Enterprise Social: A Cultural AND a Technology Challenge

Microsoft Teams

In a recent blog post, we explained the concept of digital workplaces using four tag clouds - Digital Workplaces Explained in Four Tag Clouds.

For Bridgeall, a digital workplace is one which leverages the full potential of technology to rethink the way things are done, breaking free from the limits imposed by legacy systems and legacy management thinking. An organisation which leverages the full potential of emerging technologies, supported by a strong digital culture, to streamline internal processes and systems, improve efficiency, reduce costs, building a more collaborative, cost efficient, agile, responsive, data driven workplace environment, ‘fit-for-purpose’ in a digital age.

The successful deployment of an Enterprise Social Media (ESM) platform, such as Microsoft Teams, is critical in this respect as highlighted in the video below.


Successful Implementation is the Key

In a forthcoming series of blog posts, we will examine in more detail the technologies and software underpinning digital workplaces; in particular, the way in which the various components of Office 365 can be used to build integrated digital workplace solutions, the business benefits to be derived.

For the moment, it is interesting to note recent research from MITSloan Management Review which supports our own contention that successful digital transformation is not just about technology – it requires the effective integration of strategy, people, processes, systems, organisation, culture AND technology.

Based on an extensive field study of a multinational cosmetics company that implemented an ESM platform to connect more than 4,500 employees across 29 countries, the study concluded that the expected benefits of ESM platforms in terms of knowledge sharing, collaboration and efficiency will only be realised if implemented effectively.

The main conclusions of the research are highly relevant to organisations thinking of implementing collaborative tools to support internal communications and knowledge sharing:

  • Employees often ‘get lost’ during the implementation of ESM platforms because of the disconnect between technology and the cultural change required to leverage the full potential of these platforms.
  • ESM is too often introduced into workplaces as a siloed system. A more strategic approach is required with ESM becoming a core component of an organisation’s digital portfolio, fully integrated with and supportive of employees’ daily work.
  • Too often, ESM is added to an already tangled web of technologies meant to support communication and collaboration. The net outcome is that fewer than 30% of employees and only 8% of executives contribute to ESM on a regular basis.
  • As more organisations become attracted to the benefits of digital workplaces, IT departments are asked to equip employees with a rich and integrated digital portfolio including team collaboration software, project management tools, chat-based software, internal knowledge management systems, intranets and so on. However, in most cases, there is a failure to articulate and communicate to employees how they are expected to use these tools in their day-to-day, job-related tasks.
  • The failure to articulate and communicate runs the risk of employees becoming lost in the transition to a more social, collaborative way of working. Connecting to ESM platforms often requires employees to disconnect from existing patterns of communication and collaboration such as email. This is not easy to achieve and can create resistance to change unless managed properly. Weaning people away from their email comfort blanket is no easy task.
  • To increase adoption and improve efficiency, ESM should be established as the hub connecting multiple IT systems, business applications, collaborative tools and other digital platforms. With proper integration, using APIs, employees should be able to access all digital platforms such as the corporate intranet, email, directories, document-sharing tools, forums, blogs, wikis and third-party web applications seamlessly from the ESM platform. Most ESM platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, offer open APIs that enable interoperability between ESM and other information technologies.

In our experience, the failure to recognise the mutual dependencies between strategy, people, processes, systems, organisation, culture AND technology is one of the main reasons why many attempted transformations will fail.

The successful implementation of Enterprise Social Media within your own organisation is a cultural as well as a technology challenge.

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.