Tag Archives: intranet

What Kind of Online Community Do You Have Behind Your Firewall?

As CIOs and Chief Knowledge Officers bring tools that have been used on the Internet – blogs, wikis, microblogs, profiles – behind the firewall, they tend to expect the same results. "We'll have our own Wikipedia!" Or Facebook…or Twitter – you name it. Unfortunately, as many have already discovered and many more will continue to discover, successful communities are dependent on many variables, from the accessibility, speed, and reliability of the technology to your community managers. Despite the newsletter articles, blog posts, press releases, and conference presentations, many "communities" are nothing more than a new version of the same old Intranet, only with shinier tools.

So, if you're deploying social tools internally, what kind of community is your organization creating?

  • What group/community receives the most visits and/or posts on a particular day?
    1. The Intranet development team
    2. The Social Media/Web 2.0/New Media Community of Practice
    3. The Android/iPhone User Group
    4. An group focused on the core mission/operations
  • On any given day, what % of your organization participates (reading or contributing) in your community?
    • Less than 10%
    • 10% to 49%
    • 50%-74%
    • More than 75%
  • Senior leadership participation can best be classified as:
    1. Shhh! Don't tell them or they'll shut this site down!
    2. Big Brother-ish
    3. Lurking, but not active
    4. Active and insightful
  • If someone posts, "I can't get my email to work on my phone – help!" What kind of response will they get?
    1. Total Silence
    2. "Call the help desk at 1-800-555-5555"
    3. "What problem are you having – maybe I can help?"
    4. "Many people have had issues with this so we created a wiki page to walk you through how to set it up the right way"
  • Your CEO announces large-scale layoffs. You visit your online community later that day – what do you find?
    1. "I'm not going near that one!"
    2. Complaints and criticism
    3. Praise for leadership and the difficult job they have to do
    4. Balanced, professional discussion containing constructive criticism, ideas, and empathy
  • Most of your employee profile pictures look like:
  • Someone publishes a blog post highly critical of a senior leadership decision – what's the reaction?
    1. Trick question – all posts have to be approved by management and that never would have made it through
    2. The administrators delete the post and send a note to the employee's manager
    3. Other employees leave comments recommending that the post may be unprofessional and warrant some editing
    4. The senior leader in question posts a comment himself thanking the employee for his feedback and explaining the rationale behind the decision
  • You create a wiki page for your team containing the text of a report you're working on. What kind of edits can they expect to receive?
    1. Yours and yours alone, since no one else your team understands how to make the edits themselves
    2. Your project team's edits because no one else can access the page
    3. No edits, but you do receive several comments and questions on the page
    4. A wide variety of edits ranging from minor to major and coming from your team as well as from people you don't know
  • Your boss asks to review the latest version of a document you've been working on. You sent her the link to the wiki page where it's stored. What's her response?

    1. Can you attach the file and send it to me?
    2. I couldn't figure out how to make any changes so I've just included them in the attached MS Word file
    3. She makes her edits as comments to the page
    4. She edits the page directly
  • The conversations that occur within your community most resemble:
    1. An empty room
    2. A board meeting
    3. Happy hour
    4. The hallways at the office
  • It's Friday night and you just discovered that you have a TPS report due first thing Monday morning. To do it, you need some examples of similar reports that have been produced by other teams. Where do you head first?

    1. You email your immediate team
    2. You send a blast email out to multiple distro lists asking for help. After all, at least one or two people have to respond, right?
    3. You search your Intranet with every keyword you can imagine
    4. You search the TPS forum and post your request there

Do you have a better idea of what kind of community you're building? Healthy communities aren't just about collecting users – they're about interactivity, a positive atmosphere, usefulness and more. Why do you log into Facebook every day? Not to play with all of the cool features, but to interact with your friends and family. Internal communities should have some of these same qualities – they need to have a purpose and be based around human interactions, not the latest technology.

If your score was 16 or less, you don't have a community, you've got the man cave of a new dad. The place is filled with the latest technical toys but no one is around to use them. From the Xbox to the pool table to the fully-stocked bar, you had envisioned many nights partying with the boys watching football, but now that you have a new baby, the only thing all those toys are doing is collecting dust…just like your blogs, wiki pages, and profiles.


If your score was between 17 – 24, your community most resembles China. You've got a lot of users (primarily because people are forced to create profiles), but very little sense of community. People talk with one another because they have to, and only when they need something. Conversations are guarded and transactional, and information is protected even more closely as trust between individuals is lacking. Non-work conversations are prohibited – none of that "social networking" stuff here!


If your score was between 25 – 33, your community is most like a high school full of people still trying to figure out who they are, who their friends are, and how to communicate with each other. The adults are confused by the kids, the kids are kind of wary of the adults, but they all co-exist fairly peacefully. Diverse cliques form early and often – iPhone enthusiasts, social media geeks, developers – all with different goals and reasons for being. A few individuals stand out and connect these cliques across the entire school. Social conversation occurs, but is often forced, as people are trying to fit in and test the boundaries of what is allowed and what isn't.


If your score was between 34 – 44, congratulations! You've got the makings of honest-to-goodness social business community. People willingly share information freely across geographic, administrative and cultural lines not because they have to, but because they realize that by pitching in and helping, everyone benefits. Conversations run the gamut – some days, they're about LOLCats, but on other days, they're focused on how to best create a culture of innovation. They are overwhelmingly professional in nature, but the content is also overwhelmingly informal. People are only vaguely aware of the number of abbreviations following someone's name and the titles that precede it, but hold the value an individual brings to the rest of the community in high regard. Employees willingly (and often) spend their own time and money to improve the community, whether via handing out awards or creating new features. And most importantly, this sense of community exists both online and off. From the conference room in the morning to my couch late at night, I know I'm not just an employee number, I'm a valued member of a community that depends on me.

I took this test for my own company's social Intranet tools, and I discovered that we're most like a high school. We still only have a fraction of the firm using the tools on a regular basis and the relationships between staff, management, and senior leadership are in that awkward stage where we're all still trying to figure out how to talk with one another.

(note: this isn't meant to be used as some formal "diagnostic" or "roadmap" or anything of the like so please take it for what it is – a fun way to gauge how well your community is actually acting like, you know, a community)

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When Was the Last Time Your Intranet Empowered Anyone?

This post originally appeared on AIIM’s Enterprise 2.0 Community Blog.

Think about your Intranet for a moment (stop groaning) and answer the following questions.  When was the last time:

Image courtesy of Flickr user Search Engine People Blog

  1. Someone spent their own money to purchase promotional items to help build awareness and get more people to participate?
  2. Someone voluntarily put the name of the Intranet on their softball team jerseys?
  3. Someone voluntarily created an entire instruction manual for new users?
  4. Dozens of people volunteered to be the welcoming committee for new users, greeting them and offering to help?
  5. Dozens of people took shifts to be online and act as an ad hoc help desk for other users?
  6. Someone voluntarily created PowerPoint presentations to help others better understand the Intranet?
  7. People routinely logged on at midnight just to see what they missed during the day?
  8. Regular users are routinely “pitched” by official internal communications staff to post content because they have a greater readership?
  9. People beg, beg! for access outside the firewall, and ask for easy mobile/remote access so they can read/contribute?
  10. People voluntarily create mashups and plug-ins to enhance the interface and then share those with other users?

All of these situations are ones that I’ve witnessed, either internally with Booz Allen’s hello.bah.com, our own implementation of Enterprise 2.0 tools, or with my clients. True, in many cases, Enterprise 2.0 communities have failed to build a critical mass of users, they can quickly become echo chambers, they don’t have full leadership support, and they often fail to make it “into the flow.” but despite (or maybe because of) these challenges, Enterprise 2.0 communities can ignite a passion among its users that hasn’t been seen internally since the introduction of the Internet.

If you stopped using the terms “social media,” and “Enterprise 2.0” and just started telling people that you “have some ideas for improving our Intranet that will make our employees want to log on at night to see what they missed and spend their own time writing code to improve it,” getting buy-in for these tools would be a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want their employees to be this engaged with their Intranet?

So what is it about Enterprise 2.0 that gets users so excited?  It’s because Enterprise 2.0 is about more than just disseminating information – it’s about giving each employee a voice; it’s about flattening the organization; it’s about ending approval chains; it’s about being a part of something new.  But most of all, it’s about empowering people.

When was the last time your Intranet empowered anyone to do anything?

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Is Enterprise 2.0 Learned From a Book or From Doing?

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Last week, I participated in AIIM’s Enterprise 2.0 Practitioner Certificate program, a two-day course focused on learning the principles and best practices of Enterprise 2.0 – social media behind the firewall.  Now, I’ll admit, I was extremely skeptical of this course when I first heard about it.  I don’t think that social media or Enterprise 2.0 is something that you can learn about from a book, course, class, or test.  I think that above all, it’s learned from doing.

It’s one thing to read that successful Enterprise 2.0 deployments are about changing a culture and not about implementing a new tool, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it.  I think the most successful social media efforts are those that are driven by passionate people who love people and who truly want to change the way their organization operates, not by people with degrees, certificates, or titles.

So when several of my colleagues urged me to enroll in the two-day AIIM Enterprise 2.0 Practitioner Certificate program, I didn’t really pay much attention to it at first.  However, I figured I should at least do some research into the program to see if it would be worth my time.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of social media luminaries that I respect were involved in the development of the course – Andew McAfee, David Weinberger, Stowe Boyd, Patti Anklam and Eric Tsui.  Well, ok, if those guys were involved, I figured I’d give it a try.

I wanted to be challenged by this course, to get out of the social media echo chamber and get different perspectives, and to learn about specific strategies/tactics that have been successful elsewhere.  I didn’t just want to learn what I needed to pass some test.

Day One

Along with 20 or so of my colleagues working on Booz Allen’s own deployment of an Enterprise 2.0 platform, our first day began with our instructor, Hanns Kohler-Kruner, leading us through an activity to determine what Enterprise 2.0 was about – was it about culture?  Technology?  Innovation?  Tools?  All of the above?  After seemingly hundreds of slides of definitions, acronyms, models, and terms, I started re-thinking my decision to enroll.  I wasn’t a fan.  It soon became clear that the attendees of this class were far more advanced in Enterprise 2.0 than the typical attendee.

Hanns did an admirable job of adjusting his teaching style to include conversation and less lecture, and he promised to totally re-work the material for Day Two.  The material from Day One was best suited for someone who has little to no knowledge/experience with Enterprise 2.0, and is interested in discovering the basics.

What I Liked:

  • The adjustments that Hanns made to accommodate the audience
  • The occasional conversations/debates that the course attendees had

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Hundreds of slides!!
  • Too much lecture, not enough conversation and brainstorming
  • Curriculum seemed to be too focused on teaching you what you need to pass the test rather than having discussions about Enterprise 2.0 strategy
  • No hands-on application of the tools we were discussing
  • Very little discussion of what’s worked/what hasn’t

Day Two

Before even arriving for Day Two, I was excited to find Hanns on Twitter that night, responding to our #aiim tweets from the first day.  I was really looking forward to the conversations about more advanced E2.0 strategies and tactics instead of definitions of terms that I would need only to pass a test.

Discussions on Day Two centered around the right balance of policies, rules, guidelines, and best practices for internal wikis; the risks of open vs. closed networks; and the need for open/transparent communication between IT and the user community. Some of the choice nuggets from the second day included:

“Stop focusing on the HUGE task of changing culture, and instead focus on changing habits.”

“Give people the tools and the time to do their work inside the firewall and they’re less likely to use less secure applications on the Internet.”

“The IT staff HAS to communicate regularly with their users and remain flexible and adaptable to their needs rather than their own wants and desires.”

For me, there were two big takeaways from Day Two.  1) Enterprise 2.0 tools like blogs, social networking, wikis, etc. aren’t some panacea – there is still a place for email, for face-to-face meetings, and for other “old-school” tactics.  And 2) Enterprise 2.0 isn’t a set of tools, it’s a mindset.  The actual tools don’t matter as much as how you use them.  Organizations can have blogs and wikis and still have just as many silos of information and isolated information as one that doesn’t use any of these tools.  Just as organizations without any of these new tools can still be open, transparent and participatory.

What I Liked:

  • The open, free-flowing conversation where ideas were debated and assumptions were challenged
  • The instructor was not only on Twitter, he’s been actively using E2.0 tools internally at AIIM
  • The breakout groups where we worked together to help fictional organizations
  • The slides had been completely re-adjusted for our needs

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Hundreds of Slides!!
  • Too focused on structured models and not enough on the cultural norms/nuances
  • Not enough discussion about real-life Enterprise 2.0 examples

Following Day Two, we were all given a link to an online test consisting of 64 multiple choice/true-false questions.   This is where I was most disappointed with the course.  In taking the test, I quickly became annoyed that the questions were completely objective, focused on testing my knowledge of theoretical models and frameworks (e.g., “True or False: The tags described in the FLATNESSES model do not include meta-tags”), rather than on real-life Enterprise 2.0 practices.  Seriously, I could care less if someone can recite what that acronym means.  Why does that even matter?  I’m more concerned with answering questions like, “You’ve just implemented an enterprise-wide wiki – what are the arguments for/against keeping it completely open vs. allowing some private wiki spaces?”

Overall, I’d give the course a C.  I don’t think Enterprise 2.0 can be learned from a book – it needs to be experienced.  In the future, I’d like to see them shift the focus away from lecture (as Hanns did so aptly on Day Two) and more toward facilitated conversation.  I’d also like to see more use of these actual tools – how about an intstructor’s blog where we could all interact with our instructor before, during, and after the course?  Lastly, and most importantly, I’d recommend that AIIM incorporate some sort of # of months/hours of hands-on experience actually involved with Enterprise 2.0, a la the Project Management Professional requirements to have at least 4500 hours of direct project management experience.  Without this requirement, I’m scared that people will become “Enterprise 2.0 Certified Practitioners,” so they can cash in on this hot topic right now without ever actually having done any Enterprise 2.0 at all.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user billerickson

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