Earlier this year we embarked on a pilot project on Internal Social Networking using a product called Bluekiwi.
I was at the Localgovcamp event on Saturday and ran a session on our experiences and lessons learned. It proved very useful to me as well as others so i thought i would capture that in a blog post.
It is important to note here that whilst i am personally keen on social networking as a way of supporting business transformation, the technology is only one part of enabling the wider business change required to realise the benefits of moving in this direction.
Like most organisations we experience a silo mentality, this isn’t always a negative thing, organisational structures are a form of social network, so they do often make sense, but when you work in large organisations, the ability to share and exchange internal best practice and ideas becomes harder if you don’t have any processes for allowing knowledge etc to be shared.
We also recognised that internal helpdesks are often overloaded with simple requests and common questions. The answers to most of these could be captured in a tool which either allowed the helpdesk to contribute or in our view allow users to submit answers themselves – essentially providing a user support community, much like you see online for products.
We did struggle to really know how the organisation would respond to this pilot and were reluctant to promise anything we didn’t feel a pilot could actually deliver. This did mean that the business case was pretty thin on the ground, the main areas we focused on were around possible reduction in helpdesk calls, ideas forum (only one idea had to really deliver the cost of the pilot to demonstrate value) but we also made a big play on the “potential” opportunities that could be presented when people get together and start interacting and having conversations.
We did know that once people started to engage they would start to see the opportunities for themselves (after all they know their business better than we do) and that is what started to happen. We knew that by “connecting people” in new ways would spark ideas and conversations, we also knew that it would provide new opportunities for surfacing common issues and problems and our hope was that it would become self supporting (after all we all like to chat with our colleague about “stuff”).
We did target some groups, due to the pilot nature, we wanted to focus on enabling groups who could potentially demonstrate value in different ways. So we had a mix of cross directorate groups from different levels of the organisation (no one directly from the front line at this stage) who after conversations with these groups had identified some other groups who they thought they could benefit from being connected to.
We initiated a Pilot Project to help us learn more about how this functionality could offer value – my view was that if we could learn to professionally experience Social Networking inside the council and start to engage with staff in new and exciting ways, it wouldn’t be too much of a step to engage with the public in similar spaces.
However the reality of the pilot was that the business case was pretty thin, and was more about learning lessons and a “leap of faith” then about real metrics and business value.
We are only 3 months into the pilot and we are learning about new opportunities all the time, i will continue to post my thoughts about the benefits and pitfalls.
In the meantime, I thought I would share this video interview that David Wilcox recorded of Rob Gray (Blue Ocean IQ) and Myself at Localgovcamp.