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1. Top Ten Factors in the Transformation of Internal Communication

Multimedia and multiformats play a starring role in the future of internal communication  

* Jennifer Leggio is on vacation

Guest editorial by Jacob Morgan, Chess Media Group

When we talk about collaboration or knowledge sharing, we often assume that this refers to what is occurring within the enterprise. The fact is that there are two types of collaboration: internal and external.

External collaboration occurs between a brand and its consumers via social media channels or platforms such as blogs, wikis, Twitter, or online communities. These dynamic platforms enable brands to search for ways to increase revenues, reduce costs, gain more efficiency and enhance customer service, and gain input and access to new people.

The connecting and sharing that takes place externally can also be leveraged within the workplace. Internal collaboration enables employees to enhance communication, improve productivity through document and file sharing, desktop sharing, chat, social networking and many other features that mobilize employees, business partners and internal communities to leverage the platform to stimulate action inside the firewall; the goal of course being to meet specific business objectives. Web 2.0 tools are having the same magnitude of impact on workplace communication as e-mail did years ago.

External and internal collaboration should demonstrate business impact across the organization. The goal with both types of collaboration is very similar: get people to collaborate in a way that provides tangible benefits to enterprises, while facilitating achievement of business objectives.

The key to a completely social business is integrating both internal and external collaboration strategies into the business plan. Both types of collaboration enable businesses to be more competitive and do things faster and more efficiently. Collaborating externally builds relationships with consumers, increases revenue, decreases research, product development and marketing costs, and improves customer service. Collaborating internally improves the company at its core. It connects people and advocates a sharing culture, thereby increasing team productivity, leveraging specialty knowledge that exists within the company and reducing decision-cycle times (among other things).

Some of the benefits of a completely social business:

  • Anyone internally can participate, creating an collective intelligence repository that can be used for external activities.
  • Platforms such as Crowdcast can be used for market predictions. The information can be shared to an external community to balance consumer expectations.
  • Discussions around ideas, opinions, and strategies can be created and feedback gathered internally and then used externally for marketing campaigns, sales strategies and other customer facing activities.
  • External community recommendations and ideas can be shared internally and evaluated for appropriate action.
  • Communication between internal and external communities can be facilitated; employees can speak with other employees, customers can speak with other customers, and employees and customers can speak with each other. This breaks down communication barriers and helps both customers and employees take action.
  • Valuable connections or relationships can be established internally that can enable new external relationships to be developed.
  • Top quality talent is attracted to companies that adopt and embrace new business and technology practices.
  • Customers are more likely to support companies that are known to have a caring reputation, and are interested in building long-term relationships with them.

We addressed the benefits of implementing an internal and external collaboration independent of each other and working in tandem. For companies to position themselves for success, essential ingredients to being a completely social business are:

  • Strategy comes first and the tools come second, not the other way around.
  • Focus on the business value, opportunity costs and risks. It's crucial for companies to understand the business objectives of creating internal and external collaborative communities.
  • Benchmark and set up a solid measurement framework that relates back to business objectives, i.e. increase productivity, increase sales, and/or reduce costs.
  • Cultivate and nurture a collaborative culture within the company.
  • Understand that this is a long-term process that requires a solid adoption plan. Make collaboration fun and reward participation.
  • Develop governance guidelines, and training programs around internal and external collaboration efforts to maintain cooperative rules of engagement.

The advent of internal and external collaboration to build and maximize business value is inevitable. Learning to see the value in social software platforms and comprehensive strategies will position companies ahead of the competition. Companies that will take advantage of internal and external collaboration in 2010 and beyond will win.

Jacob is the Principal of Chess Media Group, a social business consultancy focused on strategy, creativity, and results. Jacob is also the author of Twittfaced, a social media 101 book for business. You can connect with Jacob on his Social Business Consulting blog or on Twitter @JacobM.

From their headquarters in San Francisco, Slack's 63 employees are developing technology that they think could make company-wide e-mails obsolete.

Slack pulls disparate applications - customer service programs, e-mail apps and social media Web sites, among others - into a single platform, which employees can also use to message each other directly. Instead of toggling between Google's Gmail service and Twitter, a user might receive notifications through Slack, for instance.

Chief executive and co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who previously co-founded photo-sharing site Flickr, is chasing the business technology market in search of companies willing to take a chance on his young start-up's product.

A growing number are willing, and so are investors. In the first eight months since Slack's public launch, it has racked up about 73,000 daily active users from thousands of companies. Current customers who use Slack for internal communication include Expedia, Buzzfeed, Pandora, PayPal, Urban Outfitters, Yelp, eBay, Tumblr, HBO, Vox Media, Gawker Media, Slate, Salesforce, Nordstrom, and Airbnb.

Last week, Slack announced it had raised $120 million from investors, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Google Ventures, in addition to a previous $60 million funding round with participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners and the Social+Capital Partnership.

As Slack continues to raised funds, its software is evolving - but it isn't yet perfect, said Stuart Symington, product manager at Fluencia, a Rosslyn-based software company that has used Slack since July. Fluencia, which develops an online Spanish learning service, pays $6.67 per month per user for each of its 20 employees.

"It's totally replaced e-mail for us," Symington said. At Fluencia, employees use it to message each other individually or to communicate with project teams, he said - a few months ago, they would have used Gmail and its instant messaging service Gchat, he said.

But he noted that Slack's software doesn't always integrate seamlessly with outside applications, even if Slack's team is very responsive to feedback through Twitter and e-mail. For instance, Fluencia's team tried to add Internet cloud-based project management system Pivotal Tracker to Slack, but the integration was buggy (often notifications failed to show up in Slack), so employees access Pivotal Tracker separately, he said.

There have also been outages. Last month, Slack noted on its blog two separate incidents in which users were unable to connect to the service for periods that last from minutes to a couple of hours.

Despite the bugs, Fluencia's small team is willing to try out new products, especially if they are mostly for internal use, Symington said.

"It's not a huge risk to try something out for a week," he said.

Companies such as Fluencia represent a large chunk of Slack's customers - young, tech-savvy start-ups in creative industries that used to rely on free, "ad hoc" applications to message each other - Gmail, Facebook Chat, or Skype Chat, Butterfield said.

"When you start a company, you don't necessarily think you need to choose a system for internal communication," he said, though he noted that companies often decide on customer relationship management software, or inventory management systems, before they begin operations.

The bigger challenge for Slack is reaching large companies, Butterfield said - though he noted that the company is working on scaling the software up for bigger customers so that it can manage several different teams of Slack users, perhaps divided by department. Sometime next year, Slack plans to introduce an "enterprise plan" that will cost large companies between $49 and $99 per user per month.

Though large business customers look carefully at the security implications of a new product like Slack's before they commit to using it for large teams, "small disruptive vendors" like Slack can become very viable quickly, Forrester Research analyst Rob Koplowitz said in an e-mail, especially when the service is "easily provisioned by small groups and grows virally."

Other tech start-ups, such as Internet cloud storage companies Box and Dropbox, which are now used widely by business customers, "were questioned when they first started popping up in the enterprise, but they've responded quite well."

By Leif-Olof Wallin

Gartner, Inc.

In today's workplace, employees are not always at their desks. Hence, when businesses add mobility to a digital workplace strategy, the true value is about improving the flow and speed of the core business processes, not simply increasing productivity.

Businesses can create tangible and sustainable business benefit when mobility is used to optimize and partially re-engineer core business processes, reduce latency, eliminate process steps or, in some cases, enable new processes.

Take for example what happens in a retail environment. A customer asks a retailer about buying a shirt he sees on the rack, but in extra-small and yellow polka-dots. The employee can check a garment's size, color and availability, and arrange to have it shipped directly to the customer's house, all from a tablet on the sales floor. The employee is with the customer throughout, and the sale is closed (with a swiping device right on that same tablet), not delayed or lost entirely.

In another example, an operations vice president, already on her commute home in New York, receives a call from a supplier relaying the bad news that a shipment will be late arriving in California. From her train seat, she is able to text a colleague for the name of an alternate supplier in Texas, and place an immediate order. The traditional work hours, communication lag, time zone and technical latencies were greatly reduced because that operations chief had a smartphone.

A workplace at their fingertips

Using mobile to interact with the business world is a natural extension of how employees interact within their personal spheres - in both instances, mobile usage offers engagement, flexibility and empowerment.

The act of working in a global economy -- as individuals or in collaboration with far-flung colleagues -- increasingly occurs outside of regular office hours. By accommodating employee preferences for a single device for both personal and business use, the level of personal engagement may lead to an increase in business engagement.

Increased employee engagement takes shape not only with physical devices like smartphones and tablets, but with the use of company and third-party applications, software and digital tools.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Mobile devices, especially smartphones, are always with the owner and always active.

Choose Your Own Device (CYOD)

Users are most comfortable with a model and OS they have chosen and already use.

Bring Your Own App (BYOA)

Employees use apps - and there are more than a million to choose from - all the time. Allowing them to experiment with new products is fine, as long as basic risk management is in place.

Develop Your Own Application (DYOA)

This is especially appropriate for teams, and an alluring option for millennials, who have gotten used to customizable solutions.

Making the most of a digital workplace initiative

The most successful integration of mobile into the digital workplace will involve all of the major stakeholders: IT, HR, audit, legal, line of business, and, of course, leadership. Emphasize goals like more effective ways of working, raising employee engagement and agility, and exploiting consumer-oriented styles and technologies.

There are many components to a successful initiative:

  • Respect varying geographic needs to accommodate cultural and economic differences.
  • Assume that BYOD is a natural ingredient of any workplace program, but make room for a CYOD option.
  • Consider changes in the service and support network offered by IT, to meet the consumerization and work anytime/anywhere nature of the workplace.

Review and update your digital workplace initiative regularly, to make sure that mobile isn't addressed to the exclusion of social, cloud, analytics and the Internet of Things. And, while employees have more freedom in choosing mobile technologies, IT's core responsibility remains the same: strive to contain costs, and, most importantly, continue to secure the organization's information assets.

Leif-Olof Wallin is a research vice president at Gartner where he advises enterprise clients on all aspects of networking infrastructure and services with a special focus on mobile.

Several times I have been involved with the internal magazines in the companies I worked in. The pattern was most of the time something like this. The new CEO or new Division manager read the results of the bi-annual employee engagement survey (formerly called satisfaction survey), and it was clear that a large proportion of the employees were unhappy with the internal communications. Reward scored of course lowest (who is so stupid to fill in she or he is unhappy with pay), but most of the time internal communications came second on the unhappiness leader board. Also the post-survey focus groups were unanimous: please improve internal communications.
Action was required. The management team knew the solution: a magazine was required to inform all employees. The head of internal communications became chief editor, and an editorial board was established with people from all over the globe. Several months passed before, tada!, the new magazine was launched. A nice name (generally with a reference to the products/services of the company, like "Flying News", or "ComComs"). CEO on the cover, and many nice articles about products, services, clients and staff. On the backside of the magazine: "Did You Know That?" or "What people around the world do when they are not working". Good news only, and also old news only, as it has taken weeks to prepare and wordsmith the articles.

The days of the internal magazine are over. Ten ways internal communications is changing:

  1. From Internal Communications to Communications
    As organizations are changing, it becomes more and more difficult to determine what ' internal' is. The boundaries are blurring, and many people involved in realizing the strategy of the company, are not on the payroll. Free agents. Partners. Suppliers. Interns. Therefore the boundaries between internal en external communications become blurring as well.
  2. From controlled top-down communications to open multi way communications
    People want to be involved and informed. The carefully drafted messages from the top are necessary, but only for a small part. Often the interview with the CEO in the newspaper is as informative as the interview in the internal magazine. People want to hear from colleagues and through internal and external social media news travels fast. More and more transparency is required (and is unavoidable).
  3. From a couple of channels to multi-channel communications
    We had magazines, newsletters, e-mail and conference calls. Many channels were added and new channels are appearing regularly. Quick adaptations to the new channels is necessary.
  4. From one-size-fits all to client-focused communications
    Or: from 'sender determines channel' to 'receiver determines channel'.
    In the past the sender determined the channel and the receiver had to adapt. Already today, the power is shifting to the receiver. With my wife I communicate via Whats-App (and, do not worry, also F2F). With my oldest daughter via Facebook. The favorite channel of my youngest daughter is SnapChat, and if I want to reach my son a direct message via Twitter is most effective. And this might be different tomorrow, which I find out if they become silent.
    This has large implications for internal communications.
  5. From good news only to real news
    This is clear. People do not only want to hear good news, they want all the news. That's why they often rely more on external channels if they want to hear about their company
  6. From serious to frivolous
    You can have fun and still be serious, also in communications. When a serious message is packaged in a way that makes it fun to receive, the effectiveness goes up. The explanimation industry is growing, and rightfully so. It is a lot more fun to watch a well-made one-minute explanimation than to read pages of high-level text.
  7. From words and some pictures to pictures and some words
    A colleague called the trend 'Instagramification' I like that. Infographics are everywhere, and they are a strong tool to tell a good story in an attractive way. Instagram is rapidly developing as a valuable communication channel, and not only for young people sharing party photos.
  8. From professionals to amateurs
    In the past a text writer/ journalist wrote the text. The head of internal communications edited the article. The editorial board made some comments, and then the final red pencil was in the hand of the big boss. Today everybody can write and publish instantly. If people adhere to some sensible guidelines, to number of providers of news and good content is suddenly endless.
  9. From instructions to stories
    You can tell the people in the company what the mission and the values are, far more powerful are the stories of the people who exemplify the values. People like stories, and good storytelling is a powerful skill.
  10. From uniformity to diversity
    Given the changes outlined in 1-9, it is an illusion to control and standardize the communications in a company. People with the same values, and with the goals of the company and their personal goals in mind, will still communicate in different ways, but hopefully with a common 'ground tone'. Diversity makes a company colorful, and makes a company real.

Ch. 8 Section 2: Prep Templates ►

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