Working better together

Working better togetherAn awful lot of the posts I write here on DavePress are focused on external communication and collaboration – how organisations can engage and consult better with other people using the web.

But there is massive potential in using social web technology internally as well, though it isn’t something I talk about an awful lot. A project I am working on at the moment with a government organisation, though, is all about how making internal systems, like intranets, a lot more social.

Why might this help? Well, having a social approach to internal systems will make a significant positive difference to the way knowledge and information is managed throughout your organisation.

Just think – if you find something interesting on the web, how do you share it with colleagues? For the vast majority of people, that will mean emailing it round to those you think might also find it useful. There are obvious problems with this:

  • What about the people you don’t know who might find it useful?
  • What happens when someone has a use for that link six months down the line? Will they be able to find it?
  • What about other, related information that others find? How can it be drawn together?

So, even by just taking the simple example of sharing a weblink with colleagues, we can see that not having social software available can reduce the effectiveness of the use of knowledge and information within an organisation.

There are lots of other examples, though, including:

  • Communicating between teams – how does one team know what the other does? Having a static page describing general activities doesn’t really help.
  • Collaborating across teams and departments – if you aren’t sat near the people you are working with, it’s hard to work together effectively without using social tools
  • Finding people you need – ‘yellow pages’ style people finders suck. How do you find people based on their skills, abilities and talents, not by their job description? How can you locate colleagues who are interested in something?
  • Group editing of documents – how many times have you emailed a document round for review, then faced the unenviable task of updating it in line with everyone’s edits? It’s a nightmare and a better form of collaborative authoring is needed.
  • Sharing personal learning, and making it social – I’ve written a fair bit about social learning spaces here. Most organisations now encourage employees to have personal development plans and to seek out the learning they need to to do their jobs better. What happens to the learning from a course though after someone has attended it? It stays in the head of the individual.
  • Creating a sense of community in an organisation – while face to face events are vital, what could be done online to foster a common sense of purpose and culture?

It seems pretty obvious to me that just as external facing websites should no longer be seen as a medium for pushing content out to an audience, the same is also true of intranets. Actually, it’s probably even more important to ensure that internal systems are as social as possible.

There are a number of ways in which social software can work for better internal communication and collaboration, and a number of different routes to take.

I’ll be looking at some of these over a few posts this week, all categorised together as Working Better Together. I hope they are useful and do please contribute via the comments, especially with examples of good stuff already happening!