I think collaboration and transparency are the two most tossed about words in business today. The latter strikes fear at every level. In the beginning of 2013, I said that I thought this would be the year for collaboration. Having made that statement I want to look at how we’ve done so far. You might be wondering why I added transparency to the check in. After all, collaboration is different from transparency isn’t it?
So I did a search on how we are doing with collaboration for 2013 and the results were lack-luster. One article dubbed, Too much collaboration is hurting worker productivity” (http://qz.com/98295/too-much-collaboration-is-hurting-worker-productivity/), basically said that collaboration was sacrificing the solitary worker’s productivity. Sadly, the search mainly addressed the opportunity of collaboration or, the difficulty of it, and so on.
My theory is that collaboration seems like something we just ought to be able to do given the right technology—akin to once we get the tools we’ll just do it. Pardon my laughter but like all things in the digital /social realm—its only 15% technology everything else is about people.
Business has taught and rewarded competition. You may be scoffing but every sales person will tell you its, “what have you done for me lately.” Single-mindedness of focus is knitted into the fabric of the employee from the most minor of roles to the most important. The very nature of roles and responsibilities delineate and separate us. At the end of the year your payout is my payless. Get the picture?
I bring up transparency because it is critical to the success of collaboration. Think collaboration happens because you enable us to—no way. You can even bring it into my goals and how I am paid and I will tell you it won’t happen. You see—we as humans are creatures of habit. What is habit? It is what we have learned. We learned it because it works. It’s a habit because we have settle into the folds of its comfort.
Transparency says tear it all off and bear it all. No hidden agendas. No sandbagging. I have gone into many a company that says we are a decision by consensus culture. Do you think they will have an advantage in collaboration? It will be hardest for the consensus company because they have been taught to subjugate themselves to the mass –to no take a visible stand. In a way consensus is another word for a company that has asked their people to have no accountability. Transparency says I am totally accountable and here I bear all to you and together we will do better than I would alone.
Collaboration needs to be relearned. Let the learning begin. It’s not too late—its only August.
The next key component is the initial launch. At this point, knowing when, why, and what you plan on launching should be defined. It needs to be coordinated and well executed. You have one shot to bring users in, spark their interest, and entice them to come back. A poorly designed site is one that does not take the users’ needs into account or whose applications detour rather than attract. An initial launch needs to have a plan to help and support users. Users need to know what to do and where to go when the site works and if the site doesn’t work. The only way to speak directly to your users needs is to get the requirements directly from them. Additionally, very site needs FAQs, training information, users support groups and a direct link for technical support. Viral or otherwise you want to keep users on the site and doing what you want them to do.
Because not all users are equal or always behave the way you would like them to, you need to have analytics set up with your site. This will gauge the success of your strategy. When you are implementing analytics, determine your KPIs, as these will help support an ROI discussion when you need to justify, enhance or upgrade your site as time goes on.
Users typically fall into a framework nicely captured in Forrester’s Social Media Ladder. http://convenienceoversophistication.com/post/178898247/the-social-technologies-ladder-forester-research *
A user strategy determines how you plan to engage them in order to move up the ladder. Some key user groups such as subject matter experts, reference accounts, or product /service user groups may need to move quicker than others. If the movement does not happen on its own, it’s important to have a usage strategy that is both a push and pull. This accounts for top down, bottom-up and sideways-in users and aligns with your overall strategy.
(*It is important to customize this ladder by labeling each key area with the activities that are enabled in your specific site. Then when you develop your KPIs, you will have a means of understanding if your community is thriving or not).
Join me next time as I talk about key roles in your community.
Noreen Poli is product manager and consultant at Ready, Set, Go Social! Her projects range from award winning methodologies to end-to-end mobile gamified applications. Her background in product management is enhanced by experience in user research, analytics, human behavior, and social giving her a unique skill-set custom made for this era of realtime analytics and personalized products.