The Collaborative Organization: Control The Center
In this excerpt from The Collaborative Organization, Jacob Morgan explains how to organize for Enterprise 2.0 collaboration.
Hansen's concept of T-shaped leaders means that these employees are effective not only at managing their own business units or departments but also at connecting other employees, are willing to help others, and can work and collaborate across other areas as well. I recommend reading Hansen's book for more insight on this issue.
Business Unit Leaders
These middle or senior managers can help encourage the adoption of new tools and technologies in their departments. Business unit leaders will also help guide the specific use cases that are applicable to their areas. As with senior-level management, it's crucial that business unit leaders actively participate in emergent collaboration.
It's important to make sure that the professionals maintaining the infrastructure and security of the organization are involved with this initiative. They will be the ones to evaluate things such as security, integration, and maintenance and upgrades. Sometimes the IT department is actually the driving force behind enterprise collaboration, as was the case with the American Hospital Association. With the ease of deployment for many emergent collaboration solutions, the temptation to proceed without IT exists but should be quashed.
Compliance and Legal
Making sure that the way employees engage and share information complies with legal and privacy concerns is always an issue, especially in regulated organizations. I once met an executive from a pharmaceutical company who told me that employees are not even allowed to mention brand product names in their internal collaboration platforms. Making sure that the organization as a whole is not at risk of violating employee or company rights and regulations is important and is why you want to have someone from legal and compliance here. It's important to note, however, that it's not always best to agree immediately and become complacent about everything that legal throws your way; don't be afraid to push back on a few things to find a compromise. The best way to go about this is to have an open discussion on what can be done and what the possibilities are. You will find that whereas certain things might not be negotiable, in other areas one can be quite flexible.
This might be a large group of people or perhaps one internal champion within the organization. The evangelists are the ones who really support and drive this initiative. Evangelists help convey value to the rest of the organization, encourage adoption, help with training other employees, and act as the go-to resource for anything involving emergent collaboration. They are employees who are truly passionate about emergent collaboration and love it.
This person oversees much of the strategic and tactical implementation of the initiative, making sure that things are happening on time and in the right way. The project manager can be thought of as the conductor who brings everything together to make it work.
User Experience and Design
Making sure that the user experience, branding, and usability aspects meet the criteria of the organization is important. Customizations and features are usually heavily influenced by feedback from these individuals. If your employees are going to be using a central collaboration platform on a regular basis, you want to make sure that it has the company look and feel that you want to convey.
This very valuable group could consist of evangelists or other stakeholders, but I wanted to make sure to call out employees as an important part of this. At the heart of enterprise collaboration are the employees who are going to be using these tools and technologies to collaborate and communicate with one another. Therefore, employees should be involved. You don't need 10,000 of them involved, but as is mentioned later, it is important to hear feedback from employees in various business units as the use cases, business problems, success metrics, and strategies may be different. One or a few employees can act as the voices for a larger group. Simple surveys are a great way to get employee feedback.
David Straus, the author of How to Make Collaboration Work, defines a stakeholder as one of the following:
1. Someone with the formal power to make a decision.
2. Someone with the power to block a decision.
3. Someone affected by a decision.
4. Someone with relevant information or expertise.
At large organizations it obviously becomes inefficient or impossible to involve every single person who wants to be involved in the planning and team process, and so in these types of situations, representatives can be selected to speak on behalf of a particular group, for example, on behalf of the employees in the marketing department or the sales department.
Team dynamics are also important here, and so putting together people you know work well together is a good idea. Gloria Burke, the director of knowledge strategy and governance at Unisys, said it best, "Cross-organization stakeholder involvement and a top-down leadership support model are essential drivers in achieving and sustaining a successful knowledge-sharing and collaboration environment; people support what they help build."
A Note on Those Who Resist
Not everyone is going to be supportive of these collaborative projects; in fact, there most likely will be some very outspoken opponents who will not want this to happen. The key is not to exclude them but to involve them and let them voice their concerns, issues, and frustrations. Those who oppose something can often become the greatest evangelists. My company once conducted an assessment of a midsize organization in which we were all warned about an employee who was against anything collaborative and social. We spent some time with that employee to understand why she was so strongly against doing certain things and later discovered that the main reason was that she was unaware of how it would affect her job and had no understanding of what these platforms could do and how risks would be mitigated; basically, she was scared, and understandably so. After addressing her concerns, we found that she became quite supportive of the project. Try to identify the people you believe are not supportive and get them involved early on in the initiative. Help educate them and listen to their concerns and feedback.