No surprise, it looks like we're headed for a sustained period of tough economic times.
The hurricane has blown through, metaphorically speaking. Now it's many long months of cleanup and getting back to normal, or maybe redefining what "normal" might be.
But there might be a silver lining to this economic storm.
A Quick Recap
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know we're on a journey towards social media proficiency.
We've had our internal platform up for over a year, and we now have all sorts of external communities heading towards our external platform group.
But -- challengingly -- not enough people have been "thinking differently" about how to get things done.
Sure, we can revel in many successes. But against a vast backdrop of people, behaviors and legacy business processes, we've only just begun.
Forcing The Situation
It's very likely that my company, like many, will be rethinking its budgets for 2009.
There probably won't be a lot of budget for "expensive" stuff: in-person forums, face-to-face meetings, slick advertising and the like.
There's been no official mandate in this regard yet. But smart business managers (mostly those in the marketing world) can sense the change of economic seasons, and are looking around for more cost-effective mechanisms for reaching and engaging with the outside world.
Besides, even if we can afford a nice event in a nice venue, who can afford to attend?
Randy (who runs our external community group) tells me his phone is ringing off the hook. All sorts of internal groups are coming out of the woodwork, interested in the idea of a near-zero-cost mechanism for achieving their marketing and engagement goals outside the company.
The good news? As a result, we're accelerating change.
The challenges? None of these new groups are especially proficienct at what it takes to design, build and launch an external community. More problematic, they bring a host of pre-conceived notions about what they think they want, how they think they're going about doing it.
It's not that they don't know anything, it's what they think they know turns out to be incorrect.
All of this can be fixed through patient conversation and engagement. But that takes time, and that takes application of very scarce internal resources. So Randy is prioritizing ruthlessly.
Aggressive prioritization has its challenges as well. Certain groups may feel they're not being taken care of adequately, which may create the conditions for them feeling they can go off and do their own thing. Which, of course, defeats the logic of a centralized external community function to accelerate proficiency and maintain some coherency.
But it's a good problem to have, all things considered. Rather than selling the idea of external communities, we're responding to unprecendented demand. And, having been a marketing guy for many years, I'd rather have too much demand rather than too little :-)
Time On Your Hands?
There's been a recent surge of activity on the internal platform as well.
I can't exactly explain it, but one theory is people having a bit of extra time on their hands. Reduced travel expenditures means less time travelling. Fewer big initiatives are being worked on (economic picture being uncertain and all), so there's no traditional outlet for people who like to work on new stuff.
I think there's also a basic human need to reconnect with people when the weather is cold outside. I see all sorts of new conversations springing up, and new levels of participation in older ones.
It's All About Accelerating Change, Isn't It?
Way back when we started on this journey, we saw this as more of a social engineering challenge than anything to do with technology etc. We had to fundamentally change how people communicate and collaborate in a work setting.
Ideally, you'd like to use the "carrot" approach: this is better, this will make you more productive, this is good for the company, this is good for your career, and so on.
But it looks like we have a "stick" at our disposal now: can't keep doing business as usual, you'll have to try some new things to achieve your objectives, time to get with the program, etc.
The nice thing about a carrot-and-stick approach is that you can beat people over the head with both ...