The challenge for internal comms in the social enterprise

I spoke earlier in the week at the Melcrum SharePoint User Forum on the subject of: the challenges facing the internal comms (IC) profession in the social enterprise. I wasn’t able to talk as much about SharePoint as perhaps I was expected to as, quite frankly, we don’t have a lot to show yet … which is another story entirely! 😦

Anyway, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the challenges facing the IC profession in a social enterprise. The slide below pretty well sums it up …

Having scoped the challenge, I started thinking about how comms people should respond … something I’ve touched upon before. I decided to write a vision statement for a world in which internal comms is REALLY engaged … a bit old-fashioned maybe, but it helped crystallize my thinking. Anyway, my first bash at it is below … I’d value your thoughts and feedback:

A community of internal comms practitioners embedded into the social fabric of BT as power-networkers influencing the conversations and culture of the organisation to meet its business objectives. A community engaged in communications activities underpinned by social interactivity and conversation to help BT employees arrive at shared understanding of what is expected of them from the communications we create and disseminate.

[PS – my slides from the Melcrum event are available on slideshare]

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Governing the ungovernable …

How do you govern intranet content generated in collaborative social media tools to comply with boring corporate imperatives like information retention policies? I know that ‘govern’ is just a fancy word for ‘control’ but, like it or not, intranet content has to be governed (a.k.a. controlled) to meet information retention policies and, in our case, regulatory and compliance rules. The problem is that social media content doesn’t lend itself well to governance using existing practices.

‘Crowd-sourced’ content is owned by the community rather than an individual, so you can’t pin one person down after x months and get them to review it. We currently have an automated tool which ‘crawls’ our intranet and reminds owners of intranet content to review it when it reaches a specified review date, or it is automatically deleted.

However, you can’t use this tool if you don’t have one owner to grab by the scruff-of-the-neck every once in a while. You also can’t use this tool on ‘organic’ content like wiki pages as you don’t know when it starts its review lifecycle if it is never ‘signed off’ (i.e. wiki content is, in effect, perpetually draft which can be edited at any time). You also can’t use this tool on blog content or it would strip out individual posts or comments as they all have separate publication dates … this would destroy the most valuable feature of this type of content which is ‘context’.

Our current thinking is:

  • Collaboratively generated wiki content – we are deploying a red; amber; green traffic light system which will work roughly as follows … twelve months after a wiki page is created, it will be flagged green – this means it has begun its review cycle. It will remain green for 60 days. During that time, any user of that content can halt the review cycle and revert it back to ‘active’ for a further 12 months. If no one halts the review cycle, after 60 days the content will be flagged amber. Content will remain amber for 30 days … again a user can halt the review cycle and revert it back to active for a further 12 months. If no one halts the review cycle, after 30 days it will be flagged red … I’m guessing you can see a pattern emerging here! Anyway, it remains red for 30 days and, if the review cycle is not halted, it will be automatically deleted from the system.
  • Blogs – these are easier to govern as they have identifiable owners. Our thinking is that each blog, with all its posts and comments, is a complete and separate entity and should always be treated as a distinct whole even if it contains posts and comments published over many months or years. Every 90 days, a blog owner will be e-mailed and asked to confirm the status of their blog. If it is still active, they can opt to be left alone. If it is not active but still contains valuable content, they can opt to have it ‘archived’ which will mean it can no longer be ‘added to’ (i.e. the forms that allow the owner and readers to post to it will be disabled), but the content will still be available in our corporate blogosphere. The final option will be to delete a blog that is not used and contains redundant content.

The above is a simplification of what we intend to do and doesn’t detail the many nuances that occur in reality … we are thinking about these but I wouldn’t presume to bore you with all of them here!

Anyway, I thought I’d share these thoughts in case any budding intranet managers out there can see a gaping hole in our plan or have a better idea we haven’t thought of … do tell!