*As seen in KM Review
As the popularity of social media increases ever more quickly, isn’t it about time your organization got on board? Here are some of the basics of using “web 2.0″ technology for your intranet with examples of organizations that are leading the way.
The latest buzz word for advancing knowledge-sharing, is ‘SMIFing’ – social media inside the firewall. This refers to Web 2.0, or in this case, Intranet 2.0 paradigm shift which has been building for the past few years where collaboration and free speech reign, and users are encouraged to network and form the content of the site.
Tools such as, ‘Wiki’ and other knowledge base facilitators such as ‘frequently asked question’ lists, forums that include subscriber notifications, blogging, news and RSS aggregators. The beauty of these tools is that they give a voice to the ‘real’ people, as opposed to just management or the internal marketing professionals, demonstrating transparency and openness within the organization through two-way conversations. It also assists with networking, all those soft skills and benefits. On the internet front, tools such as MySpace have become so popular that even Rupert Murdoch deemed it important enough to spend $580m acquiring.
What are they – a Quick Primer
A ‘Wiki’ is quite simply a shared online medium that everyone can update. It comes from the Hawaiian word for ‘quick’! It can be used to create a knowledge base or reference for staff, researchers, sales teams or customer service representatives.
According to Bill Ives , Motorola for example are using approximately 1944 Wiki’s. Toby Redshaw, Corporate Vice President of Information Technology Strategy, Architecture and e-Business describes “how wikis really helped save them time by getting around the need for a web specialist to maintain many important pages.” 2 with the added benefit of getting knowledge out of people’s heads.
Now we all know about forums or bulletin boards, which in some ways are distantly related to the wiki AND the blog, but a blog differs from both – it’s a conversation with a mind of it’s own. The posts are sequential in date order. When used within the corporate firewall, they may be written by one or two knowledge-area specialists or can be used to generate input from everyone. It differs from a forum in that you aren’t really able to create sub-categories, but subsequently you also don’t need to expand through all the posts to read everything. It’s often used within the corporate website or an extranet environment to demonstrate expertise to prospective clients, create an environment of inclusiveness, and even to support a work-life balance.
One example of a corporate blog is one created for the Victorian Public Service, Australia, which is using it for a Continuous Improvement Network. Once again, Motorola are getting their hands dirty as early adopters with 2700 internal blogs! In addition, they are preparing to share information from the existing blogs and wikis with their 500 live extranet sites which they use to collaborate with partners.
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) allows people and organizations to subscribe to external content in XML format. It takes a leap of faith by companies to adopt this, as it is tantamount to allowing anyone through the front door to the gate-keepers of a strictly controlled IT environment. Other news tools include allowing your own users to create the news – scandalous idea really!
Quiksilver and DMG radio use RSS to provide weather details to their employees, which in turn brings people back to other important intranet tools and corporate communications.
Figure 1. Example of RSS feeds creating return visits to the intranet.
KM & intranet governance with SMIFing
The outstanding issues facing organizations embracing the new online culture, include how to provide governance in this environment, and how to deal with disagreements between contributors (in the case of a Wiki). A wiki is a fantastic knowledge resource but it does need to be facilitated in some way in case disagreements arise. A case in point is the rather daunting-looking process of arbitration at Wikipedia itself. See an example at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration. For corporations, a remedy would be to supplement the wiki with usage guidelines plus an online poll, forum, or ensure there is a feedback mechanism in the chosen knowledge base.
See the following example of an FAQ tool demonstrating the last point.
You’ll see that in addition to everyone being able to submit a knowledge base article (similar to the wiki scenario), people can also submit feedback or changes that then go through a central moderator before they are published.
Similarly a blog is often best in the hands of the knowledge experts who are free to share the fruits of their experience with other staff. A forum is a good tool to encourage Communities of Practice (CoPs), or knowledge-sharing generally, as you can control the flow of conversation through sub-categories. You can also move high-value topics into the FAQ/ KB tool.
With the featured forum below you can also create KPI’s around participant knowledge-sharing behaviour. The more people contribute, the greater their rating!
Figure 3. Providing ranking system for contributor performance
Features such as these can help improve customer service, support competitive intelligence for product and marketing development, and give staff a better understanding of their company’s competitive advantages. It gets the shy people to contribute in a less threatening way than in a face-to-face meeting, and it reduces the likelihood of domineering personalities (who may not necessarily have the best solutions or ideas) from taking over the conversation.
Finally, RSS is a way to stimulate interest in the intranet and draw people to the knowledge management tools you have provided them. Ever heard the phrase, ‘build it and they will come’….it’s not true.
Here’s another example of RSS used within an intranet environment to get people participating,
Figure 4. Another example of RSS news.
The features described offer some solution to the corporate conundrum of command versus the new paradigm of free flowing conversations, in a way that makes sense in this unique corporate situation. Offer ‘controlled flexibility’ to share ideas and knowledge within the firewall.
Bring business partners and customers into the KM mix
Don’t forget your clients. Why wouldn’t you include them in your knowledge management plan? Give clients and business partners a way to contribute through blogs, or forums.
Many companies, particularly IT ones, are using collaborative technologies to capture the knowledge in clients heads, not just their own. One million heads are better than one – there’s a wealth of information out there that can be shared through the corporate website or through a premium extranet environment which allows you to control who sees what. Microsoft have a vast knowledge base incorporating forums and blogs that serve the entire partner and customer community, cross referenced by product, campaign and resources. Similarly Intranet DASHBOARD has a support community site supplemented by premium forums for clients.
Use forums and secure web pages to build trust through premium content devoted to your valued partners or clients in return for their participation as in our earlier example from Motorola.
The world is changing and corporations need to move with it! Open the lines of communication and knowledge-sharing is a sensible way through controlled flexibility in the land of Intranet 2.0. Collaborative tools like Wiki’s , FAQs, Blogs, Forums and RSS do have a legitimate role to play behind the firewall.
Excerpts published in KM Review Vol 9, Issue 4 Sept/Oct 2006