Every day I see a greater digital divide within companies. I recently worked on a collaboration project that involved both groups of apprentices / graduates and those that are more used to faxes than Facebook. It made me realise we are making the same mistakes with collaboration tools (open, social, transparent working etc.) as we did with email and Knowledge Management tools of the 1990s.
Apprentices and graduates ‘just get it’ in terms of understanding how to use technology to connect them to people and content, regardless of interface. Forget about corporate emails – they just don’t want to bother about desktops or email clients. But reach out to them on mobile day or night and they will respond. They see the value of making connections online and how to use the open and social tools to network within organisations. They expect good technology and connectivity and if the company can’t provide it they will use their own. If they can’t be provided with spaces to connect and network they will develop their own.
Other groups within the company needed far greater training, floor walking and hand holding to understand the potential and possibilities of the value of connecting and collaborating. With good content strategies, knowledge and people management, stewardship and governance many of these issues are overcome but what struck me was the change in approach needed by those responsible for implementation and success of collaborative working.
I’m old enough to remember the only ‘IT’ training you received was how to use the fax machine, the photocopy and the phone handset. When email arrived it was similar with one approach to training and ‘after school’ extra training for those that were slow on the uptake. The training provided showed us how to use the new tool. When you asked the trainer what to use it for that was a very different matter.
As we move towards more open, transparent and social ways of working within organisations I do fear we are making the same mistakes we made with email and Knowledge Management. We can introduce the tools and technology, show them how to use it but not guide people on what to share.
Too many times I have seen organisations deploy the technology, train people how to use it but give them no further guidance on how to work more transparently, open and socially. Hence we get the situation that the tools are not used, or maybe worst they are used to create additional noise but no value. If we thing email and various KM document coffins are bad enough imagine a screen full of irrelevant activity streams, notifications, thousands of 2 people communities (if you can have a community of 2) and invites to connect and follow with thousands of people you have never heard of and frankly don’t need to connect to every within your organisation.
To bridge this digital divide within organisations we need to ensure that these collaborative, open, social tools have sufficient strategy, governance and stewardship around them, aligned with a good content or knowledge strategy for the user groups so they have an understanding of what will provide value to themselves, their communities and their company. Once this is in place we can then worry about the floor walking and handholding from a technology level.