By adaptive - February 27th, 2013

For many organisations how they place the management of social media within their business’ hierarchy to gain the most benefit is a critical decision to get right.


Useful Social Media spoke with IBM about how they approach this vita component of their business and how they utilise social media activity across their enterprise.
An interview with Jon Machtynger, IBM's CTO for IBM Collaboration Services.
Jon Machtynger, CTO Collaboration Services, IBM

[Q] How does IBM map its organisation to create an integrated approach to social media activity?

[JM] This is an interesting question because a map assumes that you know how you want people to behave and how they want to interact. This also assumes that you can see into the future and understand what maps will address the future needs of the company.
There are some general connecting principles and they support business processes, corporate policies, and organisational silos. There are many other maps that aren’t so obvious.  There are informal maps that allow the ‘right thing’ to be done on behalf of an employee or a customer. These have always been there.  Aligning formal structures can be difficult, as organisations run up against many ill-defined problems. 
There are some very structured tasks that need to be structured for many good reasons such as legislative compliance, reduction of fraud, accountability of resource, highlighting risk etc. However, creating structure is an easy trap to fall into. Many things don’t need over-formalisation.
Organisations tend to hire bright capable people who are motivated to do the right thing for the right reasons. An informal framework doesn’t mean that there is no accountability, or guidance from above. It just means that there are many ways of achieving the same objective. Process is like security. The instinctive thing is to lock everything down at the cost of access to valuable data. Some information certainly fits into that category, but a lot doesn’t. Process and a social support system is the same. Profiling what goes where helps reduce the cost of managing this. How systems then integrate securely within that web of social connectivity is more appropriate.   
When this is understood, deciding on how people communicate within and outside the firewall is much easier. They can get guidelines about behaviour, subject matter, and can be given progressive access to more information. The social graph as it applies to systems is the map.

[Q] Does IBM integrate social media into HR (training and social media usage policy creation) to create a unified face from multiple departments so they all speak with one brand voice and strive towards the same business goals?

[JM] Social media is not the end-game. It’s there to support good business and personal objectives. To a large extent, these are the same thing. I don’t believe that it’s HR’s job to drive someone’s career. It’s for the employees to manage, with HR providing as much support as possible. When there is a culture of career and personal support, business objectives are often easier to communicate and there is more consistency behind the message. There is a shared identity and communicating organisation values is both easier but subtler. It’s less reliant on a pure formal communication process. The network will also communicate those values through back channels and informal discussions. 
So, how can your peers share their experiences of managing the process? What worked well, how could things be improved? How does HR take the feedback and incorporate it where appropriate into the existing framework? For example, on-boarding a new employee can be complex. Therefore, by creating a socially defined activity template, where other colleagues can contribute advice, dramatically reduces the time it takes to complete normal tasks such as ordering a mobile phone, setting up internal profiles, linking with relevant internal experts, mentors etc. 
In addition, it’s assumed that people incorporate a social identity across both sides of the firewall. Within IBM they’re an IBMer, but outside IBM they speak as an individual. We have policies [] and training that provide guidance on appropriate behaviour. These aren’t new rules, because professional behaviour is already expected, and we sign up to these on an annual basis. 
However, the scale of the impact of a positive or negative communication is now more pronounced than ever before. Making this clear to a broad range of generations and people within a very large organisation makes sense.  So these tools can and should be used to support an individual’s expertise and eminence. It doesn’t mean that we should go into communication overdrive. We don’t need excessive noise though so considered use of these capabilities is key. 

[Q] How does IBM connect its business together, and how do policies support brand consistency?

[JM] There are a number of things that are important here: 
  1. Culture
  2. Adoption
  3. Supporting personal agendas
Use of these tools to support a new way of working won’t sky rocket overnight. There are instances of viral tools, but these are often for all practical purposes a ‘new gadget’ that supports a specific set of issues. This isn’t evidence of long-term cultural change. 
IBM’s roadmap has been long. It’s not due to the technology, but how we as a community chose to incorporate those tools into our lives and how it affected our corporate culture. We share more because we’re sharing with others of a similar culture. 
We open up more, because others are listening. We listen more because they’re our peers and have an identity that transcends a job role or job title. The depth of others in terms of their experience, background, links to other parts of the organisation and externally is so clear that their value as people is more to the forefront of our interactions. This culture supports consistency, and takes advantage of the differences where relevant. It’s not about driving everyone down to the same vanilla definition, but accentuating the value from our differences.
This is an area that is often forgotten about during an IT rollout. You can’t make people use a technology that is by definition flexible enough to be used in an infinite number of ways. People collaborate differently, and have preferences to communicate differently. They may be focused on face-to-face, mobile, instant messaging, mail, or through a team-room. It’s therefore important to ensure that systems can be embedded within their preferred way of working to allow them to appreciate its value. 
So, take small capabilities and smuggle them into an existing system.  Allow chat from a browser to an expert, or mobile access to a file store. Allow people to be autonomous in a controlled way, and make it transparent so that a culture of adding personal value is encouraged. This must also be actively supported through communication plans, organisational sponsors, system integration, and personal champions of the technology. It will not happen by itself, but it will take on a momentum. Also be prepared to change over time. What got you here, will not take you there.
Supporting personal agendas
Almost everything we do, we do because it benefits us. It doesn’t mean we’re selfish, and it doesn’t mean that others can’t benefit. So when rolling these tools out, it’s important to highlight how we personally gain from using the tools, and I mean personally as well as organisationally. 
If I save time doing my job, the organisation saves money, increases effectiveness and improves many things leading to possible customer satisfaction. However, I might be recognised as performing over and above. I may be in a position to work flexibly and deal with home matters. I may use that time to highlight other inefficiencies that have a profound process (and therefore revenue) change. After all, we come into work with the aim of getting it done as effectively and pain free as possible.
Social is the ultimate Aspirin because it can address any manner of headaches you’re experiencing. It’s also the ultimate vitamin, because using it promotes longer-term wellbeing. Not only are you addressing your issues, you’re also actively helping others because it comes back and helps you. This isn’t an altruistic agenda. It just makes good sense. For example, I actively share content within IBM and externally. It provides me with a reputation, but it also means that people get the benefit of my content without having to approach me directly. That’s an incredible benefit. 
I’ve reduced mail dramatically, and I have people who want substantially more detail coming to me rather than people who need a more introductory or broader position. They can get a broader position without interacting with me directly. It’s in my files, communities, activities, or meeting rooms. They approach me directly for more detail once they’ve digested the public (or selectively public) information. It’s enriched my interactions and this is what drives me. Other people will have other drivers, but it’s important to ensure that these are possible. 
Within an organisation therefore, let people create non-business communities. They will meet people across the organisation that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Let them do things online that they would have done in the canteen anyway. Surprisingly, many organisational policies don’t seem to reflect their public statements that their employees are first and foremost people, and then employees. This however, is key to getting the most from them.

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