Wyzetalk is Workforce Engagement – it’s more than a software offering

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“….the attribute of trust is not pervasive in business. If an organisation has trust, it can create engagement. An engaged workforce provides happiness, profitability and longevity to business.”

For businesses to say they are about the ‘workforce’ is a huge statement to make. To elaborate on this,  ’employee engagement’ / ‘workforce engagement’ is a systemic and not a software solution offering.)

(Providers in the market place should be careful to advertise this unless they are capable of the complexity of the offering this unless you understand what you are saying. Its a systemic issue… it’s not about software.. it’s not a short term fix.

I have always been an entrepreneur, surrounding myself with people more capable than myself. I started a company when I was 24, it became a national operation, with 600 staff and over $ 50 million per annum turnover,  which I sold in 2008. It was predicated, in its structure, on command and control, hierarchical and siloed… by design…

At this juncture in my career I decided to take on a more personal journey by enrolling in an Executive MBA at UCT founded my Professor Tom Ryan. A challenging and positive, life-changing event. It opened the doors of systems thinking for me.

I wrote my dissertation on collaboration in the enterprise… the paper assumed that the attribute of trust existed in business. My partner and I started Wyzetalk in 2012. Wyzetalk, has grown into a unique, diverse international business, forming alliances with top national brands and consultancies – a world class product with world class partners.

We have realised that the attribute of trust is not pervasive in business. If an organisation has trust, it can create engagement. An engaged workforce provides happiness, profitability and longevity to business.

We have spent the last few years trying to understand how to build a connected workforce. How to build true engagement. How to build trust.

The Wyzetalk team understands that the enterprise is typically on the far right side of a room and the workforce, typically, is on the far left side of the room.

Our software builds the railway that links the two but its the content, the understanding and the authenticity that we curate that is built on that railway that builds trust over time.

Doing surveys to groups, giving them vouchers or rewards for their contribution creates possible short term gain but it’s  not a long term solution. Don’t be shallow, don’t be a fad.

We are not in the business of short term gain. We are here to create true workforce engagement. We want to bring the enterprise and its workforce together. Build a tribal culture that’s transparent, genuine and long-term, goal-oriented.

We love what we do and we want to evolve with our clients to make this a reality.

We recently held a breakfast for the mining industry. We were honoured to have Dr. James Motlatse and professor Tom Ryan present. This is the link: http://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/messy-wage-negotiations-are-avoidable/

It takes the view that businesses need to become empathetic. It’s about the hands that do the work, but it’s about the mind and the heart of the workforce that matter as much.

Getting from Social Business to Open Innovation.

So you’re using your Social Business Software platform to generate new ideas, everyone’s generally engaged and you have a sense that the mood is improving and communication is up. But what about the ideas that are being generated? When an idea is posted within your community, is there a process to determine which ideas are good, bad, worth taking further, as far as perhaps being called innovative innovations. How do you take these ideas through the full cycle to the point of delivering them them back to the business. How does this delivery take place?

Here’s the three letter “I” challenge –

Ideation;

Invigoration; and

Implementation

Most organisations are not geared for innovation. So while you’re creating your Social Business Software strategy and implementation plan, you need to understand that you are actually changing it, changing your business, altering your future, shifting your paradigm and acknowledging the power in your people. It’s called open innovation.

Too much emphasis is being placed on generating ideas (ideation) and far too little time is spent on the actual translation into action and then the implementation and execution of these ideas.

So I propose a change from the conventional innovation equation of:

innovation = ideas

to:

innovation = ideas + planning + implementation + recognition

If you have invested in a social business strategy and platform with a view to improving innovation then this is how you need to go about ensuring you achieve your objectives:

  1. Create an environment where you can stimulate ideas. Let the SBS platform automatically trigger these conversations and put SBS champions in charge of driving this process;
  2. Create an open ideation group within your SBS Community. So that everyone is encouraged to participate and build on each other’s ideas;
  3. Get the champions to meet (virtually and in person), to discuss the ideas posted in the ideation and other groups. Empower them to take decisions on which ideas to take further and encourage them to give feedback. Be dynamic and be engaged. This is not intended to be another hierarchy;
  4. Great ideas need to get the green light. They need to have actions plans with timelines behind them to ensure they get successfully implemented. And the initiator needs to be acknowledged and encouraged to be part of the success team responsible for the implementation;
  5. The mandate given to the idea committee and the ideator gives them ownership of the success;  and
  6. Create an incentive scheme for great ideas. This can be done through senior management recognition, monetary rewards or both. These schemes can be done weekly, monthly or when projects are completed.

You have to work on a small win methodology… take small wins and let them become big wins over time.

It’s powerful stuff… this social business thing!

Gys is the Co-founder and CEO of WyseTalk (Pty) Ltd. Africa’s leading social business software platform. Gys’s Masters thesis entitled ‘The delay of Social business Software in the Enterprise and its effects’ has won him international acclaim.

The relevance of Social Business Software in the context of Soft Systems Methodology

Introduced to systems thinking during my EMBA, I have been a total convert for over three years now. In addition to creating a shift in my perceptions and the way in which I approach business and life in general, it was also the primary motivator behind the co-creation of a Social Business Software platform.

Social Business Software, SBS, creates an environment where systems thinking can be practiced and executed. Here’s what I mean.

The premise of Soft Systems Methodology, SSM, is that ‘whatever the nature of the organisation, assume that the individuals within it are pursuing purposeful activity.’

Now one would assume that all organisations today exist because they have a purposeful activity. Most, one would assume, are to keep stakeholders happy, to show growth and sustained profitability over time.

Why then, in so many organisations, are the alignments of the individuals within the organisation often conflicted with the purposeful activity of the enterprise as a whole?

The successful deployment of Social Business Software within an organisation seeks to align the organisations purposeful activity with that of the individuals within. It seeks, in a virtual setting, to merge the silo’s that exist within the enterprise and to some extent the hierarchy, by creating a virtual space for the enterprise. SBS requires trust and leaders who believe that the people in their companies really matter. That they have great ideas, seen and experienced through a different lens and perspective, and that by allowing them to share these ideas and impart their knowledge it will eventually lead to a richer more aligned and productive enterprise.

SBS creates the virtual space for executives to make announcements, to drive the company’s objectives through their teams. Idea generation and knowledge sharing happen across departments and hierarchies and the organisation really has the opportunity to align its purposeful activities with that of its people.

Successfully deployed SBS within enterprises has returned amazing results:

  • 15% increase in employee productivity;
  • 2-4% bottom line improvement,
  • reduced email load by 21%,
  • reduced meetings by 16%,
  • reduced the time to find knowledge, expertise and best practices by 34%,
  • 24% decrease in employee turnover,
  • 61% increase in employee connectedness,
  • 38% increase in employee satisfaction,
  • increase in deal size by 5%,
  • increase in win rate by 12%,
  • decrease in RFP response time by 25%,
  • increase in number of deals per year by 8%,
  • decrease in deal cycle time by 22%,
  • increase in sales per rep. 13%,
  • reduction in staff turnover by 12%
  • increase in sales per rep by 13% .

Gys is the Co-founder and CEO of WyseTalk (Pty) Ltd. Africa’s leading social business software platform. Gys’s Masters thesis entitled ‘The delay of Social business Software in the Enterprise and its effects’ has won him international acclaim.

Role of social business software in delivering innovation

Businesses today operate within a dynamic environment, shaped by variables, such as evolving legislation, globalisation and economic volatility. Disruptive new technologies create new competitors overnight and the only way to get and stay in front is constantly to innovate.

Innovation is sometimes thought of as the product of inspiration – a spark of genius whose timing or vessel cannot be predicted, or a closed process driven by research and development. In fact, creativity can be cultivated as a habit – by anyone – and it is better when it draws on more ideas.

By using a democratic, collaborative approach to innovation – called “open innovation” – companies can nurture an innovative capability and increase their output of quality ideas, thus increasing their chances of bringing about or weathering disruptive market change and gaining a competitive edge.

Stories abound of market-leading companies that do not respond to disruptive changes in their field of play with a more open approach to innovation. Once great, they find themselves unable to recreate the spark, as they are too set in their assumptions to deal properly with shifting realities. Inevitably, they fail.

One example is Eastman Kodak. The inventors and market leaders in photographic film for over a century filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in America at the beginning of 2012. ZDNet noted that while the company had actually made a latter-day innovative breakthrough with the first digital camera, it failed to respond to the erosion of its monopolistic hold over film and film development, brought about by the commoditisation of the digital camera by Sony and others.

Bitter defeat

Others, too, have tasted bitter defeat by not ably responding to change. Nokia, the world’s leading mobile phone producer, lost more than USD18 billion in market capitalisation when Apple created an irresistible wave of change with the iPhone. The resulting smart phone innovation went unmatched by anyone for years – certainly not by Nokia.

Then, suddenly, Samsung overtook Apple in global smart phone shipments. The difference? Samsung is a dyed-in-the-wool open company (unlike Apple) that taps its workforce and partners as well as the competitive landscape for ideas. The results speak for themselves.

Open companies communicate well, but traditional communications technologies haven’t kept up. Many comms channels have proliferated over the years, giving rise to an overwhelming range of ways to stay in touch, but none that offers an open, collaborative environment – one that everyone is at home in and in which their contribution is given equal weight and visibility.

Email doesn’t lend itself to elegant mass participation or visibility. Intranets have become notice boards with little chance of interactive discussion. Collaborative platforms do not include sophisticated communications that are so necessary for idea sharing. And unified communications platforms (videoconferencing, IP telephony, white boards etc) are expensive.

A new breed of “social business software”

Of late, social technologies have entered the corporate consciousness. A new breed of “social business software” (SBS) platforms, also known as enterprise social software, uses social principles in a business context, offering great promise for inclusive, structured brainstorming within communities. They take the form of social and networked modifications to corporate intranets and communications software platforms or standalone SBS platforms.

SBS, itself a disruptive change in the market, combines and integrates “sharing” features of social media sites with collaboration and standard unified communications support, giving company stakeholders a collective or group-based platform within which to contribute to the corporate conversation, with the safety and equality that comes with openness.

It is clear that a company of information workers who communicate better will also increase their workplace and project efficiencies. In addition, they will co-create better, more nuanced ideas – faster. And more efficient companies that have better ideas stand a better chance of leading markets.

Platforms like WyseTalk, Yammer and Jive have been successful at “ideation” or the seeding, testing and framing of ideas within companies. They harness the untapped brilliance of individuals on the strength of the principle that many heads are better than one, provided their cross-pollination is managed systematically. Collaboration-driven SBS tools provide that systematic, open approach to innovation.

Since the introduction of this nascent (two-year-old) field in South Africa, leading companies in health care, financial services, mining, software, retail and hospitality have embraced it to create workplace efficiencies, knowledge and best-practice sharing, and communication.

As a result of implementing SBS successfully (a certain amount of change management is essential), excellent ideas need not be wasted. They will be given the exposure that is traditionally reserved for inner-circle employees, subjected to open scrutiny and a wide array of potentially complimentary or better ideas, earning individuals and companies the recognition that might otherwise have been denied them forever.

(a recent article published in Biz community http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/410/542/93631.html)

How Social Business Software (SBS) captures and integrates end user knowledge into improved business knowledge

Dynamic and Highly adaptable organizations today have been blurring the lines between strategic decision and operations. Here employees are generally expected to understand the organizations goals and strategies. Due to the pace of change businesses have to react, change and adapt these strategic goals frequently and do so rapidly.

If employees understand the visions and strategies and are in a well-designed social business software framework they can assist organizations achieve these goals.

Social Business Software aims to capture end-user tacit knowledge and integrate it within the existing knowledge of the business process models therefore forming a decentralized knowledge management framework. Thus the business processes that are designed are done with the participation of the organisational community aligned with the businesses strategic goals. Hence knowledge management through the use of SBS is created in two ways. Firstly current knowledge that exists within the organisation can be shared through the platform and secondly end-users can contribute to the existing knowledge with their own tacit knowledge.

Social Business Software allows for both a top-down and a bottom-up view of knowledge creation to occur through collaboration within their own business environment. One could argue that the top-down view of knowledge is very structured and compliant while the view on knowledge as ideation from the bottom-up can be seen in a less structured paradigm. Businesses that have fully embraced SBS have the ability to integrate formal and informal knowledge which allows to environment to adapt and change in order to achieve the strategic goals and vision of the enterprise.

The diagram below illustrates the Causal Loop of the Social Business enterprise commnity and knowledge capturing process.

Image

In conclusion, the distance between business strategy and business operation is becoming shorter. Organizations can no longer rely on crystallized procedures, though they strive for optimized business operation. Businesses today have to constantly adapt to environmental changes. Therefore SBS allows an organisation to emphasize standardization and optimization and pair it with adaptation and the achievement of needs. Overall it creates an environment, which integrates the formal knowledge described in business operation with tacit human knowledge and is able to constantly allow for the reinterpretation of business strategy in the face of business environment changes.

Factors Influencing knowledge creation and Innovation in an organisation

As organisations we need to understand the factors that influence the innovative power of the enterprise. There are three processes which incapsulate innovative power within the organisation. These are knowledge creation, innovation and learning to learn. The factors that may also influence this cycle are added value for stakeholders, leadership, climate, strategic alignment and structure.

At the end of the day if your innovation cycles are not continuous and driven the innovation will spiral and be conceptually destroyed with great difficulty in being recreated within the enterprise. However if innovation is regarded as a strength within the enterprise then it becomes part of moulding the future and the model has power.

Organisations today focus on the use of information technology and have the opportunity to become creative and smart. In essence innovative organisations have a deep understanding of the importance of knowledge creation. Therefore innovative organisations are defined by their ability to create knowledge.

Innovation begins from the start of an idea through to the production of a product or service onto the market. The alignment between R&D, production and market is vital.

Indeed the design, and implementation of new product lines, plants and people are part of the whole process of innovation to deliver added value to the stakeholders of the company through valuable knowledge.

So what is knowledge… well Davenport and Prusak (1998) defined it as follows: ‘A fluid mix of framed experiences, values, contextual information and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of the knower. In organisations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories, but also in organisational routines, processes, practices and norms.”

Organisations are said today to be in the innovative age. The advent of Social Business Software allows for the creation of knowledge over time as it has the ability to become a knowledge repository for documents and best practices but it has the ability to encapsulate the culture and that is very very powerful.

Creating Organisational Knowledge with Social Business Software

Welcome to 2013. It has been a while since my last blog, but over the Christmas break I came upon an amazing paper published in 1994 entitled “A dynamic theory of organisational knowledge creation” by Ikujiro Nonaka. The paper really enforced for me the power that organisations have with regard to the aspect of its people and how an organisation can become more innovative through this knowledge creation.

The following paragraphs are summaries of the paper.

The paper postulates that we are moving into a “knowledge society” and that the ever in-creasing importance of knowledge in contemporary society calls for a shift in our thinking concerning innovation in large business organizations. It raises questions about how organizations process knowledge and, more importantly, how they create new knowledge. Such a shift in general orientation will involve, among other things, a re-conceptualization of the organizational knowledge creation processes.

It would be true to say that solving problems in an organisation can only be done through knowledge and that the best companies deal with this in more efficient ways than others.

What is generally ignored however is the organisations ability to create knowledge freely as it is often resisted by hierarchies or silos within them. Any organization that dynamically deals with a changing environment ought not only to process information efficiently but also create information and knowledge. It can be argued that the organization’s interaction with its environment, together with the means by which it creates and distributes information and knowledge, are more important when it comes to building an active and dynamic understanding of the organization. For example, innovation, which is a key form of organizational knowledge creation, cannot be explained sufficiently in terms of information processing or problem solving. Innovation can be better understood as a process in which the organization creates and defines problems and then actively develops new knowledge to solve them. Also, innovation produced by one part of the organization in turn creates a stream of related information and knowledge, which might then trigger changes in the organization’s wider knowledge systems. Such a sequence of Innovation suggests that the organization should be studied from the viewpoint of how it creates information and knowledge, rather than with regard to how it processes these entities.

Although ideas are formed in the minds of individuals, interaction between individuals typically plays a critical role in developing these ideas. That is to say, “communities of interaction” contribute to the amplification and development of new knowledge. While these communities might span departmental or indeed organizational boundaries, the point to note is that they define a further dimension to organizational knowledge creation, which is associated with the extent of social interaction between individuals that share and
develop knowledge.

At a fundamental level, knowledge is created by individuals. An organization cannot create knowledge without individuals yet it is oftentimes difficult for these individuals to contribute to knowledge or create it due to hierarchical or silo barriers within an enterprise. With Social Business Software new knowledge associated with more advantageous organizational processes or technologies will be able to gain a broader currency within the organization.

Through the deployment of an SBS platform it must be remembered that group sizes should  be between 10 and 30 people with 4-5 “core” team members with career histories which include multiple job functions. This self-organizing team triggers organizational knowledge creation through two processes. First, it facilitates the building of mutual trust among members, and accelerates creation of an implicit perspective shared by members as existing knowledge. Shared experience also facilitates the creation of “common perspectives” which can be shared by team members as a part of their respective bodies of the existing knowledge.

Finally, in order to facilitate organizational knowledge creation, qualitative factors such as truthfulness, beauty, or goodness are equal important to such qualitative, economic factors as efficiency, cost or ROI.

Social Business Software provides a platform for organisations to create knowledge, innovate and ignite the spirit within its workforce as they are allowed to contribute and create within the enterprise.