You’ve been hearing about it for a while now. You’ve seen quite a few articles on the subject. It’s even become a hot topic that could very well be brought up at the coffee machine or in a team meeting one Monday morning: “Boss, the team have been discussing setting up a community using enterprise social software. We think it would be very useful. Can we do that?”
And that’s when things start to get tense.
You feel the hesitation that follows the question. That moment where you ask yourself if they really had to ask the question. Because, as a matter of fact, your boss doesn’t have the time read up on the subject. He doesn’t know much about what it involves. And he has no idea of what it could contribute to everyday business.
Clearly, his response will either be a flat “No” or a vague “Yes, why not?!” intended to delay the issue until the next team meeting.
You should start by doing something very simple: reassure him. There are two ways of doing this. Give him some reference points so that he doesn’t feel lost, and dispel certain ideas. Make him want it.
For the reference points, start with a consultant summary, which is always reassuring. Point him in the direction of some good literature in French and English (here, here, or here), and offer him this book when you feel that you’ve reached a certain milestone.
You should then explain to him what the point of it is. Start by dispelling the notion that it’s like Facebook, in the sense that everyone will share their holiday photos and post statuses during breaks. Yes, it’s like Facebook, but it’s dedicated to business. Talk about Viadeo or LinkedIn, their groups and online directories. That might reassure him.
Here, you will find a short list of key benefits that you could put forward (choose the ones that tie in with your specific situation):
For the company itself
- Facilitates collaboration within and between teams, notably those which are far apart
- Reduces the time that it takes to access key information
- Streamlines the communication channels (and notably reduces the number of emails)
- Promotes peer recommendations
- Grants access to “experts”
For the client
- Enhances the effectiveness of commercial activities
- Increases customer satisfaction
- Reduces marketing costs
- Focuses on relevant information
For partners, suppliers, etc.
- Increases access to shared knowledge
- Reduces communication costs
- Facilitates access to ‘experts’
- Creates competitive intelligence
Logically, he should now be interested. Immediately after the defence mechanisms employed against change, I have added the “translation” in brackets and the response you should give just after the arrow:
- That would mean we end up losing time (= I would have to learn a new tool) à Many studies have proven that it leads to an increase in productivity. Indeed, this can be calculated.
- We have already done this (= I don’t want to test something new – I would rather stick to what I know) à It is not incompatible with other collaborative tools! They each have their own purposes. What’s more, email can’t do everything.
- It will be chaos (= I will lose my authority because everyone will talk to each other and the strong personalities will criticise my management) à You will be more aware of conversations than ever, as you will be part of the community.
- There are risks with respect to document confidentiality (= I am worried that some elements are beyond me and that this will come back to haunt me) à In that case, you should ban USB sticks and emails 😉 On the contrary, the community is reserved exclusively for the company’s employees based on their email addresses. Only those who have an account are granted access.
- There isn’t enough internal support (= I don’t know where to start with this “thing”) à This is how you go about opening up a space; it’s very simple. And HR will support the initiative.
- We have other things to be doing (= Everyone is going to spend their time sharing information. Or sharing = communication = time lost = inactivity) à Have you ever noticed the good ideas bandied about during a conversation that were lost because they couldn’t be recorded somewhere? This tool will help us ensure that we no longer lose them.
Clearly, you have to reassure and guide your boss to provide him with pointers for implementation.
Finally, there are certain elements that need covering:
- Who is going to run this community? It could be you, if you are specific about the time spent, so you’re not accused of spending your entire day on it.
- What will you do? Whether you suggest the objectives collectively or not, a “reason why” could resolve issues within the team.
- How do you measure success? Give simple indicators that can nonetheless testify to the activity: the number of documents filed, the reduced number of emails or meetings, the number of comments…
Also, do not underestimate the “innovative” image presented by the people promoting this new way of working. This could be the thing that finally convinces your boss to try and have a “pioneering” image.
Lastly, do not forget that if many companies are aware of the necessity to take this approach, many will not know how to take it or will do so, albeit badly. Get employees to help… After all, it’s in their own interests!