What is Policy Analysis 2.0? This is the term we use for the application of collaborative social tools to the internal process of problem identification and solution generation. Whether that activity is formally called “policy analysis” or not, the purpose is to focus on the people inside an organization and how they can use social tools to share knowledge and collaborate. While social listening and community engagement are important aspects of social media – and a robust approach to policy analysis 2.0 should involve these aspects – the focus here is on connecting to the knowledge that already exists within the organization.
“If HP only knew what HP knows, we could be 3 times as profitable.” – Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett Packard.
What are collaborative social tools? These are web-based applications designed for use in a corporate context (as opposed to open access social tools like Facebook and Twitter) that facilitate collaboration without relying on existing formal workflows or teams. The tool might be a wiki (a document that any user can change or add to), a blog (a statement, paragraph or longer document that any user can comment on) or a related forum and platform. These workspaces can be used to pose questions, connect to knowledge sources, initiate discussions, or co-create documents. The key is that users can easily start conversations across their entire network, and other users can join that conversation, without the need for corporate approval or technical web support.
Problems that collaborative social tools can address? Social tools in the corporate environment are growing in popularity because they can address common problems in corporate settings: the overload of email, where you receive too much unimportant information and poor access to useful knowledge when it’s needed; meetings used solely to provide information updates; the re-creating of solutions, or the repeated discover of knowledge; answering the same question multiple times, asked by different colleagues; trying to find knowledge in the organization without really knowing what it is you are looking for, or who might know.
Additional benefits of collaborative social tools: new technologies can transform business operations and spur business process innovation, encourage collaboration across organizational and system silos, increase the efficiency of cross-organizational teams and ad-hoc working groups lacking physical proximity or established reporting relationships.
What type of collaborative social solutions are there? A number of software solutions are currently available, appropriate for use within corporate enterprises, but extendable to external customers, suppliers and partners. A leading source for understanding the tools available and determining which is optimally suited to the particular setting is the Gartner review of workplace social software.
Important questions to ask in identifying a solution include: your current technology exposure, including your capacity to support a solution in-house; the nature of your organization, with variables like organization size and structure; your predominant orientation – i.e., outward-facing or internally-focussed; and your need for mobile support. Companies who have deployed collaborative social tools to drive employee productivity usually share one or more of these characteristics: a high concentration of knowledge workers; undergoing significant business change; and a geographically dispersed workforce, possibly working in different time-zones or irregular hours.
What are the downsides? Collaborative social tools are not a magic bullet, and are not suited to every situation. Organizations with rigid hierarchical climates can find the technology incompatible with their culture. Employees can reject the solution, fail to engage with the objective of sharing and collaborating, or find workarounds that subvert the objectives. Poorly designed solutions can simply result in information overload, exacerbating a situation the tools were intended to solve. Opening up the organization, and flattening the organizational hierarchy, can profoundly disrupt the organization. Leadership must be prepared for a transformation of the organization. And leadership commitment is also crucial in order to ensure widespread engagement.
Are you curious about how new collaborative social tools can be used in your policy analysis environment to improve knowledge sharing and collaboration amongst your team and across the organization? Justin Longo, Principal Associate with eBriefings.ca is available for an executive level briefing or to participate in a practitioner seminar to discuss the results from his recent research and how those insights can help you move Towards Policy Analysis 2.0. Please contact justin by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (250-686-7288).