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Collaboration is Hot … A Report from Social Media Week

Along with my colleague Carlos Dominguez, I had the pleasure of co-keynoting the opening session this week at the Cisco-sponsored day of Social Media Week, a 21-city global forum that brings together company gurus of social media, and those who want to learn more about emerging trends in social and mobile media and share best practices.

It was fun to interact with participants – attending both in person and virtually. Many attendees are still struggling with how to convince their company executives, who continue to be skeptical about the benefits and are also fearful about issues like security, to adopt social media in the enterprise.

The way I see it, companies can either embrace or reject social media. A recent Cisco survey of Gen Y college grads shows that a more embracing philosophy is probably the better course – particularly because surveyed Gen Y’ers say they are more likely to work for a company that encourages social media. And, interestingly, they also say they’re going to break policy if they work for a company that restricts it.

But in my opinion it is broader than “just Gen Y.” The ability to leverage social media enables another modality within the enterprise. Today as consumers we text, chat, and use voice mail, email and extensive video. Why can’t we do all of that at work? Well, when you take a holistic enterprise approach to social you can. And that is where the value lies.

I shared my six steps to prepare, adopt and drive social media and collaboration in the enterprise with the audience:

1-      Culture -- Recognize that adopting social media is a major cultural shift.  We see it as a new source of productivity, one companies can either embrace or reject. We believe the enterprise has to embrace.    

2-      Corporate governance – Adopt a company-wide policy for secure, pervasive and lightly governed social media (reflected in our documented social media code of conduct).  That is, protect the company, minimize risk, have the right security in place, monitor usage and shut down bad behavior.  Allow access to various social media outlets like Twitter and have the right infrastructure to support Cisco blogs.

3-      IT’s role – We want to provide employees with a wide range of social media tools for team information sharing and collaboration in a secure enterprise.  This involves taking a holistic enterprise approach. If you let each function or department determine the tool, you have enabled “stovepipes of collaboration.”  The value of social/collaboration is connecting – connecting departments, people and cross-functional teams.  Connecting must have a holistic vision and technology to enable. Trust your employees to find the best ways to use them to make their jobs easier and better.

4-      Executive engagement and grass roots – Learning new ways of working with new tools takes time and effort, and employees don’t always have the time or inclination to try new things.  We asked our executives to serve as role models and to showcase for all employees the “right” way to use social media.  Companies must also simultaneously enable “grass roots.” Both book ends must work together to get the full value.

5-      Integration into work/life –  Social is a catalyst for work-life integration. It enables the employees to stay connected while at the office, at the soccer field or at home. It makes the employees more productive and happier.

6-      Measuring business value – We’re starting to see and measure the benefits of social media tools in our enterprise – comparing the way we used to work with the way we work today, and measuring the difference. 

I was pleased to see – via participants’ Tweets – that these themes resonated, particularly the need to monitor and shut down bad behavior as well as the importance of showing business value.  By showing that you can effectively “control” social media usage in the enterprise and demonstrating how it benefits your organization, you can more successfully speed adoption.

Happy Collaborating!

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