Attending a conference in Berlin I was part of a discussion that quite frequently comes up in the context of a social media inspired workplace: ‘How much e-mail volume will we be able to avoid if we succeed in re-channeling some messages to other (social) channels?’ One participant however, raised the even more relevant question: ‘How can we ensure that people don’t get lost in figuring out on which way the expected or desired piece of information will find them?’.
I still remember the announcement and then the related work order of a larger IT player that intended to encourage (or shall I say force) its employees to use social channels instead of e-mail to distribute internal information. How far that company has succeeded with this endeavor I actually don’t know.
Even though I can understand that a clean cut seems to be a promising way to execute this transition I am not entirely sure that it will be very much appreciated by the individuals. Radical change isn’t favored by a lot of people. Whenever the ‘Big Bang’ is mentioned people tend to twitch…
Getting used to the new way bit by bit
On multiple occasions I have elaborated on the need of a step-by-step approach and on how to find the evolutionary phases of a digital workplace that fits the organization and its employees. From my perspective moving along people relationships and putting new ways of working in the closest context of the user will help the transition.
The beauty of this approach is that it won’t be affecting everyone at the same time. By introducing a replacement to e-mail in the context of close team work employees can get used to certain scenarios in which information is no longer distributed by e-mail. One scenario:
Aligning sales force and offering development
Ensure that sales teams are updated on the latest material and developments for offerings and related value propositions.
Enable sales teams to give feedback and enrich offering management and sales material based on customer and market feedback.
Establish a joint digital space for sales and offering representatives. Key services for the users:
- One-stop shop for the latest offering material
- Consolidated information flow from offering management to sales organization to promote and comment changes in material
- Structured feedback process from sales to offering management
- Informal whiteboard for both parties to exchange spontaneous ideas and collaboratively develop shared subjects
- Direct access to online communication and virtual collaboration channels including presence information
- Calendar for shared event planning (e.g. conferences)
- No update e-mails (and attachments) for offering related material
- No cc-to-all-who-might-be-interested emails regarding customer feedback
- No never ending email strings on updates and discussion around new material (incl. attachments)
- No ‘sorry…I forgot to put you cc’ situations anymore
- Cross-border and cross-perspective development of offerings and related collateral
This scenario is close to day-to-day operations (shared goals) and in particular the interdependencies between the both stakeholder groups. The benefit of maintaining a one-stop-shop from both sides is obvious and creates immediate value.
As soon as social and commercial media inspired techniques for information distribution, enrichment and retrieval are established, new services can be launched…e.g.:
- virtual sales case war room
- the offering development board
- pre-sales template factory
- social media inspired project room (actually another good starting point…)
Step by step e-mail volume will start decreasing. As long as people can be 100 percent sure that there will be only one single source where they will be able expect a specific piece information.