Today I’m going to talk about enterprise social networks and how for them to be a success, they need to be useful. They need to connect the disconnected, and at the same time contribute to the development of the communities on either side, creating benefit for them all.
A Bridge is a physical means of connection between two formerly disconnected places. People have been building bridges since around about the time man began to settle in the fertile crescent of the Middle East, and over time have become bigger and more sophisticated, carrying heavier loads across greater distances. And in doing so, they help the two places they connect to grow, economically, culturally and intellectually.
A bridge not only crosses a river or a gorge and becomes a profitable focus for communications, but also, with its wide and regular piers and narrow arches, changes the nature of the river for miles around. They slowthe river down, making its impact felt beyond the banks for miles around, as it increases the fertility of the land. Below the bridge, riverbanks become more habitable and less liable to sudden inundation.
And so too with virtual connections. Since the earliest days of the internet people have been using it to connect to one another, and so create benefit and value for both parties. Those connections have become wider, deeper, more sophisticated. But yet they remain somehow the same; a bridge connects place A across a gap to place B - creating a connection that is valuable to both. That has enabled people to learn, to connect, to make money. Each connection, each website is a bridge between the previously – and seemingly – disconnected.
Enterprise social networks enable us to create and sustain these bridges and connections within the enterprise that we have grown so used to doing outside. They connect people, places and communities, aiding communication, helping people to work together, and enable people to get work done, creating value.
But what do they need to do that?
A Bridge can be simple and plain, like this one
(a plank across a river),
...or beautiful and complex, like the Helix Bridge in Marina Bay.
But in all cases, they exist because of a desire to make connections and enable economic activity.
A bridge can be big, small, black, red, pretty, ugly - but it must be useful for it be a success. People don’t choose to walk over the Helix Bridge because it looks nice. They do it because they want to get from one side of Marina Bay to the other. And the same is true of enterprise social networks.
LET ME EXPLAIN
The city of London has existed for around 2000 years - and it wasn’t long after it was first founded on the banks of the Thames that those on the north bank grew sick of paddling across the tidal waterway in boats and decided to establish a more robust way of connecting.
And so the first London Bridge was built in around AD55. Like this one here, they took the boats they had to hand, strung them together with some planks of wood, and right away they had a community which spanned the north and south banks – connecting and collaborating between the formerly disconnected.
Because we humans are social animals, and wherever we are we make and sustain connections in order to get what we need to do done - whether you’re a 1st century Roman centurion or a manager in one of our branches, in 2015. You can see this, too, within the modern organisation. As organisations have grown, the people within them have sought out ways to create and maintain connections, using whatever tools they have to hand. And in 2015, that means they want to use the powerful tools they have grown used to using in their everyday lives to connect and collaborate - like Facebook and LinkedIn - to do the same when they’re at work.
Like physical Bridges, demand for enterprise social networks exists where you have people or groups who want to better connect in order to create value. Like Bridges, there’s no point building one in the middle of the forest, or in the desert. You need latent demand. How do you find out if and where that exists?
Start with research. What data do you have that suggests there is a demand for enterprise social? At Standard Chartered we have a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research to support the business case for ESN.
On the quantitative side, we know from our demographic data that over half of our staff are under 30, so they grew up using social media. We know from staff surveys that they find the lack of these tools internally decidedly remiss.
From qualitative research – focus groups and so on – we know that are looking to fill this gap with external tools like WhatsApp or Facebook.
The question is not how to create the demand to connect and collaborate. That demand is there – and is as old as the hills. The question is how to understand the demand, to create useful, purposeful communities that enable people to get stuff done. Meet this demand, and you crack the problem of adoption. Because the number one driver of adoption is utility - it’s given people something that meets their needs and is of value to them.
Key points for overlay
Focus on utility and purpose Understand where there is latent demand Understand your users (testing, research) Develop based on their needs
The Romans didn’t skip straight to this, a later version of London Bridge. They took their pontoon bridge, moved it around a bit to try and work out the best location, and eventually drove some piles into the riverbed. Many iterations later it became this – the old London Bridge. Something that connects the north and south banks, for sure, but generates value all on its own, as a site of economic activity.
When rolling out our social network at Standard Chartered, which we’ve called The Bridge, we’ve kept the focus on utility – on creating an overall platform, and groups within it, that help people to get stuff done.
[What these two versions of London Bridge also demonstrate is the value of iteration. With a flexible digital platform, it’s simple – indeed, desirable – to begin with simple groups rather than the complex end vision. It’s essential you keep your objective in mind, but add new features, functionality and content iteratively, in response to changing demands and understanding how people use the platform once they get their hands on it.]
When rolling out our ESN, we’ve kept our focus on making the overall platform useful, through focusing on a number of simple features that make it easier for everyone to get stuff done.
For my colleagues at Standard Chartered, one of ours was search. We know from our user research that people are used to searching on the external web, but inside the firewall found it hard to find key information, which was often stored in multiple locations.
Our enterprise social network gave people a means by which they could search in one place at get relevant content, tailored to them based on their preference, social network and usage history.
People profiles, enabling people to build and sustain their network across people and teams
But for a tool to really become essential, it has to help people get their work done. Not just the general background stuff like searching and connecting, but the actual processes of getting work done.
So we focused on Use Case. A use case is a defined group of people, doing something on the platform to achieve a business benefit. By focusing on use cases, we show how the platform is useful to people not just as a nice to have corporate communications tool, but a business critical tool that helps people in their day to day job.
A use case needs to have a few attributes:
A Clear Purpose: Linked to company strategic imperative at a high level and mapped to a business process Solves a Problem: Addresses a business gap or connects business processes. Users can do something (e.g. perform a business process) more efficiently, or at scale, or get something done that was not possible before Sponsorship: Has backing from a strategic leader who approves and sponsors the use case for the business topic Community Management: Has a community manager assigned to seed, lead, engage and moderate interaction in the use case. Also responsible for onboarding and coaching new members Membership: Involves more than one member with clearly defined membership roles Delivers Value: Achieves business value (increases top line growth, reduces time / costs, improves productivity, drives innovation, etc.)
In order to build adoption , we’ve focused on three kinds of use cases – wide, deep and replicable
Wide use cases (Hangzou bay bridge)
Use cases which connect large numbers of people across many parts of the business
Wide use cases … provides the foundation for collaboration across an organization and deliver measurable business benefit where all (or a employees participate.
support broad employee or customer bases
enable a new level of connection and contribution within an organization
are typically “open” by default
One example of a wide use case is our Global Graduates Group – open to several thousand alumni of our graduate programme.
Deep – Pont du Gard
Conversely, a deep use case is one which addresses specific business processes and drive business benefits for specific business areas.
support processes within individual work groups, functional team or business groups where “work gets done” enable a new level of collaboration and productivity
Referral pilot use case here
Replicable (Newcastle, Sydney, Hell’s Gate – same design, multiple times)
Alongside this, we’ve worked to come up with replicable models, where we can develop a best practice model for a task or type of work that is performed in all areas of the business. Like this bridge in Newcastle – the design of which was later used in Sydney and New York – we can come up for one best practice model for team collaboration, or best practice sharing, or document development, and make it available as a template for anyone to pick and quickly get started with.
So for example, we developed a model for a project management group that now anyone who wants to use the Bridge to manage a project can get started with in minutes.
By making the ESN both simple to use and useful to people in their day to day work, we make it a valuable and powerful tool to get work done.
Enterprise social networks create, embed and reinforce culture
Should work with culture, not against it.
This is the Ponte della Maddalena in Northern Tuscany. Hardly anyone calls it that – it’s one of hundreds of bridges of that era called the the Devil’s Bridge ("del Diavolo”). The middle ages were a great tine for folklore, and in particular the idea took hold that since Bridges were joining things that were not meant to be conjoined, they were somehow the work of the devil.
The belief was that the first being to cross the bridge would die. The savvy bridge builders behind this Devil’s Bridge hit upon on the idea of sending a pig across the bridge then slaughtering it – building stakeholder suppirt while at the same time creating the contents of a good hog roast.
Build stakeholder support by demonstrating success
Stretching this metaphor still further, how do you build usage and support for your enterprise social network?
There are two ways, top-down and bottom up.
Top down, bottom up growth
Bottom up = user research
BUILDING SUPPORT Top down
But if you want to go further and be stronger, you need a combination of the two, ensuring the ESN is useful and relevant to both your c-suite and your frontline.
(this is a cantilever bridge)
The Cahors of fourteenth century France viewed the proposal of a bridge across the Lot as sheer madness. To them a bridge leading into the heart of the town was an open invitation to invaders.
After much negotiation, the townspeople were persuaded that the economic benefits of opening up this connection with the rest of the world were worth investing in. But their nerves were only sated with the addition of these giant towers, manned at all times, to spot and propel invaders. They still stand today as a monument to the nervousness of urban planners in fourteenth century Guyenne.
Their nervousness is shared by 21st century information security and compliance teams
By making it easy for people to contribute, you make it possible for people to share things they shouldn’t.
Visitors to the old London Bridge were greeted by the sight of traitor’s heads, displayed as a warning to other potential wrongdoers.
These days we take a somewhat more lenient approach, but there’s still a need to anticipate and mitigate risks. Of misuse Of data leakage. Or issues around data privacy.
In our ESC, all users have to read and accept the Terms and Conditions before they can access. We’ve introduced simple mechanisms by which people can report inappropriate content. We have controls around monitoring, data leakage, and much else besides.
Banking is a highly regulated industry, but regulators haven’t developed much specific advice for the use of ESNs
Utility again – garden bridge
And finally, back to the Thames. Here’s a design for the proposed Garden Bridge in London. This has proved controversial. It’s certainly pretty, but has been heavily criticised because many think it doesn’t serve a useful purpose. This bit of London is already very well-served by bridges - you only need to a walk a short distance either side to be able to cross, and this one is likely to be closed late at night and all day long to cyclists. Because at the end of the day, like our enterprise social network, while its design is impressive, if it doesn’t solve an existing need to connect A to B, it’s not useful to anyone.
The poet Philip Larkin once said “always it is by Bridges we live”. That’s not because we like the way they look, or because they were suddenly in vogue – but because bridges, networks, connections between people and places enrich us, intellectually and economically.
By creating connections – in the past, physical ones like this, and increasingly virtual ones within our organisations – that have personal, social and economic utility, we enrich the organisations we work for.
How utility drives adoption of Enterprise Social Networks
How utility drives adoption of
enterprise social networks
– …to enable
– ...to facilitate
– …to create value for
the organisation and
the people in it
Internal, private social
•Focus on utility and purpose
•Start with research
•Understand where there is
•Understand your users
•No 1 driver of adoption is