This whole subject of social media proficiency and enterprise 2.0 begs for analogies, so let me try a new one on you:
Getting good at this stuff is like an airplane trip.
At the outset of an airplane journey, it's all hassle. Finding the right flight, getting to the airport, dealing with security, disposing of all your liquids, taking off your shoes -- awful stuff. At the gate, it's lousy food, no seats, delays and weather, airplanes full of cranky people -- none of it fun.
Eventually, it's time for takeoff. Lots of rumbling, vibrations and strange noises. If you've never flown before, you look around and wonder "is all of this normal?".
Finally, you break through the clouds. The captain turns off the seat belt sign. Everyone relaxes and settles in. Drinks are served. You're on your way.
Well, we're pretty much at that stage in our journey. We're at cruising altitude.
A Brief Update
What prompted this post was simple: I'm meeting many more people who are at the earlier stages in the journey. They're wrestling with multiple issues that we're well past, and we don't give any thought to any more. For us, things are pretty serene, and we're making good progress towards our goals.
I came back from an extended trip, and looked at the internal platform. I saw a continuous stream of beefy, engaged business-oriented conversations on dozens of topics. I saw that we had a half-dozen new communities springing into formation, each with a high degree of business value, and conducting themselves with confidence and enthusiasm.
We've entirely lost the golly-gee-whiz-this-is-all-so-new feeling that permeated the activites of the first few months. Everyone seems to know what to expect, how to engage, and how to leverage the new social computer.
Nobody asks for justification any more. Nobody wonders how this platform compares and contrasts with other alternatives. Nobody is waiting for the Official Word that this is a sanctioned and supported activity.
Sure, there's more to do. There's a list of features we'd like to implement -- some of them we may get from our vendor, others we'll probably have to do ourselves.
We have certain audiences that are still unaware of what this is all about, and how to use it. But they're finding out slowly, in their own way. I have budget people coming to me who want to talk seriously about long-term funding and staffing.
Example 1 -- Content Generation
EMC creates a lot of content. Sometimes, I think we don't make products, we just make stuff that talks about our products.
Historically, this stuff went to the Official Corporate Portal. There was a long and somewhat cumbersome process to get stuff reviewed, approved and posted on the portal. There were insufficient mechanisms for sorting and finding stuff -- and presenting stuff in an attractive fashion. And, like most Corporate Portals, it slowly turned into a big pile of stuff that many people didn't think was entirely useful, and could be better.
Now, it seems that most content comes through our internal social media platform on its way to the corporate portal. Preliminary documents are posted, discussed, debated and revised. The comments are sometimes more interesting than the document itself.
It's much easier to find stuff. Our "community model" helps a lot -- you go to a community that seems to be talking about what you're interested in, and you look around. Search works too, as do the tag clouds and groups.
But, best of all, when you find something you're interested in, you see the people who are involved in the process. And -- after all -- weren't you really after the people, rather than the content?
Example 2 -- Reach Out And Touch Someone
If you're in a company of 40,000 people, and happen to be at one of the more remote outposts, sometimes you don't even know where to start. You don't know exactly what the problem is, or how to ask the question, or where to start looking.
We're starting to see more "IHAC" questions. "IHAC" stands for "I have a customer ..." followed by a statement of the situation, the ideas that the local team are working with, and an open-ended what-do-you-suggest question.
People chime in with what they know, and what they would do. Sometimes, a debate erupts between contributors as to exactly what the best approach might be.
The posting team not only gets access to a wealth of perspectives, opinions and experiences -- but now they've got a virtual team to work with. And, of course, the entire discussion lays there waiting for the next person who comes along.
Very powerful stuff.
Example 3 -- Mac Support
I don't know about you, but I want to use a Mac at work. So do lots of people. And, like many companies, EMC doesn't officially support Apple products in the workplace. The reason? It's too expensive. Fair enough.
Spontaneously, a "Mac At EMC" group sprang into existence. Wikis were created about how to configure things, what to buy, how to work around various problems. I've been using it a while, and it meets my needs. Sure, I can't lob a ticket into IT and have them fix things -- I have to take a more hands-on approach -- but it works, and it works well.
Just recently, the group figured out how to make the new iPhone 3G work on the corporate network. Now I want one of those, too.
Incremental cost to EMC: zero. That is, until we have to upgrade our entire remote access network to support a bazillion iPhones ;-)
Example 4 -- The Old Guard Gets On Board
Like any company that's grown through acquisition, there's pockets of Old Guard and New Guys at EMC. Subtle but powerful lines divide people into tribes. Inevitable in any large company, right?
The Old Guard has always done things in certain ways, and done them with people they know and trust. Comfortable for them, but not ideal from a strategic perspective.
As of late, several communities aligned with Old Guard interests have sprung into existence. They've gotten over their discomfort, and fully embraced open communities of like-minded people. There's no way I could have made them do this -- they had to do this under their terms and conditions.
I don't know how to put a number on this implicit -- yet very significant -- change in mindset. I can't measure it, but I know it's important, and very valuable.
Back To My Analogy
Analogies only work up to a point. And you can't say that anyone really likes being on an airplane -- at least, for those of us who travel regularly.
But we like where we are. Even if we did nothing more to improve the platform, our methodologies, get more people engaged, show better ROI, etc. -- we could stop just where we are, and take a justified victory lap.
But we're not going to do that, because we have a destination in mind ...
And Now We're Ready To Go Outside
I don't know if you remember this, but my grand plan was to work on internal proficiency for a while, and then go outside the firewall in a thoughtful way, armed with thousands of people at EMC who know what this stuff is all about.
Guess what? We're ready.
More on that later.