Translation of the Original Article by Siegfried Lautenbacher
Web 2.0 has revolutionized communication in companies. Blogs, Wikis, Chats and Forums transform the previously static knowledge to a living organism. Everyone can access it, get involved, share ideas, and comment on the ideas of colleagues and develop them further. This sparks the collaboration, but also requires a relearning in the company. Not only do we consult companies with the design and implementation of such Social Business Platforms, but see virtual collaboration as a core part of our Company culture. This article was originally published in the newsletter of "perspectives for talents". Siegfried Lautenbacher, founder and head of Beck et al. Services is a pioneer in all things Social Business in Germany. In 1994, he wrote together with Mirko Dier the first book on the topic of Groupware, the early forms of Social Intranet. The 48-year-old outright embodies the collaborative idea and philosophizes with enthusiasm about his favorite topic: “Social Business is the way-out for people from the self-inflicted isolation of their Inbox, their inflexible applications and their sender-recipient focused communication.” The networker leads by example. Whether the plan for the year or just fragmented thoughts – he publishes his latest ideas as blogs or videos, asks for votings, organizes tasks in Activities, and receives and provides feedback in communities. “Social Business Platforms offer each employee the possibility to directly participate in the flow of information, as well as to influence it”, Lautenbacher emphasizes. Currently he is working on a linguistic evaluation of Social Business platforms. Through that, the Community Chatter is supposed to get used even better. The business model of the IT Service Provider Beck et al. Services is almost unthinkable without Social Business. The employees based in Germany, Romania, Brazil and Switzerland are relying on communications via IBM Connections. Thanks to the virtual collaboration platform, the teams in Brazil and Romania are just a mouse-click apart. Everyone knows what the colleagues are currently working on, and who needs support. Communication is in English, so that all can chime in. Data, Links and ideas are saved, commented on and developed further online. The team members from the various locations of the IT Service Provider inform each other in the “Daily Blog” about the current state of things. The shift-handover between the Brazilian and Romanian colleagues happens via an online conference. “We make existing knowledge usable for all, and together develop new knowledge. And that without leaving the spirit, openness, strong feedback-culture and high customer-focus of the company behind” Lautenbacher says. On the Social Business Platform, there are obviously also communication spaces with limited accesses. This is useful for example for internal communication of Management, or for the planning team of the summer fest. Private or confidential messages are still done via email. Virtual collaboration has long become natural at Beck et al. Services. However, Lautenbacher knows that those unfamiliar with Social Business have to face challenges that are not technical: a relearning is required. The previous way to work was heavily oriented on documents. This means that a Office document was only passed on once it was polished and “done”. Until that point, various manually managed versions of the same file were created. “Writing a Wiki is a completely different challenge. This means to offer an incomplete thought, to open oneself to the thoughts of others, and to work together. This learning process takes time and patient and joint handling.” A second problem is the feeling of not knowing everything anymore. The good old Mail Inbox is no longer the central hub, but the multiple access possibilities in Communities, Blogs, Wikis, Activities and many more. “This requires sovereignty and a new understanding of the duty to inform colleagues within the company.” Lautenbacher explains. However, companies that dare to socialize their business will be rewarded. The collaboration gets more efficient, the communication more direct. Experts speak up on their own, in the past you had to awkwardly look for them. In short: Wikis, Blogs and Forums multiply the collective knowledge and enhance creativity, exchange and the sense of community.