This week I presented at CeBIT Australia’s Social Business conference. Rather than simply share the deck, I wanted to share a few key slides and provide a summary of my session.

To set the scene I talked about Ripple Effect Group’s heritage, which stretches right back to our origins in UK consultancy, Headshift, in about 2003. In parallel I mapped out some of the well known consumer social media and mobile technologies that have appeared since that time.

A lot has changed over that period, but our overall view of the world is the same – we remain passionately involved in helping to activate enterprise ecosystems that include consumers through to employees. And we have also never lost sight of the fact that organisations are made of people.

CeBIT May 2015 - Social Business definition

As you probably realise, enterprise collaboration technology has typically lagged behind the innovation seen in the public online space. This is about to change as right now we have entered an exciting phase where we can now reach just about every employee, including those working away from the office and other front-line staff we would not typically treat as knowledge workers.

This is because messaging apps like Jive Chime, Foko and Hipchat have invaded the workplace:

CeBIT May 2015 - Messaging Apps

Not only has the potential reach of enterprise collaboration platforms extended to all corners of an organisation, we are also now in a position to measure and understand those people networks:

CeBIT May 2015 - Understand networks

Incidentally, these screenshots are from a brand new beta Yammer analytics platforms called SWOOP – if you would like to know more about it, please contact us.

The combination of the two (reaching all employees and our ability to listen to what is happening in those networks) is that we now have platforms that can enable us to create truly responsive organisations – so why not uncover those previously hidden network and make use of them?

The reason for uncovering those network is to improve the customer experience:

CeBIT May 2015 - The elephant in the room

If you are looking for good example of an Australian company that has uncovered their workplace network, try Telstra for inspiration. Refreshingly, even Telstra admit they are not perfect but they are trying to listen:

“It’s been, I think, the biggest change in Telstra in terms of breaking down all 10 layers of management… I’m not Mr. Thodey, I’m David Thodey.”

“more people feel like they know more about what’s going on – the good and the bad. Some days are not for the faint-hearted and that’s okay because it shows people are being genuine in sharing their views.” – Jason Laird, Chief Social Officer at Telstra

By uncovering your workplace network, I believe you are actually on a pathway to empowering those employees. If you have heard of the working out loud movement, I actually take this concept further and position the idea of an empowered workplace as one where work is:

Observable + Narrated + Rewritable

Rewriting is the ability to fix what is broken – this means people in your workplace can:

  • REWRITE your products and services, so people want them.
  • REWRITE workflows and business processes, so they work.
  • REWRITE the organisational chart, so its fit for purpose.

Naturally it follows that an empowered workplace will need new fluid and transparent management practices. And this neatly brings us full circle back through technology to a focus on people. Technology exists to uncover the hidden social business networks in your workplace, but to empower them we will also need to change how we manage, leading to changes to how people choose to work.

My key take aways:

  • Use your social business networks as a force multiplier for empowering the frontline, managing expectations, understanding customers better and supporting innovation.
  • To be social on the outside, you need to be social on the inside (if you just focus on your public social media presence, you risk simply putting “lipstick on a pig”).
  • Flatter organisations are a symptom of agile, networked organisations – not the goal.

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