A - Adaptation: From A-Z — the long trail of web2.0 in an organization

5/25/2008 | Christian Kreutz

a-z.jpgThree years ago I started experimenting for the first time with web2.0 at my organization (GTZ). In Egypt, we implemented a blog to link different projects of GTZ. Since then, I have been taking part in several initiatives and joined many discussions with the IT, communication, knowledge management and other departments. I have learnt a lot about the complexity of organizations and the opportunities and obstacles to engage in social media.

Therefore, I decided to share the different experiences and challenges we have encountered and try to identify success factors, hoping this can help others who are also dealing with social media at an organization and encouraging them to implement it. I will write about this in a series of blog-posts over the coming months.

It is not the tools

To begin with, being a bit critical, I think there is a risk to believe just tools such as wikis or blogs can achieve something that was not there before. Because it touches quickly the core of an organization, namely its culture. If the organizational setting is based upon strict hierarchy, information silos and a very formalistic approach, then clearly open sharing and a horizontal communication is difficult to be implemented, with or without web2.0. Some would argue that new forums for this kind of transparency and openness can have an impact on the organizational culture, though.

What is the character of your organization?

Identify the right scenarios!

However, before implementing web2.0 tools in an organization, it is very important to analyze the already existing instruments, the organization communication behaviours, the degree of openness and trust of knowledge sharing, and the social setting. Most important web2.0 is best used where the quickest win is possible particular at the beginning.

So what are the usual scenarios where employees exchange knowledge?

  • Is it mainly in the cafeteria, on the telephone or mainly through email?
  • Does the organization rely on a dense meeting culture and direct contact?
  • How many different tools for communication already exist, other than telephone, meetings, emails, etc.?
  • So far, how have interactive web based applications worked? What went well and what wrong?

This list could be easily extended, please write me if you have some other points.

To find the right tools for the existing work scenarios

The challenge is that there are not only many different tools for online communication, but also they can be used so differently. The trick is to identify a deficit in a typical scenario of work context and find the right tool for it. Particularly, in the beginning, it is very helpful to target a need and gain a quick win.

For instance, a wiki can be used for very different purposes and are best adapted to the organizational need.

  • Use it to write the protocol each week and to have a central place to follow up tasks. It can be written during the meeting and everybody can add it instantly or edit it later on. Advantage: It is a small start, implemented in a existing process and you can learn on the fly. Disadvantage: Only a small area of work or project management.
  • A glossary for a department to collect precise information for standard processes. Advantage: The benefit of sharing can be shown quickly when a critical mass of employees contribute. Writing together what already exists. Disadvantage: Needs support from the whole department. cannot easily be established if staff does not want to share and it needs trainingfor each one who is involved.
  • To organize the next company party or trip and use it for logistics. Advantage: For a temporary time and involves a small team. Shows transparency of the planning process to other colleagues. Disadvantage: Needs dedicated people and proper gardening of the wiki structure. Wikis can become easily confusing in larger projects (logistics).

These are, of course, only a few examples, but they shall show the variety of different implementation options. To analyze first what are normal work scenarios and then adapt a tool to it, it is therefore a key success factor.

This is a blog post series about my experiences on web2.0 in an organization, consisting of at least 26 different blog posts highlighting potentials and challenges and focusing on success factors. Please feel free to comment, contact me for further information and/or let me know which other topics within this context you would be interested on.