Applying the KISS principle to your social intranet case
Given that a social intranet can be built for a fraction of the technology budget required for a traditional internal site, the job of creating a case for a more interactive resource developed on lightweight, highly usable tools should be easy.
While not entirely effortless, the task will be more straightforward if you apply the KISS principle to the business case, and be sure to anticipate and address management concerns early. When it comes to a social intranet, the initial KISS principle is: Social intranets deliver engaged employees, community building, increased site usage, and strong voices, both employee and corporate. Who would argue against those values? Management, if they think social intranets mean distracted employees and business risk.
So the true KISS equation is: social intranet + strong planning and guidelines = impressive value for the dollar. Let’s start with the benefits.
Benefits of a Social Intranet
1. Improved knowledge sharing = better problem solving/more efficient employees
The most valuable asset most companies have is its employees and the collective knowledge stored in their heads. So until there is a technological (or magical) breakthrough that allows employees to do a brain dump (and hopefully categorise and tag that data at the same time) into a central repository, a social media enabled intranet is one of the best ways to gather, and subsequently, share and leverage that brain trust.
Being able to access the hands-on employee knowledge creates efficiencies that cannot be gained any other way. By leveraging other employees’ previous experience in similar situations the time lost to trial and error, as well as redundant efforts, is practically eliminated. No longer do employee groups have to start from scratch to solve a problem or develop a new product, service or solution. Social intranets are not about helping employees build a mouse trap, but rather how to build a better, more effective mouse trap.
Knowledge sharing can translate to substantial gains in employee productivity and efficiency, as well as savings in overall company costs.
2. Improved communications = better informed employees
Better informed employees make for better employees. Simple. We all do better when we know the rules and expectations. When a company willingly and openly shares information it helps build a sense of trust and connection with the company. Winning internal communications programs today starts with leveraging the right channels for each message. Knowing how and where employees source what information will help the corporate communications team send information and messaging effectively to their target audiences.
Social intranets allow for messaging to be sent:
To the right people: target different employee and work groups via different channels
At the right time: engaging with employees real time or via scheduled releases and bursts.
Via the right channel: blogs, communities of practice, forums, instant messaging, etc.
Social intranets are more agile and versatile than more traditional, push intranets making it easier to reach employees at every level of the organization in a timely and cost-effective manner.
3. Increased employee engagement = more productive employees
People feel better when they are connected to others. Whether it is a family, sports team, band, or work place individuals want a sense of belonging.
With companies continuing to downsize and leverage cost saving efforts, such as virtual work places (working from home or client site) and outsourcing, engaging employees as team members becomes more difficult. Providing anywhere access (office, client site, Starbucks) to the company’s intranet is a first step to a dispersed employee base staying in touch and engaged with the organization.
Another component to securing the attention of a scattered workforce is to provide them with ways of interacting with the company, and each other, electronically. Providing social (and business based) connecting tools such as instant messaging (Sametime, Skype), internal Twitter- (Yammer) and Facebook- (Beehive, Jive) like tools help remove the physical barriers (offices, geographies, time zones) that keep employees isolated, and help create a culture of collaboration and team work.
Common concerns about Social Intranets
With the benefits understood, what are the concerns that you should anticipate, and how can you address them with effective planning and guidelines?
1. Content ROT (Redundancy, Outdated, Trivial)
Social intranets can actually help address content ROT rather than create it. With the right governance model in place, and training available to all employees (site users and administrators) a social intranet can help to reduce content:
- Redundancy: by empowering employees to contribute content and connect with each other, social intranets help employees to leverage each other’s knowledge and build upon what is already there instead of creating their own space on the same topic.
- Outdated: opening up the intranet so that content ownership and contribution is apparent allows employees to help keep the site(s) up to date via direct messaging with the one/team in charge of maintaining the content area.
- Trivial: social intranets work on the basis of employee engagement. Allow employees to rate content for relevance and value helps other employees find the “best” content out there, but also encourages content owners to keep their content current and relevant.
A social intranet does not mean the Wild West. Quite the opposite. Encouraging employees to connect, collaborate and contribute to the intranet can help to make its content more secure. The better the site and the better the content, the more employees will visit and use the site. The more employees visit and use the site, the better the content and site will be. The increased usage will help ensure only appropriate content for wide employee consumption can be seen/accessed by all employees.
Governance specifically tailored for a social intranet also plays a part in keeping the site and its content secure. Having assigned content ownership and an engaged IT/IS support team will help ensure the proper security models are in place for the various components (blogs, wikis, team rooms, forums etc) on the site. Supporting social media policies and guidelines is a must for responsible employee intranet empowerment.
3. Locating information
“How is anybody going to find anything if everyone is contributing?”
James Surowiecki, in The Wisdom of Crowds, investigates how the aggregation of information from groups can lead to decisions that are often better than those that could have been made by any single member of the group. Social intranets work on a similar premise.
By opening up an intranet to all employees to provide content, information and detail the company can benefit as a whole. That is not to say that an organization should build their intranet on a wiki platform (although that has been done), but more so to provide employees with ample opportunity to create and contribute content, and interact/collaborate to build organizational knowledge. Regardless of platform or content management tool the site itself needs to be built on a logical information architecture.
Companies are actively seeking the input of employees more frequently on strategic business elements such as developing corporate values (IBM’s Value Jam) and direction for corporate strategy (Bayer’s CEO Roundtables). A social intranet is a great way to integrate employee input into the ongoing process rather than via one-off events.
Sound simple? It is if you stay focused on the KISS equation: social intranet + strong planning and guidelines = impressive value for the dollar.
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The Social Intranet
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