Knowledge Management Institute

To Social or Not to Social?

To Social or Not to Social?

Dec 02, 2015   |  By
Rebecka Isaksson | Director, KM Programs - Microsoft

I am coming back to a popular and dear topic to many here: e-mail vs. conversations (I’ll use ‘conversations’ loosely, to refer to ‘enterprise social’ platforms in general). The discussion that seems to occur most often in my own experience, is regarding the “WHAT” (e-mail or ‘social’ tools) but not nearly as often on the “WHEN”, "HOW", or even more importantly in my opinion: the “WHY”.

If your team is currently debating over whether to use e-mail, or a social tool like Yammer or Groups in Outlook (available to Office 365 users), my advice is to first think through and discuss at least the following:

  • What is the Business Problem you are trying to solve?   Or, what are your objectives?
  • What is your Strategy for meeting these objectives?
  • What Tactics will you use, to implement your strategy?

Let's go with a not to un-common example I think, to illustrate why it is so key to start with these essentials, before jumping into the tools side of things.

  1. Business Problem:  Due to current market pressures, you need to cut costs but your team is already very streamlined and processes are standardized and largely automated. There is little room for further cuts, or any remaining cuts having much impact other than temporary relief. Hence you decide to maintain costs as much as possible, while instead increasing productivity. You know that there are inefficiencies around e.g. decision making and problem solving between and within your teams, so you decide to focus on the organisational structure. 
  2. Strategy:  The current organisational structure is hierarchical: decisions are made at the top (the Executives), routed there by middle management that does nothing more than enforce policies and routing decisions up and down the chain. At the bottom of this pyramid, you have the teams who are supposedly the subject matter experts but they are not empowered to make decisions, only to implement them. You decide as your strategy, to eliminate unnecessary lead time through in-efficient decision making, by flattening the organisation and empowering the experts (possibly those are the people facing your customers on a daily basis too), retrain middle management to support and develop their teams instead of routing decisions and giving orders. The executives will still make the strategic or critical decisions, but they will now make more educated decisions, as they will base them on input and advise from the experts.
  3. Tactics:  This is where you build your Communications, Training, Incentive plans etc. You are implementing a major change, that impacts every single person in your organisation and you need to make the change happen together with them, not make the change for them (or even worse: do it to them!). Unless you have trained Change Management Professionals in-house, my recommendation really would be to train and certify some key staff members, or in-source an Adoption Change Management service. Change is not achieved by making the decision, informing your teams and forcing a new tool or rule book onto them.

Have you noticed? I still haven’t talked about implementing a single tool yet!

After you start driving the change within your organisation and people start to adopt to the new requirements and opportunities, you may realise that to enable your now empowered teams, you need better communications and ways for your teams to co-operate within and across teams. You may also find that people need better and quicker access to information and new ways to share their knowledge, to be able to make decisions on the front lines. You now need to develop a Collaboration Strategy and a plan for how to implement it. At some point one of your tactics will surely be, to find the knowledge collaboration (Knowledge Management; KM) solution that meets your needs, and best supports the knowledge sharing and collaborative team culture you have evolved.

So what is my key take away here? What is the point that I am trying to make? A simple Pareto analysis, based on my own experiences of driving adoption change management in the KM and Collaboration space for almost 3 years now, and the learnings my team has made, which says: it is 80% about people and process (culture); and only 20% about the tools or technology.

Learn more about how we work with Knowledge Management internally, in Microsoft Enterprise Services, from this brief customer success story: Microsoft Services Reimagines Knowledge Collaboration with Cloud-Based Platform (Campus). It also emphasizes the importance of leading this as a people- and culture initiative first and foremost, following with the solution. We have presented our own learnings at several international KM conferences, and shared and exchanged knowledge, with many of our global customers already. And all seem to agree: it’s 80% people & culture – the rest is technology.


PLEASE NOTE:  1)  The views and opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer; 2)  The Business example is freely based off of the story about how "flattening the pyramids" was Jan Carlzon's key strategy, to turning SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) around in the early 1980's. He shares his story in Moments of Truth (Riv Pyramiderna!). I just re-read it and guess what... It still applies, just in a different dimension.  Thank you for inspiring a few generations of leaders, and aspiring leaders, by now @Jan Carlzon!


Rebecka Isaksson is a thought leader and influencer with 15+ years experience of successfully driving Change Management and Operational Excellence multi-year programs, internally and as Management Consultant for many multi-national and global Enterprise Customers. 

Rebecka may be contacted at:  rebecka.isaksson@microsoft.com

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