Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bosch - when use cases support connections

When it comes to engaging about 290,000 staff in 50 different countries, getting them to collaborate in over 20,000 online communities of the enterprise social network (ESN) is about as high a challenge as you can get.

Frank Bock is the Project Director responsible for Enterprise 2.0 adoption at the German engineering and electronics company Bosch. Since the beginning of 2012 he has worked on making Bosch Connect, the IBM Connections- based internal platform, the enabler of a new way of working and communicating inside the company.

"We started in autumn 2012 with the pilot phase. From month to month, we allowed the user base to grow while implementing the use cases that early adopters were discovering when interacting on the platform."

Use cases are anecdotes that show users the steps for achieving a specific goal through the platform. In that sense they are highly educational and can help employees to get up to speed with the tool.
Bock believes that it was thanks to the adoption of those existing use cases that in autumn of 2013 more than 40,000 members were already on-board.

That was also the time when they opened Bosch Connect up to all the associates.

The Experience City community - the power of use cases

But in a highly complex organisation with hundreds of units and business areas, describing some use cases to general employees can be difficult. "Because of the specificity of the type of work and interactions, they can be hard to explain as well as to comprehend. At the beginning we had some strong discussions around which ones to implement."

For example, a successful yet not easy to analyse use case was about dealing with product and component related 'Target Figures' within their distributed production network.

"It took us more than one year to sort out how to run those processes entirely on a virtual community. But, once that was achieved, the people working on that project were able to increase transparency and in parallel reduce administrative efforts and e-mails. They gained a great deal of efficiency via doing all the communications through the ESN."

To build wider adoption the E2.0 project team decided to focus on international use cases. "We have a huge number of associates working together around the world on different topics or projects. So, we wanted to give attention to those 'virtual teams.' They generally have the biggest problems when it comes to synchronize information and relationships, and the biggest need to use the platform to collaborate."

In addition, the E2.0 team described common and recurring ‘daily work’ procedures, which everybody benefits from by transferring them to Bosch Connect. "They can be simple examples like preparing a meeting on the ESN. Before using the platform it could have taken us several exchanges of emails to define the agenda, themes and people involved. That now has changed. Our goal is to motivate more and more users to adopt Bosch Connect by showing them convincing examples and success stories."

But, finding and sharing use cases is something that anyone can and should do to help others familiarize with the new ways of working. "Nearly every associate has something to recommend about how to use the network to improve the job."

For that reason the company has created a specific community called Experience City which has about 6,500 members and about 15,000 visits per month. This has become the de facto group for posting and discovering all "the experiences, use cases, support issues and FAQ. Everything that we learn about working on IBM Connections goes there."

Inside Experience City there is also a list of success stories that the E2.0 team likes to highlight above others. "Those use cases are the most relevant because they show a strong benefit for our daily business."

Top-down and bottom up - getting the balance right

To build engagement the E2.0 project uses a strategy that combines a top-down with a bottom-up approach. The former involves strategic thinking and business acumen.

"Top-down means that we are trying to find spots within the management where Bosch Connect could really support the business. We are working on finding strategic use cases with the leadership to get vibe and support from them."

By contrast, the latter relies on the power of motivation. "Within the bottom-up approach we established an ambassadors programme with a global network of volunteers helping their colleagues to adopt new ways of working and the tool."

Finding volunteers is not a demanding job. "It is quite easy to find 'evangelists' on the platform because they are very motivated. And, generally we receive great support from them when asking for help. We give them more background information and good arguments about why building an enterprise 2.0 – a highly connected company – is a necessity for the business."

But, more than anything else it is the opportunity to 'lead by example' that incentivises employees to volunteer. "In a traditional enterprise leading is not something easily achievable unless you are in a boss role. So, being an ambassador is an opportunity to lead by example and further develop within the business."

Leadership on Board, literally

Among the leadership there are some great supporters and active users who are "promoting the platform and becoming a role model for their teams."

This can take the form of blogging and can be very powerful to create awareness on topics with strategic relevance. "For example, management blogs allow direct exchange and dialogue between management and associates. They help to establish feedback channels in all directions and to serve as a barometer for important topics. The result is a better understanding of strategic and key issues on all levels."

Promoters at all management levels support Bosch Connect and are visible whenever there is an important internal campaign and the need to discuss ideas for new products or services.

Community is about business
The overall rule when creating a community is that "it has to support the business."

Among the over 20,000 groups there are many examples that have been highly successful. One of the most favourite for Bock is the Powertrain Community which helps to combine ‘knowledge islands’ throughout the Bosch world. About 1,100 members are able to network, share their knowledge and collaborate on new innovations about powertrains. It increases the relevance of what is shared while reducing the redundancy of communications. "Since using this group the e-mail volume within the project team has been decreased by around 40%."

Another popular community is the Bosch Experts Organisation, where "there is a lot of expertise available." And he really means a lot - there have been 13,000 Bosch associates assigned as experts for a specific topic. They have special understanding of the different elements of the business and provide their knowledge across many sub-communities divided by topic.

Training for you
Training is instrumental to leverage awareness about Enterprise 2.0 and Bosch Connect. "Employees can choose among different offers."

Beside the regular programme with web-based trainings, tutorials as well as classroom trainings, there is what Bock calls the On-boarding wizard. It is a online tutorial with links to communities and content relevant to newcomers: "When a user enters the platform for the first time, that wizard gives them a tailored explanation telling them where and how to start. We try to give recommendations based on job roles. For example, if you work as an Assistant, we show you how the tool could be useful to you, which communities can be relevant and so on."

Internal Communications is changing

The model applied to Bosch Connect is inspirational, in particular for the ability to combined different roles within the E2.0 project. "Internal Communications, organizational development and IT have all been key players since we started."

Since the ESN runs in parallel to the existing intranet, the job of Internal Communications has to do with combining the available channels depending on the target group or the communication goal. "We have a great communications team dealing with it by exploring the new dialogue options and sharing experiences throughout the internal Communicator’s community."

The future is integration

The ESN has been around for approximately two years and its impact on the business has been clearly visible. "Everything is faster. It is an amazing way to get in contact with interesting colleagues, content and ideas that help to innovate and drive the company forward."

Future plans include integrating IBM Connections with other online tools such as document management systems. "Right now we have different solutions. It can be difficult for users to understand which one to use depending on the situation. As we continue to grow on Bosch Connect, it is very important that we sort this out."

Bock will also continue to encourage the sharing of use cases. "This is a journey not a self-running thing. The more mature we get with those new ways of working the better the results."

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Trends from Switzerland - platforms, mobile and wearables at work

What does social media inside the large enterprise look like in Switzerland? This is the question I had to ask myself when interviewing Kamales Lardi, Social Media Strategist, Author and Speaker based in the Zürich area.

Lardi, whose background is in corporate strategy and business process optimization, has been consulting big organisations for about 15 years working with brands such as Bacardi Martini, Swiss Re, UBS and Zürich Insurance.

One of the things Lardi is very passionate about is the fact that social technologies have an enormous impact on the way we communicate with each other. "It all started in 2007 when working for Zürich Insurance. I was part of the internal strategy team for Switzerland, assessing the effect of technology on the insurance industry. This was an interesting exercise. Things like Second Life and social media were quite new at that time."

"Based on that assessment I realised the huge potential of social technologies to change how people and corporations relate.

"In the past we were used to have one or two lines of communications for business interactions; today, we have numerous lines, formats and styles. And, that is here to stay."

Social has become mainstream, yet not strategic

Since the early 2000s the use of social media in Switzerland has changed substantially. "At the beginning a significant part of my work was focused on proving that those technologies were business relevant. Over the last two years however, I have seen social media increasingly becoming a part of the mainstream business environment. Companies understand that they need to use it as part of their business communications because this is the way their key stakeholders want to interact."

Yet, Lardi believes that the strategic element is not there yet. "Most organisations that I have had experience with use those channels mostly for Marketing and PR, whereas I see their potential across the entire business value chain."

I want my own channel

Another growing trend that Lardi has seen since the end of the last year pertains to the companies that are more mature in social media use, "the enterprises with large Facebook or Twitter communities, for example."

She notes that those businesses are now developing their own channels. "Instead of relying on third party platforms they want to have the community posting on their own environment."

This applies both internally and externally. "I have been seeing many companies building customised employee applications as well as trying out new ways to channel customers' interactions within the corporate domain."

Internal communications still lagging behind

In the Swiss market, as in the rest of Europe generally speaking, the situation could be improved for internal communications. "The use of social technologies for employee interactions is still lagging behind."

"Companies are willing to test out new forms of communications to build satisfaction with the customer, and eventually generate revenues. That is good. But, there is still the need to convince organisations that social technologies are also a great way to engage with staff."

This is partly due to the culture and partly to the fear of change. "Traditional structures are challenged. There is an element of flattening the organisation for which staff have direct access to information and people as never before. Traditional management environments perceive internal social networks as a threat as opposed to an opportunity. There is a fear of loss of control."

The good of employee advocacy

Lardi believes that there are many reasons for which engaging employees through internal social networks is crucial. "Firstly, it is a great training environment to familiarize employees with social technologies. As a result, when employees could become strong advocates for the company when they use external social media platforms, especially in times of crisis. For example, if customers criticise or complain about something on social media, if properly trained, employees can step in by providing the right direction and answers - ultimately - mitigating the issue."

Employees can also provide invaluable feedback and innovative ideas for whatever new technology a company wants to implement. "There is a lot of potential in testing new solutions with groups of staff before officially launching them. I have seen plenty of examples when companies have made big mistakes online. Having had a group of staffers with whom to pilot and pre-test could have helped tremendously."

And, indeed there is the crucial benefit of building a stronger culture. "Involving staff and making them feel part of the community increases the chances of engaging with them directly. Not so much to influence what they are doing or thinking but to establish a better understanding among each other and with the organisation."

Swiss Re - when collaboration gets it right 

There are great examples of the successful implementation of social technologies inside Swiss enterprises. One of them comes from the reinsurance company Swiss Re, where Lardi helped with the launch of their Jive-based platform back in 2008.

"At that time the environment was very siloed. Departments were not collaborating with each other. They were hiring a big number of external consultants like myself. There was not full awareness and visibility of their people's skillset."

Lardi was tasked with launching a business strategy to ensure better communications among staff of the different functions. "As part of that exercise we looked at implementing a collaborative environment. The challenge was to identify exactly what employees wanted."

The team created a temporary discussion forum on Swiss Re intranet. "We posted open-ended questions such as: 'What do you wish for to improve internal communications? What are the things that are working well? What other things you need to communicate better with your colleagues?'"

All employees were invited to give their answers. As a result Lardi collected over 300 pages of inputs. She then used a technology provider to do an unstructured text analysis to find out key words and themes, which ultimately formed the basis for defining the user requirements for the new collaborative space.

Find your influencers

But, there is something more about the Swiss Re story that Lardi is particularly enthusiastic about. "The whole piece about engagement."

Once the company had identified the requirements, evaluated the platforms and come up with a solution for collaboration, they had to find a creative way to help their people getting on board. "Key influencers were identified to support the platform adoption. It did not matter what role or position they had within the organisation. They would be 'normal' employees, but very popular and with large networks across the business."

Those influencers were ultimately invited to try out the Jive space. And, if they liked it, they were asked to sign up a short agreement for which they would be starting to promote the network among their colleagues.

"Because the requirements were so well defined, the use cases were business relevant and employees liked the platform as soon as they tried it up, they began promoting it."

So, it was almost a grass root approach. "It was compelling to see different types of staff going to the management teams saying that they wanted to start working on that virtual environment officially."

Don't underestimate the power of competition

Another useful way to boost adoption was by creating a sense of competition between the different Swiss Re departments. "Through elements of gamification we involved the various areas of the business with uploading useful content as well as creating groups on the platform. It was nice to observe how employees started to present themselves in the best possible way."

At the end of the first year the company launched Our Space Oscars, an awards initiative that prized the departments with the best presence on Jive.

Since 2008, the overall results have been remarkable: "Seven weeks after the rather silent global launch of Our Space more than 61% of the potential users were on board, 600 had created content and 375 groups had been formed. Today, it is increasingly becoming a fully embedded part of their internal communications."

The rise of mobile apps...

Switzerland has over 54% of penetration rate for smartphones. As such, companies are very likely to explore apps as an innovative way to communicate with their stakeholders.

Reflecting back to last year, Lardi remembers a project at UBS where she supported the activation planning. The bank decided to use a new approach to engage with customers by launching a game app called 'Quiz and Fly'. "The app was designed for having fun. Part of the game involved flight simulations; the other part required people to answer some simple questions."

The brand message was embedded in a non-invasive way. "More than 70% of the questions were general knowledge, only about 30% were UBS related."

Quiz and Fly ended up working very well and won the Best of Swiss Apps Bronze prize.

...inside the enterprise too. But, how?

The use of apps is not uncommon inside the enterprise too. "For example, the Swiss Radio and Television is using a mobile application for delivering corporate communications, latest news and trends to its staff who are frequently on the go."

The internal communications app has meaning and value. "But as a next step, I would like to see companies move past pushing content to actually engaging with employees."

Wearables at work

Wearable technology is another hot trend entering the Swiss market. "For examples, some organisations are using Fitbit at work."

Lardi talks about an insurance company that launched a 'Fitbit challenge' to engage staff around health and fitness. "They created an internal campaign giving every employee the wearable device, together with access to an app and related website.

"The target for staff was to virtually climb Mount Everest within a couple of weeks. They would track their progress through the wearable technology and see it through the site. At the end of the program employees who did the bigger number of steps were given a prize. It was a simple idea, yet effective."

Lardi appreciates the ability of such initiatives to create a sense of community while having fun and build positive habits. "For example, staff start getting together at lunch to go for a run or a walk."

Ultimately, technology and community engagement need to go hand in hand. "The technology enables better and faster engagement. It amplifies the chances to communicate and interact with the community. Yet, you need a meaningful purpose, a common goal that members can relate to. That is the key."

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Buzz - the power of an employee app inside Nationwide

The British mutual financial institution Nationwide is the largest building society in the UK. Today, around 17,000 employees are serving 15 million customers in specialities including retail financial services, mortgages, savings and banking, credit card and personal loans, insurance, investments and protection. 

As the business becomes more and more reliant on mobile to communicate externally, the company is implementing a full digital workplace strategy, which includes giving staff the ability to access corporate content from their mobile devices.

Buzz, the internal communications app based on APP:IC by Sequel Group, sits within that strategy. It is a hybrid application that delivers news articles and other information useful to employees. 

Testing Buzz

The approach used with Buzz has been tactical, starting with a trial within a small internal crowd of around 60 senior managers, rather than launching it broadly as the official employee app for the entire Nationwide workforce.

"When you build a digital strategy for the entire organisation you need to understand all the different technologies that you are delivering as well as their impact on your audiences," says Intranet Innovation and Optimisation Manager Paul Wheeler. 

"We are transforming our old intranet, which is not mobile at present. We are also delivering new BYOD policies. The effect of those initiatives is big for the business. That is why we chose to test the app with a modest audience first."

Wheeler's team wanted to understand what the cultural change looks like, how quickly the company can implement a full mobile experience across the organisation and what the key priorities are. Also, "we wanted to see if we could improve communications with targeted groups, such as our management teams."

Buzz was introduced at an internal event in November. "All our senior managers came along with their corporate iPads. We made a presentation for them on how to download the app, how to use it and its key benefits."

Wheeler's team spent the whole day testing Buzz with the managers. "If there were any queries and questions we were there ready to answer them."

Buzz - what it is exactly?

"The beauty of the app is that is highly customisable." Sequel Group helped Wheeler to create a tool relevant to the chosen audience.

Buzz features internal news, industry-wide news and information on events that take place within the business and that are relevant to senior people. It displays social media feeds - Nationwide Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts - as well as leadership blogs.

The internal communications team manually upload the content to the CMS that supports the application. "They review and update information on a daily basis so that it is always specifically relevant to our senior management teams. The task is very simple to do."

Looking for feed-back

Within the last three months, a great deal of feedback has been gathered. For example, they saw that internal news is the most used feature. "Our senior managers want to read information about Nationwide. Everything that is generated internally, as opposed to external news, appeals to them the most."

This represents a big step forward. "Historically, our management teams did not read the news that we posted on the intranet. It was more the general employee who used to do that. But now, thanks to Buzz, this has changed."

The main driver for this change is the ability to access the content while on the go. "50% of our managers are generally on the move. They typically don't have the time to log on to the intranet from their laptop just to read the news. Now, they just click on the app from their mobile device."

The power of rating

Through Buzz employees can rate and recommend any article to their peers, which helps to spark interactivity.

Wheeler believes that there are two others main benefits from rating. "The first one is for the author of the content. They know when an article has been appreciated by their colleagues, and through that understanding they can build further collaboration."

The second key benefit is for the business itself. "We are able to get a view out of the back of the app." For example, they started to see that the articles with the highest ratings are also the ones with videos attached to them. "Articles with videos are more engaging to our senior teams."

Rating also gives Wheeler's team an insight on the type of content employees want to read - "we can  appreciate whether it is business related or more personal content, whether it is high level communication or detailed information...every time they rate the content, we can infer really valuable insights, which we can then act upon to produce future content more appealing and relevant."

Leadership blogs

Leadership blogs have also proved to be very popular on Buzz. Each month every leader has the opportunity to write a post about what they have been working on, and what type of responsibilities they have. That is a chance to raise their profile as well as to interact with colleagues who rate and recommend their posts. "It is another way to boost collaboration."

A good example comes from one of the leadership team working on a project in India. A new business function was operating in that area and they saw a great opportunity in blogging to let everyone know what they were doing and what ther were trying to achieve. "They blogged about what was like living and working in India, how operations were doing in that country, and anything else that could be relevant to colleagues in the UK. Those posts sparked a huge amount of real-time interactions with the rest of the management team."

Push notifications

Another feature that Wheeler rates highly is the ability to send push notifications. "When something interesting is taking place, push notifications are a good way to notify our management quickly and in real-time. So, wherever they are they are kept up to date on the now, rather than relying on historical information like follow-up emails."

Understand the needs of your people

Wheeler's team is costantly talking with their staff, conducting surveys and meeting people to understand their needs and preferences. Based on that listening they are making evolutionary changes to Buzz. For example, someone suggested thaving the ability to go beyond the firewall and book their holidays from the app. "Employees not only want to read news and receive relevant information, but they also want the opportunity to process their own information."

'We do understand that the traditional working environment is thing of the past, and we are now working to make that happen."

Another important feedback was around the ability to collaborate more. Once again Wheeler took notice. "We are now looking at introducing the commenting function. And, once the intranet will be fully mobile, employees will be able to build their own profiles, start to follow each other and collaborate like in an internal social network."

Key learning - experiment

Wheeler believes that using Buzz as an experiment before implementing a broader digital workplace strategy was the right thing to do. "You cannot just launch an application for the sake of going mobile. You need to understand the needs of your audiences and ask yourself, 'Is the application going to the right direction? Is just for internal communications or is also for collaborating? Are there any additional features we should add?'

Ultimately, he thinks that the rest of the organisation will appreciate the tool as much as the senior management does. He appreciates that not everybody is the same and that the cultural change required may take more time depending on the different audiences. Yet, he has not doubts that "the business world has changed and so have the expectations of our people."

The key learnings from Buzz will now inform the development of Nationwide's new web-based mobile intranet which will be rolled out later in 2015.

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Employee engagement in the digital era

Only 41% of organisations believe they have a holistic and strategic approach to employee engagement and advocacy. Just 43% of companies think that they possess a culture of trust and empowerment. Merely 25% of enterprises are using internal social networks effectively.

The numbers come from Altimeter Group's latest study “Strengthening Employee Relationships in the Digital Era.” The research was lead by Founder and Principal Analyst Charlene Li (pictured right) together with Jon Cifuentes and Brian Solis. It was conducted among over one hundred global organisations with the aim of exploring the current landscape of digital employee engagement.

I spoke with Li to gather some key insights from the findings as well as to learn what businesses can do to help their people want to come with them in today's digital world.

Digital employee engagement – what is it exactly?

One of the biggest issues Li encountered when conducting the study was to clarify what constitutes employee engagement in relation to social media activities. It meant different things for different people.

"When I asked companies how they would define digital employee engagement, answers were all over the place. The definition depended on where they sat in the organisation."

However, she found that enterprises are focusing primarily on three types of initiatives: internal collaboration, social empowerment and employee advocacy. "Employees share best practice and interact across departments and geographies through internal digital channels. They are empowered to use social tools to engage with customers. And, they use their own personal accounts to amplify what the company is doing."

Measuring employee engagement

When it comes to measurement Li encourages organisations to: "look at the activities they perform on digital channels."

Li brings attention to the visibility and transparency created by these new tools. "Thanks to analytics you can monitor their networks."

Even more important is to measure the impact that their initiatives have on the business, "such as faster innovation or better customer service."

Ultimately, it is about making connections, "understanding your employees and the extent to which their own journey is aligned to the one of the company."

Enterprise social networks - between talk and action

It was striking for Li to see that "despite all the talk around the benefits of internal digital channels, these technologies were not used at a company-wide level in almost two third of the enterprises that we surveyed."

The problem is not the technology. "The main barrier is adoption. And, this is about engagement. Employees didn't know why and how to use these tools to improve their work."

Li believes that it comes down to a lack of vision and commitment from the top. "Over and over again we saw that the level of employee engagement was positively correlated to level of leadership engagement."

Yet, some organisations are doing a good job. One of Li's favourite examples comes from TD Bank Group.

"In 2008 they started with internal social media for sharing news articles as well as asking for feedback. While there was anxiety about allowing employees to have a voice and share experiences they discovered that having an open dialogue helped resolve issues it wouldn’t have otherwise known about." In fact after the initial pilots the bank decided to launch their IBM Connections-based enterprise social network (ESN) to all their 85,000 employees in Canada and the US.

Beside, Li likes to emphasise that "in the past year, they have also experimented with advocacy. They trained 500 employees to use their own social media accounts on sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to engage with customers and support the brand on behalf of the bank."

Li also likes to share examples of great leadership. "David Thodey of Teltra Australia. "He is very active internally. The same applies to external social channels. He listens to people, shares content, and engages on a one-to-one basis. He is very driven.

"Being able to understand both staff and customers on digital channels, like Thodey does, is a crucial skill for today's leaders."

Strategy first
Li has no doubt that to get the adoption right the primary focus should be given to defining a solid strategy. "The technology is a point solution, and there are many tools out there. First and foremost, you need to be very clear on what you want to achieve and why. Only then, can you effectively map out how the tools can enable you to reach the goals."

It may sounds obvious but, "unfortunately many companies are still starting from the technology without clearly understanding why it is important to them. Hence, they fail when communicating with their employees."

So, her suggestion is being very specific and goal-oriented. "That is the foundation of digital employee engagement."

In that respect, Li thinks that internal communicators have an important role to play. They are in the best position to go across the entire organisation and glue people's views together.

"They have the permission to gather all the different voices and ideas that spread inside the enterprise. From there, they can start forming a holistic view of the level of employee engagement. Consequently, they can dramatically help the business to create and deliver an impactful strategy."

Mobile, mobile and mobile

"A lot of engagement now happens outside of the traditional office."

Indeed, the vast majority of workers today don't have a fixed desk and desktop. Li likes to talk about "all the people in retail, travel, hospitality and banking for example. Many of them work remotely, while on the go, or in branches dealing directly with the customer."

Reaching those employees through their mobile devices has become one of the best ways to engage with them in real-time. "It lets the company keep a two-way dialogue despite of the geography. It allows everyone to understand what is going on in the rest of organisation. For instance, by capturing an image or video and quickly sharing it with colleagues from other locations."

Do you really want engaged employees?

The last but not least piece of advice Li likes to share is to "be very clear on what you, as an organisation, mean by engagement and what kind of relationships you want to build with your people." She double stresses that as she is convinced that in some cases, especially in more traditional corporations, "companies do not really want engaged employees. Engaged employees challenge you, they ask you a lot of questions and they want to do things differently."

While this is one of the greatest opportunities for improving the business, "unfortunately, for many organisations that is too much. They cannot cope with that. They end up with asking their people to go back to their normal job."

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate