The latest in Microsoft’s Business Reimagined series of events looked at change across the public and private sectors, at The Hub Westminster. Although they are very different worlds, I’ve always found that they have much to learn from each other – often we don’t really understand our own environment until we have looked at it from the outside. The panel consisted of:

  • Nick Matthews, Principal of Customer Engagement at Yammer EMEA
  • Tim Lloyd, Head of Digital Communications for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Nick Keane, Digital Engagement Business Advisor for the College of Policing

And Sharon O’Dea, Senior Manager, Online Communications at Standard Chartered Bank, joined via Twitter.

I built a Storify to capture the main points that were tweeted, you can see it at the end of the post. The key thoughts it triggered in my mind were:

“Measuring ROI is not necessarily that important” when it comes to social media in both the private/public sectors

Yes, you need a business case for things, but the biggest, most important changes in a business rarely have a business case. If you can exactly measure the value of a strategy, you are probably so far behind the curve that you are just following proven ground, in which case, it’s about program management, not business cases. Big change is compelling, either because it is unavoidable, or because it is irresistible.

“@nickkeane What are the benefits of this change? How do we figure out the ROI of new practices”

“@timolloyd – few years ago, question was how could gov. use digital. Now question is how do they do it well”

Social isn’t a thing – it’s a collection of things

@timolloyd Need to identify right channel for discussion – may not always be twitter or Facebook, could be forums, blogs, etc”

“@nickomatthews 2 types of company, those who are transparent because its buzzword + those who know its essential to future”

There are multiple tools and channels to choose from. Pick the right tools for the right job. Also remember that ‘Social’ is part of a bigger series of changes affecting organisations. Workers today have very different expectations and behaviours than those of just a decade ago.

“@NickOMatthews Successful change is driven by 10% technology, 40% culture and 50% leadership from the top of business”

You march at the pace of the slowest

@NickOMatthews social is great for people to ask questions, but need to make sure internal processes allow for speedy answers”

Your outside can not, reliably, move faster than your inside! If you want your business to move at Internet communication speed outside, it needs to move at Internet speed internally too.

“Innovators often have a horrible time in organisations – innovators disrupt, which is often unwelcomed by others.”

Make room for the innovators, and if you are an innovator, be prepared that you may have to make changes, then move on. Change is not easy. It is hard on the organisation, and it is even harder on the change-makers.

The organisation is flat – get over it

@liamthomson Interesting talk around how hierarchical orgs like the Police manage and embrace innovation at the #bizreimagined panel discussion”

Internal and external communication are blurring, and communication bandwidth, while overloaded, is growing. Communication via social technologies does not respect hierarchy, it flattens it. External communications reach back into the organisation, short circuiting internal communications. The impact of ‘external’ communications feeding back into the organisation is something social tools have totally transformed, creating new communication paths, and internal amplification.

“@timolloyd We use the web to amplify announcements that may otherwise be drowned out by other news #bizreimagined

“@NickOMatthews gives example of whole policy being changed at 1 businessjust due to discussion on an internal social network#bizreimagined

Business communication is multi-facetted

Businesses use communication to inform, to influence, to engage. There is no one-size fits all. Just as the telephone system isn’t the preserve of one part of the organisation, social technology shouldn’t be either.

“@timolloyd Digital isn’t sectioned off at BIS, spend 3-4 days a week with policy teams discussing how it affects them#bizreimagined

@Annemcx …that complexity/diversity of communication and the story of social organisation is what will make it rich”

There is no learning without mistakes

@dcoplin: “The biggest blocker is the interface between the keyboard and the chair”… that’s you and me, by the way.”

Mistakes will happen. You can give people a list of “don’t”s but it is impossible to instrument every possible mistake into a list of rules. The technology and best practice is moving too fast. Better to help people understand the impact and consequences of what they do. Guiding principles will give better results than policies written by people who have never used the tools in the wild. Internal social networks provide a safer environment for people to hone their skills :- practice in private before you perform on the public stage.

Presumed competence and setting norms – two very good guidelines from @nickkeane

@timolloyd You need to accept occasionally people will make a mistake, but this is quite healthy, don’t lose sleep over it

@KatyCooney Mistakes will happen when we use social tools and that’s ok-it’s more. Important how the institution responds to mistakes

@nickkeane 3 things orgs can do to combat stupidity: effective policy, monitoring and proper training

You are who they say you are

The ‘branding’ mindset has become pervasive. Many organisations believe that they are “who they say that they are.” They are not. The social identity of an organisation is produced by the interactions of those inside and outside of the organisation. The wording of a press release is drowned out by the words  on the web.

When the ‘brand’ presented in the communications does not match the brand that people perceive from the conversations, then there is trouble ahead. Organisations can no longer have different internal & external ‘values’ or ‘voices’ – People can not consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with who they are.

While there are still lines between the communication, the barrier is eroding. That means good communication tools and skills are becoming more and more important, and in a world with greater transparency, a good organisation culture is becoming more important too.

Read the full Storify from the event here.