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Archive for December 2011

Companies will be social or not.

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Olivier Zara, author of a book about collective intelligence

Recently, I answered to an interesting question posted by somebody on LinkedIn. The question was related to the statement that businesses are inherently about people and relationship. Despite the fact that technologies allow people to perform higher performances and to communicate, it seems that there is no emphasis on the communication and the collaboration, and that there are divergences of ideas in a same organization. The question was “Should not we bring the social-factor in Business and realize the power of Enterprise 3.0?

To provide an answer to such question, it should be interesting to have a look to the evolution of the companies and the impact of the new technologies on the work processes in the organizations. In this analysis, we will see that we are referring to a range of concepts and that the combination of these concepts is essential to make each of them efficient.

The development of new technologies had a significant impact on the operational processes of organizations. It allowed people of the organizations to develop more ambitious projects, to perform sophisticated tasks and processes, to provide more added values in a shorter period of time. With the development and the integration of the technologies, we moved to a new kind of economy, based on knowledge. But investing into technology is not the only condition to ensure efficient processes and to obtain high results. There are several conditions, the basic principle of management who are more essential to succeed in a company or organization project.

  • People are key players of the organization. With the development of new technologies, people become the owners of sophisticated and complex processes. The development of the expertise in these processes needs a period of time. The return on investment has to be seen on a mid and long term basis. With this level of expertise, of complexity, each member of the organization becomes an essential stakeholder of the organization.

  • People have to subscribe to the values of the project and to have clearly assigned goals. A condition to reach the success of a project is that each member of the organization is looking to the same direction. By having the knowledge of the goals to be reached, they know exactly the usefulness of the tasks and processes they are performing. They can measure the added value they are bringing to the project, and it is a positive factor of motivation.

  • Skills and competences. Technology is a tool. Companies are investing considerable amounts in technologies, but as said early, it is the team members who are the owner of the processes, performed by the technology. The related knowledge to the technology is essential to get an efficient control on it and has to be part of the investment. You cannot reach an acceptable return on investment of your technology if you do not invest in training people.

 All the point I mentioned here are essential to build organization working on a collaborative way. Tools like CRM and other collaborative platforms take more importance in companies, and the development of Web 2.0 leads to the model of Enterprise 2.0. The development of Web 2.0 technologies and the social media are supposed to empower the communication and the collaboration between people. The technical performances of such tools are appreciable and offer a lot of possibilities, to increase the connectivity between people.

With the development of communication and collaboration tools, and the expertise development of people, we hear to talk about the concept of collective intelligence. Organizations and projects become more complex, and a range of competences are needed to lead these projects to success. But each member of the team needs to understand the contribution of his expertise, the interactions with the contribution of the other team member and the potential problems they can encounter and prevent. Team members have to maintain a transversal collaboration. Such collaboration is possible if people are convinced to be part of a project they understand and they subscribed to.

And what about the Enterprise 3.0 ? The definition of Enterprise 3.0 is not very clear, but we trend to a model where companies will be, as far as I understood, “dematerialized”, more virtual. People will work from different locations, from home office. All what can be outsourced will be. In such model, collaborative tools and social media platform usage will be much more important. But it will imply also that people will be and have to be more autonomous, and the key role they are playing will be more important for the organization. This model is an evolution or an upgrade of the previous one, and in some case, the previous one does not work, there is a lot of chance that the new one will not work too. A key component to make work such organization is motivation. We are coming back to the 3 fundamental questions: What, how and why. People know what they have to do, how they will do it, but the most important one is why they have to do it. In other word, what is the goal of the project. With such answer, they can measure their own contribution and added value they bring to the project, and it represents an appreciable feedback in term of career and personal development. All the conditions I mentioned here above become more and more essential as the level of expertise is increasing, as the key role of each people become more important.

There is a clear answer to the asked question. Yes, business is inherently about people and relationship. They have to be driven by the same values the project is based on, and their contributions have to be recognized by the management. The level of their competences will increase their autonomy and their possibilities to make other choices and to move to other projects if they are not satisfied. And in such circumstances, the tension between stakeholders and instability within the organization can increase. The question is to know if companies will be “social” or not, or will we move back to a more traditional model of enterprise.  Wait and see.

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Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 4, 2011 at 19:34