Building Your Social Intranet - Step 1 Listen

In a previous post I shared my slides about building your social intranet. I also gave a definition of a social intranet. This post is about the first step towards a social intranet: Listening.

Most IT-projects start out with collecting functional requirements and by defining the goal and strategy of the new tool. Both are important, but I think the goal and strategy should come in second place when working towards a social intranet. And collecting functional requirements should be more implicit.

My advice is to start out with listening. Listen to 3 things:
  1. The organizational structure and -processes. With this I mean, how is the company run? How is it structured and defined? What does the hierarchy look like? Why is this important? Well, your intranet should relate directly to it to have the potential to be successful. This doesn’t imply the intranet will be highly structured. Because when you look closely at the organization you’ll see that about 20% is defined in processes, procedures and related tools. The other 80% of the company is where the daily work is done. It gets done in networks. These networks are the oil of the processes. If the networks don’t flow the organization will come to a grinding halt. But what do we do to support these networks in organizations? Hardly anything. We give employees email and organize meetings. Here’s your opportunity for internal social media. They can potentially facilitate those internal networks, make them visible and faster. This does not replace the old way of looking at the organization, the process focus, but it’s a supplement and improvement to it. Understanding and relating to this implies you’ll improve the core of the organization with your social intranet.
  2. Also look at how employees get their work done. Related to the previous point in which we try to understand the organization, understanding employees is just as or even more important. The organization consists of a group of people with a shared goal/purpose. How do these people get things done? Again, you’ll be amazed how much is done in networks. Employees know or don’t know each other, the like and dislike each other, they work or have worked together, etc. All this can’t be fixed in processes and procdures. As I said, networks are the oil of the company. Connect your social intranet to them. Most internal social tools are appreciated for just this reason: they relate to how people get their work done and make their work visible, instead of fitting them in mechanical processes and procedures, and dito tools.
  3. Lastly, after we’ve listened to the organization and employees, listen to the real problems and challenges the company has? When listening closely you’ll see where the process pipes are clogged and where the networks don’t flow. List these and use them as a reason to work towards a social intranet.
These three points also say a lot about the kind of person working on a social intranet. He/she needs to have good knowledge of the business, be able to talk deeply with people, and be a good translator of business to technology.

Does this step make sense? What’s your first step towards a social intranet?

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