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Listening Action Research Project Report


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An exploration into how sustainable, pervasive social listening can be enabled sustainably within IBM’s Marketing and Communications practice

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Listening Action Research Project Report

  1. 1. Listening Action Research Project ReportEnabling pervasive social listening sustainably withinIBM’s Marketing and Communications practiceAugust, 2012Rowan HetheringtonDigital Business Transformation ProfessionalIBM Corporate Marketing
  2. 2. Contents 1. Introduction 2. Summary of findings 3. Findings 4. Next steps Appendix – What is Action Research? – The method – Learnings about the method – Data behind finding 4: Hybrid resource model for listening2 © 2012 IBM Corporation
  3. 3. Introduction: Background Marketing is undergoing transformation. There are several external drivers for change that impact IBM’s Marketing and Communications (M&C) function. These include the emergence of Web 2.0 and social media, changes in how prospects/clients source information, make decisions and are influenced. To maintain fit between this continually evolving external environment and our internal marketing operations, we need to develop new skills and organisational capabilities. The M&C function does not yet have a pervasive open information system that allows information from the external market environment (via web and social media) to be scanned by everyday decision makers within M&C globally. For this project and report, I focussed on the task of social (listening) research defined as research that involves: – monitoring and mining information from the social web – identifying influencers and Subject Matter Experts – discovering what is being said – gathering insight into defined constituencies (interest based groups) to inform the mix of content, engagement methods, media and platforms selected – measure sentiment and volume. Insights and opportunities identified via listening could be used to improve client experience and engagement, including IBM’s capability to personalize. © 2012 IBM Corporation
  4. 4. Introduction: About the project About the project: This report is based on findings from an Action Research ‘Listening Learning’ Project undertaken over four weeks in July 2012. Objectives: a. To support participants to learn and apply the skill of listening b. To better understand what it would take for participants to create a habit of listening c. To better understand the business value listening can create d. To gather insight into about how sustainable, pervasive listening could be enabled sustainably within M&C The methodology was aligned to the principles of IBM’s cross functional, ongoing research and engagement (C.O.R.E.) approach. Participants defined business objectives upfront, then explored findings through three lenses: ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’. They used free listening tools and developed an inventory of findings. In the final week they were encouraged to derive patterns. This project was an offering promoted on global digital skills workshop calls that were run in partnership by Brand System and the cross-M&C Digital Community of Practice in June, 2012. Call attendees were offered the opportunity to join the project to apply the new skill of listening to a business objective they would personally identify. © 2012 IBM Corporation
  5. 5. Introduction: Project Team © 2012 IBM Corporation
  6. 6. Introduction: Data sources Findings were based on data gathered and triangulated from the following sources: – Weekly polls (polls) – Participant’s ‘workings and findings logs’ (log) – Discussion during weekly group calls* (call) – Emails from participants (email) – Questions, comments and updates via an IBM Connections Activities section (activities) – Project completion survey (survey)*Two calls were held each week, one for US/EU participants, plus one for EU/AP participants. © 2012 IBM Corporation
  7. 7. Summary of findings1.An informal team structure can support IBMers to apply the skill and create a habit oflistening2.Listening can contribute “significant value” to the business and “should be a key activity thatinforms our other marketing and communications activities”3.Deriving patterns from listening is likely to require dedicated, specialist skill4.Listening needs to be embedded into Business As Usual (BAU) to realize business value © 2012 IBM Corporation
  8. 8. Finding 1An informal team structure can support IBMers to apply the skill and create a habit oflistening“The Listening Learning Project was an effective method of enabling me to apply the newdigital skill ‘listening’”: 60% strongly agreed, 40% agreed (source: survey)All 16 participants performed listening. Average time listening remained constant at over 2days per week over the four project at 10 to 15 mins listening per day or more (source: polls)All participants who completed the survey (12) plan to sustain the activity of listening. Ofthese, three volunteered to lead calls to keep the informal group going (source: survey) – The group will continue via a Listening Community of Practice (CoP) within the broader Digital CoP. – In the period between these two supporting informal team structures existing, participants did not manage to maintain the habit of listening.Theory and logic supports the finding that an informal team structure fits: – Listening is a task with many complex and uncertain variables; Developing this skill requires second order skills such as the ability to think creatively, improvise and make ongoing adjustments. These abilities can be encouraged by the support of an informal network of people e.g. a learning-driven pilot group with no hierarchical authority or mandate. For instance, a self managing (informal) work team or a CoP made up of people with deep concerns about practical problems and an openness to experiment (Senge & Goodman, 1999 p39-41). – The challenge of the rate of technological change (sites and tools) can be addressed by a group of practitioners each testing and learning, then collaborating to share what works for different contingencies.*Senge & Goodman, 1999 p39 ‘Generating Profound Change’, The dance of change: the challenges of sustaining momentum in learning organisations, © 2012 IBM CorporationLondon, Nicholas Brealey, pp39-64
  9. 9. Finding 2Listening can contribute “significant value” to the business and “should be a keyactivity that informs our other marketing and communications activities”After applying listening for four weeks, the majority of participants’ answered 1: (Source: polls)This is consistent an earlier learning: Representatives from all eight of the M&C disciplinesstated in Feb-March 2012 that they see value in performing listening to meet their businessobjectives. © 2012 IBM Corporation
  10. 10. Finding 2 (cont)Business value generated by participants during this four week project included:identifying an event IBM should participate in (making a new market in Africa)identifying new language used by the market which could be used in marketing materialsfinding potential clients and influencersfinding market and competitive insights “Social listening should be leveraged to be the headlights to the business – People should be imparted training and motivation, process & tools” (source: survey) “Listening does appear to have merit as a forward-looking service Marketing & Communications could offer to IBM. Like social focus groups, digital listening teams could be deployed around a question about making a market, using a language within a country, to do targeted listening and produce recommendations. If warranted, host organization could continue the listening or pursue other means to make or develop the market.” (source: Tim’s log)“Listening could be very important on my daily work to identify relevant clients for the center I work for – this could be actioned by all the people in my organization that work in the Forum Center” (source: survey) © 2012 IBM Corporation
  11. 11. Finding 3Deriving patterns from listening is likely to require dedicated, specialist skillIn order to be confident that content or sentiment found is representative, we must find andsuccessfully analyse patterns. This triangulation would back up actionable recommendationsThe participants from this project were broadly representative of M&C (slide 5).During the four week project, most participants did not reach the point of finding patterns intheir listening from which they could back up recommendations. The reasons they cited in theproject completion survey included needing: more time, a higher level of skill in using freetools, and/or access to paid toolsParticipants’ confidence in their ability to listen fell when they were encouraged to derivepatterns in the final week 24-31 July. (Source: polls) © 2012 IBM Corporation
  12. 12. Finding 4 Listening needs to be embedded into Business As Usual (BAU) to realize business value To respond effectively to what we found, we will need to make and align changes in people, process, policies and platforms. People • M&C staff members need time and skill to apply listening, plus access to additional capabilities (more specialised skills e.g. listening teams, plus paid tools ) where required, for example to derive patterns and trends or for large scale listening. Processes • There is no one-size-fits-all process for listening. The cycle of exploring, improvising and learning is part of the skill of applying listening. • Practitioners need to learn which tools to use, based on multiple contingencies, through experience.Use social • Considering the ‘who’, the ‘what’ or the ‘where’ and developing an inventory of findings was found to be a useful approach.technologies to • Processes are required to incorporate findings from listening intoscan Marketing and Communications plans and implementation. Client experiencethe externalenvironment • Platforms that enable guidance to be communally developed and M&C results Platforms updated would be useful. For example: Which listening tools to use, based on degree of fit to multiple contingencies • Coordination and integration of listening efforts would be valuable (e.g. minimize duplication of listening efforts, share what works and what doesn’t) Policies • The social computing guidelines and business conduct guidelines cover responding and engaging. Additional policies may be required over time for listening specifically, including which IBM tools to use Inputs M&C system Outputs © 2012 IBM Corporation
  13. 13. Next steps1. Set up a listening Community of Practice (CoP), with a communal Wiki space to: – Facilitate the coordination and integration of listening efforts, for example providing open access to all listening reports and ongoing listening efforts from one place. – Enable people who are listening to learn from each other in a sustained, ongoing way. – Collaboratively manage information and materials such as a list of listening tools, describing the on degree to which each tool fits multiple contingencies (Many different tools are available to listen. New tools emerge frequently. Tools can vary by country and language. Many are free, some are paid. Some require a higher skill level than others.) – Make available short “How to" audio-visual webcasts or videos that provide practical know-how about how to use specific listening tools, accessible via relevant keywords/tags.§Encourage more individuals in M&C to acquire and apply the skill of listening. Listening isrepresented in skill descriptions for M&C (#10), Brand System and other disciplines, plusDemand Programs. – Run the listening learning project again for M&C team members who want to learn to apply the skill of listening (considering learnings from slides 17 & 18). Next project is for SSA (Oct-Nov 2012).§Test whether the Action Research format used for this project is effective in assisting M&Cteam members to apply other new skills where the contingencies fit (e.g. complex task,multiple, uncertain variables)§Present the insights listed under finding 4 to IBMers interested in understanding howsustainable, pervasive listening could be embedded into M&C business as usual to produce abetter client experience and M&C results. © 2012 IBM Corporation
  14. 14. APPENDIX • What is Action Research? • The method • Learnings about the method • Data behind finding 4: Hybrid resource model for listening14 © 2012 IBM Corporation
  15. 15. What is Action Research? “(Participative action research) rejects the myth of professionally trained experts as the only legitimate pursuers of knowledge” (Gummesson, 2000 p118).  The participants were ideally placed to research what it would take to apply listening, as they were applying it. Zuber-Skerritt and Perry (2002, p.173) suggest participative action research comprises three key elements where a group of people: 1.Work together 2.Are involved in the cycle of planning, acting, observing and reflecting on their work more deliberately and systematically than usual; and 3.Produce a report of that experience (such as a thesis). Action research has two integral components: action and research. §Action was required for learning, because listening involves tacit skill that can only truly be learned through application. This required a behaviour change, i.e. participants applying the skill of listening. §Rigorous research was required in order to draw conclusions about whether the project was effective in relation to its objectives.*Gummesson, E. 2000, ‘Action research/action science’, in Qualitative methods in management research, 2nd edn, Sage Publications, Newbury Park,California. pp116-123) © 2012 IBM Corporation**Zuber-Skerritt, O. & Perry, C. 2002, ‘Action research within organisations and university thesis writing’, Organisational Learning, vol 9, no 4, pp.171-179
  16. 16. The Method 3 July Set up call 1 Take action Attend 30 minute weekly group call 3  Participants apply listening for 10-15 mins per day 10, 17, 24, 31 July (4 weeks) Report back what you found, experienced, learned and any blockers, questions Discuss as a group (accelerated learning) Action Instructions will be provided for the next week during the call learning cycles Each Each Week day (four cycles) Document your findings and experiences 2  Participants complete the ‘workings and findings log’ while listening (template provided)  Post any questions in the Activities section 7 Aug Presentation of project findings call © 2012 IBM Corporation
  17. 17. Learnings about the method 1. Group sharing calls occurred weekly – this 2. The thirty minute group sharing calls were was about the right frequency (83%) about the right length (75%) (Source: survey) (Source: survey) 3. 100% participants agreed that “The call facilitation effectively balanced: a. the sharing of content expertise with b. participants sharing their own experiences and learnings” (Source: survey) © 2012 IBM Corporation
  18. 18. Learnings about the method4. 10-15 mins per day for listening was too short (58%).Participants would have liked to have been able to listen for longer, however 10-15 min (Source: survey)per day was recommended for this project as they were applying listening on top of their formal role:“15 minutes per day is very short!… Once you get started <with listening> you could go on and on” (source: Tim on a call)“But 15 mins is good because it feels achievable” (source: Nicky on a call)“People can commit to (15 mins) as part of a busy job. However if listening were a formal part of our job, 30 minutes would bea more meaningful time to dedicate to the activity, to allow us to get in the right listening state of mind.” (anonymous surveyresponse)“If the objective was to learn how social listening works, the length is ok. If the objective is to provide a valuable final output,we need more time. Or more tools :-)” (anonymous survey response)“15 min at day is not time enough to listen. Social networks are updated every day with new contents, so there are a lot ofinformation to analyze.” (source: Pedro’s log)“For a comprehensive and meaningful activity, 15 minutes a day is not enough” (source: Alessandra’s log)“Should be at least 1 hour” (anonymous survey response)“I think more time needs to be spent upfront - dedicating a couple of hours/day(s) to get your head around it all before insightscan start to be gained from 10-15 mins of activity.” (anonymous survey response)“We need a lot of time to perform social listening activity seriously. All phases are time consuming: looking for the right people,finding out where theyre active, what theyre talking about, how they interact with others, which kind of language they use,whos in their network, etc.” (source: Tiago’s log)“Ideally (I’d like) 30 mins allocated to listening per day, or 1h+ per day to start, then 10-15 mins per day once search feeds are © 2012 IBM Corporationset up.” (source: call)
  19. 19. Data behind finding 4: Hybrid resource model for listeningPros, cons and recommendations discussed for the three resource options: Individual IBMers in M&C function Specialist listening teams within Agencies IBM (language based)Pros The larger the number of M&C team members able to directly engage with Increased ability for global coordination. Access to information from the external environment, the larger the surface area of the (source: call) additional / rare paid function - allowing more people to identify and respond to opportunities (Worley tools / skills / & Lawler 2006 in ‘Designing organisations that are built to change’*). Specialist knowledge and skills. capabilities. (source: call) Immediate access to market insight, at the fingertips of planners and decision Increased likelihood of specialist teams makers. Creates ability to respond rapidly. being granted access to paid tools than individuals, due to efficiencies. (source: Several participants reported ‘stumbling across’ valuable related information, call) that an agency or hub may not have included in listening report results. Listening can creating an environment Listening is a natural extension of desk research. “The line between gathering where marketing process innovation social intelligence by listening to conversations in the online world and desk can be developed, i.e. ‘built to change’*, research (for example using Google search) is often blurred. “ (source: call) so it seems important that listening . capability is built internally rather than relying on agenciesCons Lack of time in current job designs, given the existing formal tasks that are Less immediacy than the individual Briefing the work and rewarded. “Ideally (I’d like) 30 mins allocated to listening per day, or 1h+ per listening themselves. waiting for results is day to start, then 10-15 mins per day once search feeds are set up.” (source: time consuming. call) (sources: paraphrased from Lack of coordination between individuals who may be performing the same anonymous survey task. response, plus call) Lack of specialist, up to date knowledge & skills. Risk: outsourcing a strategically Lack of access to paid tools. important capabilityRecomme “Make social listening an ongoing BAU part of the M&C job role” “make it “Create language based specialist Agencies can offerndation formally recognised.” (source: call) listening teams to be used for complex access to specific tasks that require specialist skills tools and skills as Everyone in M&C needs to be able to ‘reach into’ the world of data available via and/or paid tools. E.g. Monitor ongoing needed. web & social, to gather information from the external environmental that will brand sentiment, find patterns to test Agencies might be assist them in making everyday decisions and to engage with prospects and validity of individual IBMers’ findings.” useful in teaching us clients, to improve the client experience. (source: paraphrased from call) and building capabilities. (call) © 2012 IBM Corporation*Worley & Lawler 2006 in ‘Designing organisations that are built to change’, MIT Sloan Management Review, vol 48, no. 1, pp.19-23
  20. 20. Comments or questions? Please contact Rowan Hetherington @RoHetherington