Holes in the Dam

March 1, 2009 — Leave a comment

Sounds like an ominous title, and it could be, just depends what the dam represents; in this case, it’s work as usual.  I’m starting to see some small holes that will eventually lead to major culture changes, and the latest step my company has taken in that direction flew completely under the (my) radar.  

While we are piloting Lotus Connections, it’s not having the success or effect we’ve thought.  There are many different reasons attributing to the lack of fanfare around this launch, but those are for another post.  Because we run Notes, we thought we’d reap significant advantages by installing Connections however, the results aren’t there.  As an added degree of difficulty, there’s been lots of hoopla around this pilot and it’s been hard to live up to the hype.  

Enter the acquisition of an Enterprise RSS solution.  I thought I was ‘plugged-in’ but I had no idea we were even investigating this type of tool.  It’s a big company, what can I say?  Anyway, as soon as I found out, I immediately got added to the pilot group and started setting up my feeds (imported right from Google Reader – very slick).  It is AWESOME.  It looks (limited to corporate branding, so there’s only so much we can do here) and feels like a real web-app.  It’s intuitive and does exactly what you’d expect it to do.  This is not an another enterprise app.  

After I imported my feeds (did I mention how easy it was to be able to import them from Google Reader?) the first thing I noticed was that the team running the pilot, instead of sending out updates through email, was sending updates/tips&tricks/how-to’s/FAQs as feeds through the tool.  No emails!  How smart is that?  They get it.  Let me get take a slight diversion here…

…Each day, beginning at 12:00am my Blackberry vibrates for about 3 minutes straight.  I get hit, as most employees do, with automated emails from the different systems/communities/tools/etc… we use at work.  Very rarely do I care about any of the content in the email, but there is an occasion when I need to look at them.  99% of the time these emails get deleted, it’s usually the first thing I do in the morning before I get my coffee.  It’s  really the only thing I do all day that doesn’t require me to think.  

My point here is this:  they aren’t using email.  The automated email issue is easily solved with the enterprise RSS reader; and because automated email affects so many people in the company I predict we’re going to start to see a major culture shift.  This is the tip of the iceberg.  It may seem minor at first, but employees (especially the most reluctant to change) need to be able to see the power that these tools can provide.  Getting rid of ‘junk’ email is something everyone wants and we’re now providing an elegant, intuitive solution to that problem.  This is a small win that we can point to, and say ‘if you liked that, let me show you a few other things…’

This win puts a small hole in the dam of work as usual.

 

PS – I think it’s important to mention the difference in approach used in marketing the RSS capability .vs Lotus Connections pilot.  The Connections pilot utilized a top-down strategy, everyone knew it was coming and therefore it is trying to live up to inflated (unachievable) expectations.  Everyone has been waiting for this solution, and they want it to be much more than what it is.  To be honest, it’s not fair.  Connections isn’t a bad tool, it’s just been promised to deliver beyond its capability.  Expectations weren’t set appropriately.  It will be hard to be anything but a disappointment.  

The Enterprise RSS solution, on the other hand, was able to stay in the shadow of Connections.  No one was expecting it to be the panacea…no one was really expecting it at all.  It’s easy to exceed expectations when there aren’t any.  They will benefit from viral marketing as well; workers will either stumble upon it themselves or they will hear about it from their colleagues, not their supervisors (and that’s important).  

There is a very good change management lesson to be learned when it comes to introducing social media capabilities to the enterprise.

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