Crumbling infrastructure - change or be changed

Change or be changed!

There is a lot of talk about how 20th century organisations need to change to be successful in the 21st century. And when we say organisations need to change, we actually mean people, as they make up and shape organisations.

Change is a process, not an event

Change is a process, not an event. It is underpinned by a learning process, as depicted below:

The learning process visualised

The learning process visualised. (Source: Author)

The end of the process may be fuzzy and thus be without concrete end date. However, the learning process is coming to an end once a person has learned a new skill, behaviour or technology and is first consciously and later unconsciously applying and using it. Traditional IT change management has always been about the changing technology itself. Change requests are raised for new features. Communication is tailored towards explaining new functionality. The traditional change management process is often part of an IT initiative with a defined start and end date. Becoming a 21st century company is not purely about introducing new technology. It is about new work models, new (social) contracts between employer and employees, new behaviours, a different corporate culture and organisational structures. Unlike technology, this is all rather fuzzy.

In the past ten years many organisations have experimented with new (social) technology to address existing business problems. Many of them focused on the technology aspect, some paid lip-service to the importance of behaviour and culture, though few really lived it. Changing technology is something tangible and can often be implemented by a project team. A business case is construed based on the most disputable facts. And of course, a start and end-date is set, ideally within a short timeframe to deliver results and be predictable. Organisations did themselves a disfavour though, as these projects did not yield the promised results. Many of them are now going through the Trough of Disillusionment, rethinking and redesigning the early initiatives. Other companies have been more realistic and strategic (holistic) about their initiative to evolve from a traditional to a social (connected) business. It’s not about implementing a set of technologies but about becoming a 21st century business. A great example is the Robert Bosch GmbH in Germany. Joachim Heinz of Robert Bosch GmbH presented the journey of his company at the recent Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris. What is noticeably different to other companies is the realistic and holistic design of the change process. Joachim said that it will take between 7 – 10 years. It may sound like a long time, but again probably realistic for what the company is set out to do and based on what kind of actual change we have seen in the past 10 years.

Change or be changed!

Change or be changed!  When you listen to the conversations between E20 practitioners in general or at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in particular it is often like preaching to the converted. But then they return to Planet Earth and reality kicks in. People immersed in their day-to-day work life don’t see the need for change, are afraid to change, have other priorities. Change or be changed. While it is a true statement, it immediately creates resistance because it is seen as a threat.  Change is a learning process as depicted above. The question is whether we could and should accelerate the process. So I asked this question on Twitter during Joachim’s presentation at the E20 Summit and it evoked pushback from people, whose opinion I value and trust.

Could and should we accelerate change?

Could and should we accelerate change?

With its strategic and long-term programme Bosch is actively facilitating the learning / change process. In a sense, it is also accelerating the process. Maybe it does take 7 – 10 years instead of 10 – 15 years. What we should not be aspiring to is to let change happen, especially when meeting resistance.

A Change Acceleration Programme

We can’t expect people to simply change. At the same time we often can’t afford to wait until people are willing to change. In a recent client engagement I created a Change Acceleration Programme (partly inspired by General Electric’s Change Acceleration Programme) to plant the seeds for change. Based on an overall strategy it comprised a large number of concrete tactics, nudges and messages to help people change. Some of these tactics and nudges were derived by applying the Influencer Framework (Amazon) for specific people (CEO, COO etc.) and roles within the 40,000 employee strong organisation, others based on my own experience from other engagements or inspired by other practitioners.  The initial tactics and nudges were targeted primarily at changing employees’ behaviour from ‘working in silos’ to ‘working out loud’. The better you understand the motivation and ability of single individuals the better (and quicker) you can help them change and learn new behaviours, skills and technologies. (Shameless plug: 21 of my fellow change agents of the Change Agents WorldWide network just published our first e-book ‘Changing the world of work. One human at a time‘). Below is just a very short list of change tactics that were part of the programme:

  • Supporting key company events
  • Reverse Mentoring (Video; Reverse Mentoring at Bosch)
  • Email-Free-Friday / Meeting-Free-Friday
  • Flow of Work integration (Desktop, Mobile, IM, Office, Email, ERP)
  • Ask Me Anything
  • When To Use What Matrix
  • Before/After Scenarios
  • Card decks for specific roles
  • A day in the life of…

Sometimes, your posters, brown-bag lunches, user manuals and other communication and education material is simply not enough. You will need to find more creative ways of nudging people into the right direction and facilitate the change process. The tactics above and their exact content and approach depend on the organisation and should therefore not be simply copied.

To sum it all up, I believe we could and should accelerate change by facilitating the underlying learning process and influencing behaviours. For that we will need to zoom into the individual and group layer, rather than talking about big-splash change that is orchestrated only on the organisational level.

© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Engaging the workforce

16 interesting event formats to engage your employees

Many traditional businesses are exploring ways to adapt to the 21st century and become social businesses. A social business is a fancy word for a networked business or connected business. In the end it’s about networks and connections and its radical impact and mindshift to the way businesses have operated in the 20th century.

There are various ways of building and strengthening networks, including employee networks within companies. The idea is to tear down corporate silos, strengthen the corporate culture, improve employee loyalty, leverage the collective intelligence but also to have some fun! One of the most scalable ways is the use of an enterprise social network or social Intranet. It allows employees to connect with each other based on joint interests and work beyond all departmental silos, locations and hierarchies. Whilst the introduction and use of such platforms comes with its own challenges, it is still the most preferred method for connecting a company’s workforce because of its scale and value.

But actually there are many other ways and formats of bringing employees together. Carsten Rossi from Kuhn, Kammann & Kuhn recently published a great list of online and offline events (German) that have the power to bring together employees from different departments, divisions, hierarchies and locations of a company. Some of them can also take place on or at least can be facilitated through a company’s enterprise social network or social intranet increasing its usage. Since Carsten’s list is in German, but I find it interesting and valuable, I thought I would briefly list the ideas and events in English:

1) Corporate Commuter App
This app facilitates connections among commuting employees and allows them to organise shared rides from and to work. (Author’s comment: SAP has already developed an app that could be used by other companies.)

2) Top Chef
Employees of a global company that love to cook can show off their talent in the company’s cafeterias. Local recipes can be exchanged and discussed on a Cooking Community on the company’s enterprise social network.

3) WorldCafé “worldwide”
See link to Wikipedia.

4) Corporate Quiz Duel
This could be first facilitated online and quarter, semi and finals could be held in real life. Format could be similar to ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ or similar.

5) Film Series
Based on a rough concept, employees in one office location create the first part of a movie and then pass the result on to the next office location. Progress and discussions take place on the enterprise social network or intranet.

6) Academy on the road
Employees that are traveling to other office locations present in Pecha Kucha style a project or innovations of his own office. All presentations can also be collected on the company’s intranet or similar.

7) ExOlympic Games
Instead of the usual company’s soccer tournament, the ‘Exotic Olympic Games’ are held. Activities could be for example Stacking or Mental Arithmetic.

8) Sandbox Days (inspired by Google Creative Sandbox)
Every company needs to address some big questions. Once a year it could organise a Sandbox day in different locations, where people come together to find answers to those big questions. At the end of the day the answers are presented to all participating locations.

9) Crowd Choir
Based on apps like Crowdflik groups / choirs could meet in different office locations and choreograph a previously chose song.

10) Citizen Day
Employees can talk about their social engagement outside work. On the company’s Intranet they can showcase their work through stories, photos and videos. Other employees can vote on the different engagements. The one with the most votes will be supported in a next Citizen Day.

11) Lunch Roulette
Why always go with the same colleagues for lunch? An app could help to pair people from different departments and roles to meet for lunch to learn about each other’s work. This could also be based on interests. (edited 27 Feb: There is an app for that called Mystery Lunch.)

12) Skill Swap
An idea by Clay Hebert.

13) Tracksuit Day (I would add it to the list)
The adidas Group organises once a year a track suit day. Employees are asked to come to work in a tracksuit. They can then upload their photos or videos and others can vote on them. This takes place on the company’s Intranet and has been a great success.

Some of the event formats above are clearly targeted ‘only’ at creating a stronger team spirit.  But there are others that can yield more immediate work-related results.

1) Corporate Barcamps
Similar to public barcamps this event format brings together employees to discuss various aspects of a pre-selected topic. Aspects are discussed and presented in various sessions organised by attendees rather than by a central committee. An extension would be to include partners, suppliers or even a completely external audience.

2) Innovation Slams
Employees present innovative ideas within a certain timeframe. These are rated and voted up on by others.

3) Jams
Jams can involve many hundreds and thousands of employees since they primarily take place online. Collaboratively employees work on predefined questions and challenges. Most jams are time-boxed between 24 and 72 hours. IBM has been a poster child for jams.

© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Corporate website trend: From single launch to continuous improvement

Summary: Moving ‘from single launch to continuous improvement’ is the ninth corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

It used to be the case that corporate websites were launched and then forgotten about for the next five years until the site was dated and another relaunch was necessary. Of course, content changed, but functionality and information architecture were hardly touched in between the relaunches. As developments in the networked world move faster and faster, a single big-bang launch every five years is not a viable strategy anymore. Instead, we will see continuous improvements to corporate websites, more exploring and testing of valuable functionality for stakeholders.

To ensure continuous improvements are possible you will need to make sure that you have an appropriate technology platform. One that can be extended and customised without compromising the performance and stability.  There are hundreds of CMS options out there, both proprietary and open-source, making the right selection a challenge. If you work in the External Communication department make sure you work closely with the IT department to select the right platform. However, you should lead! Previous approaches were often only a tickbox exercise. Some IT departments would tweak the list of functional requirements in a way that the CMS came out first, that would best fit the IT landscape, could be best supported by IT or was in use at the company already. But that CMS might not be useful and usable for content editors that need to use the tool on a daily basis.

It is highly important to avoid making the CMS selection a tickbox exercise only. A hybrid approach works much better. Together with IT draft a list of requirements for security, licenses, compliance etc. From that you can create a shortlist of relevant CMS platforms. In a next step document so-called user scenarios. These are scenarios written in plain English explaining what a certain user needs to accomplish. You create these scenarios based on interviews with stakeholders. Here is one example that I used in a client project:

Henry is part of the <Company X> Corporate Communications team. Today he needs to publish a news item on the corporate website. He has prepared the content in a Word document including text, pictures and a table. Once he has moved the content from the Word document into the CMS he searches the media library for relevant assets, finds a picture and includes it in the article. A widget shows him related content, from which he selects one item. As with all <Company X> related content on the corporate website the article needs to be in German and English. In addition to the version in German, Henry creates an English version. He saves both versions and triggers a workflow (optional) that informs Alice, Henry’s manager, of new content in the CMS. She receives a notification and accesses Henry’s article.

This is a very common user scenario for content editors. When investigating different CMS platforms, ask vendors or your IT department to walk you and your team through such user scenarios using the different systems. That way you will get a much better feel of which system helps you accomplish the tasks best. Too often vendors and IT departments highlight functionality that is not relevant to your workflows and thus makes the use of the systems just more complex and cumbersome. Concentrate on what you need the system to accomplish instead of all the bells and whistles it offers. For my client we decided to go for a CMS framework instead of a complete CMS platform. It is more suitable for the requirements identified, does not incur additional license cost and provides the client with a platform that he can build upon in the coming years.

In this blog post series I looked at a number of trends for corporate websites. Many of them require a substantial mindshift. This shift and its implications will take time. It’s nothing that will be accomplished and implemented over night. If you are tasked with the relaunch or further development of your organisation’s corporate website you may want to consider the  trends discussed and start pushing the envelope. Start with expressing your organisation’s objectives and corporate communication strategy. What is it that you want to achieve? In a next step, research in-depth your target audience and understand how you can attract but also help them. Consider the corporate website trends I talked about in this series and start brainstorming relevant functionality. Some of those ideas might not be applicable right away, simply because your corporate culture or processes are not ready for them yet. Start with the quick wins, but plot all ideas on a timeline. That way you develop a roadmap that can be used for the continuous improvement after your last big-bang launch of your corporate website. Good luck and enjoy the ride!

This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Duane Schoon

UN Security Council

A change tactic for helping your executive management to work out loud

Summary: In this post I present a change tactic to help executive management see the value of their company’s enterprise social network without risk and time commitment.

Many employees only know the name of their CEO and that he probably earns lots of money. That is not much to trust him as a leader. In large traditional organisations the executive management is often far removed from the workforce. Once a year the company might hold a town-hall meeting, at which the management team lays out the company’s strategy and answers employees’ questions. The rest of the year the Internal Communication department prepares and distributes updates on behalf of the management team. Thus, in traditional organisations there is hardly any interaction and communication between the executive management and workforce leading to misunderstandings, mistrust and potentially disengagement. How do managers expect employees to trust and follow them if they don’t know them?

An enterprise social network or similar can help bridge the (communication) void between management and employees by ‘working out loud‘. In a previous blog post I talked about why managers, including executive managers, should be using such platforms. There are many others that highlight the necessity of the C-Suite to become ‘social’ (aka connected!). In a recent post I also wrote about very concrete first steps for managers to get started with a company’s enterprise social network.

And yet, some managers may still refuse to use such platforms actively, partly because of different reasons or excuses, e.g. lack of time, unable to see the value or other higher priorities. But rather than just giving up, maybe there is something that can be done to ‘nudge’ executive management and accelerate the necessary change? Two ideas that go into this direction are  ‘Ask Me Anything‘ by John Stepper of Deutsche Bank and ‘Open up the corporate ivory towers‘ by Daniel Martin Eckhart of Swiss Re. In both cases the goal is to make executive management more accessible and certain decisions taken by them more transparent.  The initial investment taken by the management is low, but the value that can be shown is high.

Based on a similar thinking there is a change tactic I call ‘One day in the life of…’.  The title is actually inspired by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’.  Thanks to Solzhenitsyn and his remarkably detailed narration, the reader can get a sense of the inhumanity and brutality that inmates of the Gulag prison camps suffered. Whilst many of them were not able to speak out, Solzhenitsyn gave them a powerful voice in his book.

‘One day in the life of…’ in a corporate setting is (hopefully) taking place in a different context ;). The idea is to open up a world to people which they usually don’t have access to.  It can provide a glimpse into the demanding but interesting day of people that employees know the name of but not much more than that. This builds trust and probably to a certain extent understanding of why certain decisions are taken.

How can ‘One day in the life of…’ work? It should be set up as a campaign supported by proper communication and also educational elements, since it is not meant to be done just for the fun of it but to help people adopt new behaviours and tools! One employee is selected to follow a senior manager or C-Suite member for one day to meetings, lunch, events (whatever is on the schedule). The employee uses the company’s enterprise social network or Intranet during the day to keep other employees updated obviously leaving out any confidential information. It needs to be ensured though that there is no censorship by anyone, otherwise the communication becomes inauthentic and not trust-worthy and is perceived as yet-some-other-internal-comms content. The employee can use #hashtags to update his status, so others can follow the conversation, ask questions or ask the employee to ask certain questions to the senior manager or C-Suite leader. Since asking a question on the enterprise social network or Intranet is in most cases not anonymous, it can be assumed that there won’t be any difficult or inappropriate questions. Quite the opposite, it might be difficult to get people to post questions. That is why it is important to facilitate this process carefully.

What does the manager gain? Well, let me ask you: ‘What does the manager stand to lose?‘ A skeptical manager can experience the power of using such platforms with very low (time) investment. There is not much he needs to change in his daily schedule if anything. At the same time he can get to know the platform and how he could use it himself. It’s a supervised learning by doing exercise. More importantly though, the manager might be able to earn higher trust, credibility and better understanding among employees. And hopefully, the next time he will use the tool himself to keep his employees informed of what he is doing by ‘working out loud’. Of course, this idea is also valuable for further increasing the use and reputation of the company’s enterprise social network or Intranet. Thus, a win-win for all!

Enterprise social platforms allow for and at the same time require new behaviours.  It is a learning process. However, sometimes traditional learning formats like videos, presentation, brown-bag lunches etc. are simply not sufficient to help with the first steps. If your managers and employees don’t see the value or don’t know how to use these tools for their own benefit, it’s time to explore new ways of learning and helping them to get started!

© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Corporate website trend: From company centric design to user centric design

Summary: Moving ‘from company centric design to user centric design’ is the eight corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

This trend does certainly not only apply to corporate websites. In fact, this applies to any product or service in this world.  To be successful any product or service needs to be useful, usable, delightful and accessible. You may want to add affordable, but in the end people are willing to pay a premium if the aforementioned product or service characteristics are fulfilled.

Useful – is one of the key characteristics to make a product or service successful. In the past, product and service providers often assumed that they would know what their users wanted. Even worse, in some cases providers never even had an interest in why and how users would use their products or services. Look at Enterprise IT. Most systems are completely unuseful and unusable! This is changing. New disciplines like User Experience Design have emerged. It goes way beyond traditional visual design and usability approaches, as it places the user with all his needs and behaviour at the very centre. The same is true for service design, which follows similar customer centric principles.

What does this all mean when you consider relaunching your corporate website? In previous blog posts of this series I mentioned a number of interesting examples from companies and how they have implemented the various corporate website trends. These example may make sense to those companies and their audience, but maybe not for you. Therefore, user research has become a critical component in developing new products and services. There are different methods of user research from surveys and interviews to focus groups or even observing representatives of your target audience.

One of the most common and scalable approaches are anonymous surveys like the one from HP below.


HP – Invitation to participate in a survey on the corporate website

Designing surveys is a science in itself. You will need to evaluate the number of questions, the conclusions that can be drawn from the answers, the time people are willing to spare to participate and many other factors. Many survey providers offer packages including for surveying visitors to corporate websites. This should help to get you on the right track and you can build from there.

An anonymous survey is something that scales nicely, is affordable and depending on the design of the survey and overall number of visitors can provide you with supporting data points. It will hardly be the case though that insights gained from the survey will drastically impact your strategy or functionality. It can either be used on an ongoing basis to capture feedback and learn about potential improvements or for the relaunch of the corporate website to gather additional data points to support initial assumptions.

Interviews are another research method that allow you to go deeper on needs and behaviours of your target audience. It may sound strange at first to want to interview journalists, analysts or CSR professionals. Besides, you may refrain from doing so, because everyone is extremely busy. That is true. But most people can spare 10-15 min, especially if you already have a connection with them (e.g. journalists that cover your company often). They feel valued that you ask them for their opinion. And in the end their time might be excellent invested, as the new corporate website should help them in their job. Thus, a win-win situation.

Best to label the interview as a conversation and ideally pick it up when you need to talk to the other person anyway. What is highly important though is that you do not ask ‘What functionality would you like?’. It’s a hit and miss. Better to allow your conversation partner to explain how they work. If it is a journalist, how does he get ideas for stories? How do they decide which story is worthwhile writing? How do they research the story? Of course you can also ask what they like/dislike about your website or what other corporate website they like. Similar for other audiences like analysts and investors, CSR professionals, career seekers, consumers etc. What you really want to understand is their way of working and where you could imagine functionality to improve their way of working and interaction with you and your company (including through the corporate website). From that insight you can derive relevant functionality and design the experience the way it makes sense to the user.

This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Felix Cohen

Corporate website trend: From providing information to providing a service

Summary: Moving ‘from providing information to providing a service’ is the seventh corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

Most corporate websites provide large amounts of information. This used to be enough, but no longer. If you want to be useful and build trust that way you need to offer additional value through other services. Especially on a corporate site people are usually on a mission to accomplish a task. They rarely visit a corporate site to simply browse and enjoy some nice imagery.

Sometimes providing a service as an added value can seem counter-intuitive, as it initially may not support the organization’s objectives. However, one of the maxims in a connected world states: Provide more value than you can capture. The idea is that people will thank you for your services and talk about them / you in favorable ways, which again, in a connected world is critical.

I found a very interesting take on this trend implemented by BP. On their corporate website they provide an Energy Usage and Carbon Emission Calculator.

BP Energy usage and carbon emission calculator

BP Energy usage and carbon emission calculator

It’s a nifty tool that allows you to measure your energy consumption. It also uses some lightweight game mechanics, since you can compare your consumption against the average consumer. BP also offers you to send a reminder in the future to use the calculator again and track and compare your energy consumption. It’s a very easy way to stay in touch and on the minds of consumers. Last but not least, the BP Energy Lab provides tips for greener more sustainable living. Even though it is all tucked away in the Sustainability section of BP’s website, you have to applaud the company on thinking beyond providing information to now also providing a service. I think there are lots of opportunities for companies, even traditional B2B companies, that have not been explored yet.

Whilst not a corporate website per se, one highly interesting example I came across was a mobile app developed by a law firm specialized in car accidents.

My Lawyer Mobile App

My Lawyer Mobile App

Similar to other law firms, the company could have simply created a mobile app providing information and news about the firm. But they must have known that few people will actually download the app, as its use is very limited! Instead the firm thought beyond providing information to providing a service. The app helps people involved in an accident. It provides a checklist of what to do, provides the functionality to record conversations with police and the other party, draw a sketch of how the accident happened, record GPS location and many other things. All through this process, there is no value for the law firm. However, when the person involved in the accident has gathered all the information using the app, he can simply send it to the law firm. That is where the loop closes.

But there are other examples of how companies are moving from providing information to providing a service, which can also go beyond the corporate website. In the end, it’s not the channel that counts, but the wider mindshift that is involved and effects all parts of the business. Below are just two examples of companies that are also riding this trend.

BASF has a number of mobile apps. Below is a screenshot of an app that helps arable farmers and agronomists identifying diseases in cereals.

BASF - Mobile app helps to identify diseases

BASF – Mobile app helps to identify diseases

Unilever created a mobile app targeting students and recent graduates. The Unilever Career Sprinter app obviously provides career information about Unilever but also general job tips that could be useful for their target audience.

Unilever - Helping students and graduates with their career path

Unilever – Helping students and graduates with their career path

The app was last updated in November 2012, so I am not sure how successful it really was in the end. It might well be that it will get pulled from the App Store soon.

These are all first steps in moving towards providing services. In the future we might see new scenarios and functionality. Imagine a journalist looking for different views on a company story. Of course, the journalist can use all the different search engines and channels, but what if he could go to the corporate website and see the corporate communication and the non-corporate communication about the topic? Would it be helpful in that it would save him time and that it would provide the journalist with valuable context? It probably would. The same is true for investors that are looking at a company. Why not aggregate and provide information in an effective way about how the company is faring against the wider market or even competitors? The investor will find that information anyway, so why not help him accomplish his task faster?

Companies may not see an immediate ROI and thus refrain from this kind of strategy. But they should remember that we live in a networked world and things have changed. Business as usual is not an option anymore.

This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Wayne MacPhail

Corporate website trend: From destination to platform

Summary: Moving ‘from destination to platform’ is the sixth corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

The Web is a platform. Facebook is a platform. Why not the corporate website? At the moment, most corporate websites simply serve as a destination. People looking to accomplish something visit the website, (hopefully) complete their task and leave. In most cases the website is not a place where like-minded people are able to connect with each other.

Much thought and consideration is needed for extending a corporate website to become a platform, especially if the main audience consists of journalists, investors, CSR professionals and career seekers. You will need to come up with well defined use cases and reasons for the audience to engage and connect with each other.

HP provides access to its consumer and enterprise support forums through its corporate website. The forums run on a different platform – Lithium. Lithium is a well-known provider for (external) communities.

HP Support Forum

HP support forums integrated into the HP corporate website

Interestingly, HP have applied the corporate look&feel to the support forums making it a seamless experience for users. HP might think about a deeper integration with content from other parts of the corporate website. For example, users of the forums have at least some degree of HP product knowledge. Many are even experts in their field. If HP want to attract those talented people, why not display job adverts somewhere on the support forums (see similar General Electric that advertises the number of open positions on their homepage) or target those people directly?

Hershey’s has integrated a crowd-sourcing application that lets users share ideas about new products, packaging and technology.

Hershey's - Submitting ideas

Hershey’s – Submitting ideas

I am not sure how successful this process is given the intimidating language and terms. It also fails to involve a wider audience by allowing them to review, like, vote or comment on submitted ideas by others. In the end it feels like a slightly more advanced ‘Suggestion Box’.

Dell with its IdeaStorm has made a better implementation of what I mentioned above. It is a sustainable and successful crowd-sourcing initiative. Whilst it is not integrated into the corporate website, it is a primary example of running such crowd-sourcing projects.

Dell's Idea Storm

Dell’s Idea Storm


Another example of moving a corporate website from destination to platform is Eni. The Italian multinational oil and gas company provides access to a restricted area to clients, journalists, employees and others.


It is not apparent whether the target audience is offered only additional content or whether Eni offers means to its audience to connect and network with each other.

As I mentioned before, corporate websites moving from simple destination to becoming a platform is tricky. Putting the technical requirements in place is easy. But nurturing and sustaining a community requires a lot of attention, time and potentially budget. But it is an interesting idea to build closer, emotional relationships between people working at your company and your audience.

This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Max Corteggiano

Corporate website trend: From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions

Summary: Moving ‘from single source of truth to provider of different opinions’ is the fifth corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

One of the biggest problems with corporate websites is that they are seen as yet another company’s broadcasting channel. No matter the information it will always have the company’s positive spin on it. It was a comfortable position for companies back when corporate websites were the main destination to find information. But these days your audience can get information about your company from a variety of (online) sources. You say you are the best employer in the world? Well, people on Glassdoor say the opposite. You say your CSR campaign is an incredible hit? Well, people in forums and communities beg to differ. No matter what, people will probably trust your content on your website less than other sources. And these days it’s easy to find these sources, so it’s not advisable to bury your head in the sand.

To earn the trust of your audience the corporate website will need to move from single source of truth to the provider of different opinions. Corporate websites are starting to provide corporate and non-corporate content, i.e. 3rd party or user-generated content. This is a tall order for most companies, as it can potentially mean losing control of your message if done wrong. Thus, we probably won’t see radical shifts in this trend but slow developments, starting on social media channels, microsites, then brand sites and ultimately corporate websites.

One of the simpler and most cost-effective way of providing different opinions is content curation. Thus, the corporate website team curates relevant, external content that was not produced by them but 3rd parties. The adidas Group have started doing this with their recent relaunch of their corporate website.

In 2013 Siemens teamed up with Zooppa to crowdsource videos through a contest. Participants were asked to create original footage about  inventions that can help us lead a sustainable life in the cities. 

Siemens - Crowdsourcing video messages

Siemens – Crowdsourcing video messages

The requirements of the contest stipulated explicitly that the video must not be Siemens branded. Some of these videos can now be found on the Siemens homepage. They are part of the /answers campaign, which uses storytelling to build an emotional connection between the audience and the company.  Siemens understood quite well, that if the content is good, it will speak for itself and spread across the social web. Nice touch, that Siemens could indirectly be associated with the innovation initiative.

One interesting way of providing opinions and views from different people is using employees’ tweets. In the end, people connect to people, not companies. Below you see a screenshot from the General Electric homepage from 2012. It displays tweets from GE employees as well as their picture. 

GE employee tweets on the corporate homepage

GE employee tweets on the corporate homepage

Now, I assume that GE has some tools in place to pick the right tweets and to avoid any embarrassing tweets showing up.

For writing this blog post I revisited the GE website. GE have now moved employee and non-GE-employee tweets to the Story section. In a sense that is a shame, as those tweets are not front and center anymore. On the other hand, tweets are now embedded into the right context (Link to a GE Story).

GE employee tweets are displayed at the end of GE Stories

GE employee tweets are displayed at the end of GE Stories

What is important to understand in a networked world is that we are not dealing with B2B or B2C anymore. It’s all P2P – People to People. People trust people, at least more than they trust companies. Thus, in a sense you don’t want your audience to connect to your company but to the people who run your company including any employee. But organisations can also think beyond their own employees. They could include tweets or other content from analysts, journalists, CSR professionals, partners, sports stars (if for example the brand is in the sports business) etc.

A more elaborate and time and cost intensive way of providing different opinions is corporate blogging. Corporate blogs offer an opportunity to provide more informal insights into the company and conversational content if done right. Ideally, employees and managers of the company write interesting blog posts about their work, opinions, insights. If done right, corporate blogs can definitely support marketing and recruitment efforts in an informal and indirect manner. However, companies should consider their audience and effort it takes to make it work! Personally, I like the adidas Group Corporate Blog. It is written by employees and touches on a large variety of topics that are interesting and relevant to me.

adidas Group blog

adidas Group blog


Opening up the corporate website to non corporate and third-party content is a huge change. But there are a few simple steps that can be taken towards it.

This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Paul Gallo

4 steps to get executive management use your enterprise social network

In a previous blog post I looked at WHY and HOW managers, especially executive managers, could and should use their company’s enterprise social network or social intranet. In this post I describe WHAT they can do to quickly get started.

Quick recap from the previous post. Not only the technology to interact with employees changes, but more importantly certain character traits need to exist or to be learned. To become better managers, managers need to be

    1. Visible
    2. Authentic
    3. Human
    4. Valuable
    5. Compassionate.

To make things easy I will refer to enterprise social network and social intranet platforms in generic terms. Some of them may not have the features mentioned below. Some of them, for example IBM Connections, Jive, Yammer, Socialcast, Communote, Chatter and many others, might have, including other relevant features.

If you have 30 min with an executive manager, here is what I would do after having explained the WHY and HOW:

1) Fill in your profile

Every employee should have a profile on platform, which is visible to the entire company. In some cases information is pulled from the Active Directory. In most cases this information is incomplete though. A photo, About Me, Experience and other profile fields are probably missing. Depending on the platform policy the picture may not need to be a formal corporate photo. Remember being authentic and human!

About Me section: Of course, some formal words about the manager, his role but it’s also important to include something interesting that maybe few people knew.

2) Get the app on mobile

Especially managers and executives are often in meetings or on the road. Having easy access to the platform through mobile devices lowers the barrier to participation. Thus, help the manager to download the app or provide other means of mobile access to the platform. In some cases, the app can be pushed to the device beforehand.

3) Microblogging

Once this is done you can start with using the microblogging part. If you have only 30 min, I would focus on this. Few executives will immediately join communities, collaboratively work on documents or want to start a blog. Microblogging is something quick and easy to pick up and can already provide a lot of value.

When it comes to the microblogging part it is important to remember the principles of this new way of communicating a – build trust by being visible, authentic, human, valuable and compassionate. To make the microblogging part more tangible for your executive, explain that it is similar to working out loud, i.e. working out loud in public but within the company, of course.

Quick starting points when thinking about what to post:

  • Share what’s on your mind
    • Collaboration can start with just four words: ‘what do you think …’, ‘anyone heard of this …’
  • Share what you are doing
    • ‘I was just interviewed by Bloomberg. We talked about …’, ‘Here is an interesting article I recently read. Wondering if we are doing anything in this area already…’ or ‘what do you think about…’
  • Share something personal
    • ‘I went to see the Red Sox game on the weekend. Great atmosphere…’ or ‘I just finished reading War & Peace. It took a while, but glad I read it till the end.’
  • Share to care/give praise: 
    • ‘Thank you <employee> / <team> for your contribution…’ or even just by simply liking a status update or comment by other people! This takes about 5 min of your executive’s day but can be invaluable and motivating to his employees.
    • If the executive feels more comfortable, he can also give praise in private channels in the beginning. Even this will show employees that he is actually aware of what is going on in the company.

When talking about microblogging you should also introduce @mentions and #hashtags. @mentions are relevant because you can ‘tag’ people in a post. That means if they are mentioned they will receive a notification. #hashtags are another way of disseminating information on the platform. People can subscribe to #hashtags. Maybe there is a particular hashtag that is relevant for your executive or he would like to introduce, e.g. ‘innovation’ or some campaign he is responsible for. When you click on a #hashtag people will be able to see all posts to the microblog that have been tagged with the #hashtag.

Point out to your executive that he does not need to check the microblogging stream every 10 minutes. Important information and discussions will flow to the top.

What to avoid

    • Purely promotional posts.
    • Too formal updates. Being authentic and human is key.
    • Posts by others than the executive
    • Useless or frequent posts with same content. Just writing ‘I am meeting person x today’ every day becomes boring over time. More context and variety should be given.
    • Lengthy updates
    • Giving up. In the beginning people might be hesitant to interact, especially if they don’t know the executive personally. Some are probably shocked by the fact he is actually reading people’s updates and even responding. That is scary and people need to get used to it. One way of breaking the ice is by being proactive – asking questions and going out to where the people are having conversations.
4) Follow relevant people

Obviously, your executive should start following all other executives and maybe their reports. Also, he should follow people from his team, people he worked with at the company etc. Explain why he should follow other people and what impact that has on his interaction with the platform.

Whilst the above already provides concrete, practical steps to get executives into using your enterprise social network or social intranet by working out loud, you will still need to tweak the messages and steps for your managers. There is lots more that can be done (e.g. particular use cases for executive management) or said depending on the experience, behaviours, requirements of the managers.

If your executive needs some more inspiration and convincing, you may want to show him this video of Giam Swiegers, CEO Deloitte Australia talking about his own use of the company’s enterprise social network based on Yammer.

This post is part of the blog parade of the Social Business Arena. Check out other blog posts that deal with the adoption of social tools in the workplace.

Corporate website trend: From desktop to mobile

Summary: Moving ‘from desktop to mobile’ is the fourth corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

I believe this trend is already well understood and I don’t have to explain it in greater detail. With the omnipresence of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) people can access information whenever and wherever. This leads to great opportunities. But there are different ways of moving from desktop to mobile.

1) Mobile site or responsive/adaptive design?

Some time ago mobile sites of corporate websites were quite common. Most of them look like BASF and Siemens are still using this approach.

In the past years responsive / adaptive design has climbed the stage and seems to become the default option for organisation currently thinking about relaunching their corporate website. Both responsive and adaptive designs run on one codebase. Responsive web design uses flexible and fluid grids, and adaptive design relays on predefined screen sizes. (this article has more detail on the differences). In both cases though content and navigation are rearranged depending on the screen size of the device used.  Shell was one of the early companies to adopt responsive design.

Desktop version of Shell's corporate website

Desktop version of Shell’s corporate website


Responsive version of Shell's corporate website

Responsive version of Shell’s corporate website

Have a look at this article that describes in more detail the differences between a mobile site and one with responsive design.

2) Mobile Apps

It was to be expected that with the availability of mobile apps, companies would jump on the bandwagon and create such apps. Whether this makes sense or not depends on different factors. Mobile apps can provide a richer feature set and have more access to elements of your smartphone. But most corporate websites only serve static content (for now), which raises the question whether a separate mobile app where content will need to be uploaded separately and versions for different operating systems will need to be developed and maintained, makes a lot of sense. Time will tell.

Below is a screenshot of Unilever’s Investor Relations App.

Unilever Investor Centre App

Unilever Investor Centre App

It basically provides all the content that can also be found on the corporate website. Additional value seems to be missing, which I believe is a huge drawback. You could imagine expanding this app to include information about Unilever’s Annual General Meetings especially for participants to receive local content and services when attending on site. Companies should always consider things that are useful for the audience, let it be journalists, investors or others.

Cisco is taking it slightly further with its mobile app.

Cisco mobile app

Cisco mobile app

It offers latest news and promotional offers, videos and podcasts. It also allows users to find events and Cisco partners in their area, local phone number for Cisco support and receive current security alerts, advisories and responses. As you can see, the app provides localised content which might be more useful to users than generic content that can also be found on the corporate website. Thus, the app does not only provide information but also a service. This is another trend for corporate websites that we see and will discuss in a later blog post.

Before I come to the end, I will leave you with the ENI SandArtist mobile app. Users can create their own masterpieces on sand and share it with their networks. Well, here is mine:

My masterpiece using ENI's SandArtis mobile app

My masterpiece using ENI’s SandArtis mobile app


This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Lauren Manning