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Social collaboration at work is not a quick fix – it takes time, hard work and money.

Angela Ashenden of MWD Advisors offered lots of valuable advice for delegates at IoIC Live 2015, but said they should be prepared for a long haul.

“Social collaboration is about cultural change – not just introducing technology – and that takes time,” she warned.

“You have to get the groundwork right and plan for the long term, invest time in adoption especially among leaders – and the only way you’ll know if you’ve been successful is to think about what you want to measure before you start. Otherwise you have no benchmark.”

Angela (pictured above) offered both strategic advice and practical tips, but said there was no doubt better collaboration meant better business.

She said if you need to convince people at the top of organisations, tell them about:

  • Better sharing of knowledge and best practice
  • Driving innovation and business differentiation
  • Connecting and enabling distributed teams
  • Building relationships with both partners and customers.

Angela said there are three pillars of collaborative organisations:

  • A network and non-hierarchical structure – not top-down
  • Open, honest and trusting culture – has to be two-way (management trusting employees to do things and employees trusting managers to be open and transparent in decision-making)
  • An engaged and valued workforce

“These mean employees will feel thy have more of a say in how decisions are taken so they will feel more responsible and want to contribute more,” she added.

“For organisations, you have employees who want to be empowered by your company, so they have the opportunity to grow and change direction. This mean lower retention costs and you have the benefits of creativity.”


Angela warned there are plenty of obstacles to social collaboration.

Resistance to change

  • Habit – we’re all creatures of habit and it’s difficult to change without good reason.
  • Knowledge is power – many people feel if they share what they know, they lose their edge.
  • What’s in it for me? – why should I? What difference will it make?
  • Lack of time and opportunity – this may be true (although it should save time in the long run)
  • Collaboration tool fatigue (“What, another one?”)
  • Middle management blocking (“Just get on with your job”)

Inadequate strategy and investment

Leadership lack commitment

Too much focus on technology rather than value

Unmanaged expectations
– sometimes people think it will change everything immediately


  • Lay secure foundation – why is it of value specifically to us?
  • Clear ownership – whoever is behind it needs ability, enthusiasm and clout
  • Secure budget – don’t look at it as a project, it’s a cultural change to the business and might take years.
  • Don’t leave adoption to chance – top-down, bottom-up, middle-out, whatever it takes, plus education (rather than training), build an advocate network, and incentivise behaviour (NOT just tool usage)

Beware – 4 social collaboration pitfalls

1) It’s not a cheap option

2) Avoid too much too soon – some employees might be overwhelmed

3) No need to replace email completely

4) Avoid creating new silos of information

What is success?

“It’s very difficult to measure the return on investment – for a start, you need to know what you want it to do,” explained Angela. “You need stated goals you can measure against – and you need to measure them BEFORE you introduce social collaboration.”

Examples of success could be:

  • Reduced travel cost and time by having online discussions
  • Reduced call centre cost if peers can help solve problems
  • Cost savings through re-use – someone else may be doing something so you don’t need to recreate it.
  • Faster onboarding for new joiners
  • Improved employee engagement and retention
  • Faster time to market with new services.

Angela’s tips

  • Benchmark before you start (99% of people don’t)
  • Go beyond adoption numbers
  • Capture data like how quickly questions are answered
  • Don’t underestimate the value of anecdotal examples – as much as we love numbers, a story can be really powerful.
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