Social Tools, Social Business, And Cleaning Out The Garage

Which of these do you think will have the biggest impact upon collaboration:

1) Letting employees use social tools (slack, instant messaging, blogging) to communicate with one another instead of email?

2) Ensuring employees know where to find every document on a shared drive and keeping them updated?

Once outside of the social business bubble, it’s not even close. The biggest frustration isn’t that employees have to use email to speak with one another. The biggest frustration is losing time and opportunities searching for documents they can’t find.

The temptation will always be to gravitate towards adding a new exciting tool to the mix so people can communicate better. But going from email to slack isn’t going to have anywhere near as big an impact as figuring out the best way to tag, share, and store the documents you already have.

Of course, saying you’re going to go through your documents, figure out the best file structure, and train employees to save documents properly is about as exciting as cleaning out the garage. New shiny tools and becoming a social business is far more fun.

Email certainly isn’t the best tool to use for anything, but it’s probably not broken. Your shared drive however is probably a jungle of redundant information people have to wade through to find what they need. I’d fix that first.


  1. Ernesto Izquierdo says:

    Interesting post Rich, that’s what we are trying to achieve in our organization. I’m not taking credit for that, other smart people before me have worked for 5 years to get the document management and tagging structure in place. We have yet to roll it out to our whole user base but we’re on it.

    But then, we still have the issue of Search, we’ve got a project working on it… improving it, refining results, but educating all the employees on the best tagging and metadata is as you say… not that fun.

    Nevertheless, we are also in the process of launching online communities, and adding a social Q&A. I’ve read your thoughts about Q&As, but I’ve never seen a company (except Google) where employees are totally happy with their internal Search results. What we are trying to bring is the option to Search or Ask.

    If you Search, you might get documents, that can be outdated. If you Ask, you’ll find an expert with probably the latest developments on that topic, those that come from the last meeting she’s attended, that have not yet been written in a “Minutes of meeting”… How do we ensure that you’ll find the right expert: machine learning, AI in a really smart Q&A tool.

    I like your metaphor of the document management with cleaning up the garage. :slight_smile:

  2. Richard Millington says:

    The ideal here I think is similar to what many help communities have.

    Where it’s not search/ask, but find. if you begin to ask a question, it
    brings up a list of possible answers as you type. If you finish typing out
    the question and don’t see anything relevant, you can ‘ask’ the question.
    This works well with federated search.

    Machine learning is pretty cool, but you need a huge data set for it
    though. What tools are you using?

  3. Ernesto Izquierdo says:

    To start with we’ll have both boxes:

    • Search (enterprise federated search)
    • Ask (smart social Q&A tool)

    The Ask option has indeed the functionality that as you type you see possible similar questions… and it’s solutions.

    We might end up by bringing these two together, but as a start we’ll go with both tools.

    The tool we are testing, as mentioned in another post about metrics in this community, is Starmind.

    Finally, considering how much you solicit an expert, the tool can limit the amount of questions per expert per week, by default it’s 3.

    One of the benefits for the expert is that once he’s answered a question, the answer remains in the database and he might not need to be bothered again for that question. Managers of the platform can search for experts by tags. And the expertise levels are given by the machine learning, tags used in the replies + the votes by the users.

    Linking back to the document management 1st step, the answer of the expert can include links to our existing intranet and documents.


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