an even greater cause.  Maybe that’s when you enter the “Mentor” phase…

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Enterprise 2.0 Reflects the Culture

If you think that the enterprise-wide wiki you’ve been pushing to install is going to change the culture of your organization, think again.  That wiki is going to reflect the culture of your organization, not change it.

Enterprise 2.0 holds a lot of promise: Increase collaboration!  Break down stovepipes!  Enable open and transparent communication!  Crowdsource white papers and presentations!  Use wikis to eliminate email!  Cure cancer!

And in some cases, these technologies DO allow organizations to realize these benefits – well, except for maybe the last one, but you get the idea.  But in many of these social media implementations, I’ve come across a lot more people saying, “I have an internal blog but no one reads it,” or “We have a wiki, but no one uses it!”

Why are Enterprise 2.0 implementations of blogs, wikis, or forums not living up to the expectations of the technology?

The primary reason is because social media tools reflect the culture of the organization – they can’t change the culture of the organization by themselves.  If the “social” part of social media doesn’t exist within your organization or is corrupted, all you’re going to end up with is “media” – a blog with no readers or a wiki with no edits.

I recently discussed the challenges of creating a social media culture behind the firewall with several of my colleagues on our internal Yammer network – here are some of the more interesting quotes from that conversation:

On needing a restricted access wiki, even behind the firewall:
“I need a wiki with both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ pages so that I can keep our team-specific items out of sight. The rest of the wiki would be open to engaging others in our work and designed to ‘market’ our capabilities to others.”

On the (often ignored) issue of intellectual property within and organization:
“People spend lots of hard work and man-hours developing a work product. They don’t want someone who ‘has an idea’ to swoop in, use the work, and have them get all the credit and acclaim for it.”

On how social media impacts the corporate rat race:
“For commonly held skill sets, [social media presents a problem because] someone may know enough to be dangerous, but the work someone else does and posts in an open environment would give that person the tools to advance their own careers without crediting those they got the information from.  That’s what I feel is the main reason people fear transparency internally.”

On how people can “steal” your work and use it without asking for it:
“I encourage people to borrow/steal/run off with my work. More often than not, it is difficult to get colleagues to take the first step to deliver/create new intellectual capital.  If borrowing my work is their first step, that’s ok. I’ll borrow from their step 2 or 3.”

Ultimately though, no matter how many pages your wiki has or how fantastic your internal blog is, the technology is going to reflect your organizational culture.  Not the culture you talk about on your website, but the real, honest culture of your organization.

Do you have people who routinely appropriate other people’s work as their own?  It will continue on the wiki.  Do you have people who punish their staff for speaking their mind and taking risks?  Those managers will forbid their staff from blogging.   Employees who regularly go above and beyond to help others?  Those people will be your wiki gardeners, making the wiki run smoothly for everyone else.

If you want to change the culture of your organization, social media tools can be a part of the solution.  But culture is determined by people, not by tools.  Make sure you supplement those tools with a change management strategy that will address the people too.  Consider incentivizing employees to share information and collaborate with each other.  Make information sharing part of their annual review (my team reviews the employee’s contributions to our internal network during their annual assessment debrief).  Reward staff for taking risks.

Enterprise 2.0 tools will always reflect the culture of your organization – for better or worse.  Make sure you give it every chance to succeed and address the people, policies, and processes too.

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Is Enterprise 2.0 Learned From a Book or From Doing?

Last week, I participated in AIIM’s Enterprise 2.0 Practitioner Certificate program, a two-day course focused on learning the principles and best practices of Enterprise 2.0 – social media behind the firewall.  Now, I’ll admit, I was extremely skeptical of this course when I first heard about it.  I don’t think that social media or Enterprise 2.0 is something that you can learn about from a book, course, class, or test.  I think that above all, it’s learned from doing.

It’s one thing to read that successful Enterprise 2.0 deployments are about changing a culture and not about implementing a new tool, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it.  I think the most successful social media efforts are those that are driven by passionate people who love people and who truly want to change the way their organization operates, not by people with degrees, certificates, or titles.

So when several of my colleagues urged me to enroll in the two-day AIIM Enterprise 2.0 Practitioner Certificate program, I didn’t really pay much attention to it at first.  However, I figured I should at least do some research into the program to see if it would be worth my time.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of social media luminaries that I respect were involved in the development of the course – Andew McAfee, David Weinberger, Stowe Boyd, Patti Anklam and Eric Tsui.  Well, ok, if those guys were involved, I figured I’d give it a try.

I wanted to be challenged by this course, to get out of the social media echo chamber and get different perspectives, and to learn about specific strategies/tactics that have been successful elsewhere.  I didn’t just want to learn what I needed to pass some test.

Day One

Along with 20 or so of my colleagues working on Booz Allen’s own deployment of an Enterprise 2.0 platform, our first day began with our instructor, Hanns Kohler-Kruner, leading us through an activity to determine what Enterprise 2.0 was about – was it about culture?  Technology?  Innovation?  Tools?  All of the above?  After seemingly hundreds of slides of definitions, acronyms, models, and terms, I started re-thinking my decision to enroll.  I wasn’t a fan.  It soon became clear that the attendees of this class were far more advanced in Enterprise 2.0 than the typical attendee.

Hanns did an admirable job of adjusting his teaching style to include conversation and less lecture, and he promised to totally re-work the material for Day Two.  The material from Day One was best suited for someone who has little to no knowledge/experience with Enterprise 2.0, and is interested in discovering the basics.

What I Liked:

  • The adjustments that Hanns made to accommodate the audience
  • The occasional conversations/debates that the course attendees had

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Hundreds of slides!!
  • Too much lecture, not enough conversation and brainstorming
  • Curriculum seemed to be too focused on teaching you what you need to pass the test rather than having discussions about Enterprise 2.0 strategy
  • No hands-on application of the tools we were discussing
  • Very little discussion of what’s worked/what hasn’t

Day Two

Before even arriving for Day Two, I was excited to find Hanns on Twitter that night, responding to our #aiim tweets from the first day.  I was really looking forward to the conversations about more advanced E2.0 strategies and tactics instead of definitions of terms that I would need only to pass a test.

Discussions on Day Two centered around the right balance of policies, rules, guidelines, and best practices for internal wikis; the risks of open vs. closed networks; and the need for open/transparent communication between IT and the user community. Some of the choice nuggets from the second day included:

“Stop focusing on the HUGE task of changing culture, and instead focus on changing habits.”

“Give people the tools and the time to do their work inside the firewall and they’re less likely to use less secure applications on the Internet.”

“The IT staff HAS to communicate regularly with their users and remain flexible and adaptable to their needs rather than their own wants and desires.”

For me, there were two big takeaways from Day Two.  1) Enterprise 2.0 tools like blogs, social networking, wikis, etc. aren’t some panacea – there is still a place for email, for face-to-face meetings, and for other “old-school” tactics.  And 2) Enterprise 2.0 isn’t a set of tools, it’s a mindset.  The actual tools don’t matter as much as how you use them.  Organizations can have blogs and wikis and still have just as many silos of information and isolated information as one that doesn’t use any of these tools.  Just as organizations without any of these new tools can still be open, transparent and participatory.

What I Liked:

  • The open, free-flowing conversation where ideas were debated and assumptions were challenged
  • The instructor was not only on Twitter, he’s been actively using E2.0 tools internally at AIIM
  • The breakout groups where we worked together to help fictional organizations
  • The slides had been completely re-adjusted for our needs

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Hundreds of Slides!!
  • Too focused on structured models and not enough on the cultural norms/nuances
  • Not enough discussion about real-life Enterprise 2.0 examples

Following Day Two, we were all given a link to an online test consisting of 64 multiple choice/true-false questions.   This is where I was most disappointed with the course.  In taking the test, I quickly became annoyed that the questions were completely objective, focused on testing my knowledge of theoretical models and frameworks (e.g., “True or False: The tags described in the FLATNESSES model do not include meta-tags”), rather than on real-life Enterprise 2.0 practices.  Seriously, I could care less if someone can recite what that acronym means.  Why does that even matter?  I’m more concerned with answering questions like, “You’ve just implemented an enterprise-wide wiki – what are the arguments for/against keeping it completely open vs. allowing some private wiki spaces?”

Overall, I’d give the course a C.  I don’t think Enterprise 2.0 can be learned from a book – it needs to be experienced.  In the future, I’d like to see them shift the focus away from lecture (as Hanns did so aptly on Day Two) and more toward facilitated conversation.  I’d also like to see more use of these actual tools – how about an intstructor’s blog where we could all interact with our instructor before, during, and after the course?  Lastly, and most importantly, I’d recommend that AIIM incorporate some sort of # of months/hours of hands-on experience actually involved with Enterprise 2.0, a la the Project Management Professional requirements to have at least 4500 hours of direct project management experience.  Without this requirement, I’m scared that people will become “Enterprise 2.0 Certified Practitioners,” so they can cash in on this hot topic right now without ever actually having done any Enterprise 2.0 at all.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user billerickson

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