Translation of the Original Article by Siegfried Lautenbacher
An interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Economy in Bavaria with Siegfried Lautenbacher about Social Business Collaboration from 11/09/2012
SZ: Why do your employees not send email anymore?
Siegfried Lautenbacher: We have introduced a new platform that promotes the electronic exchange of information and cooperation. Since then, the need to send internal emails has declined sharply. Because it's now faster, because it works cooperatively and because you have a lot more opportunities to exchange ideas with colleagues than with the classic email.
SZ: A sort of Facebook for the company?
SL: Comparisons with Facebook are always difficult in Germany. The platform takes on many elements of Facebook, which are important for the work. The biggest similarity is that each employee has a profile where he publishes his contact details, his interests, professional focus and skills and where you can see which topics and projects of the company the employee contributes in. That way a remote colleague can quickly see: Colleague A is in the project for client B and is particularly specialized in topic C. And maybe you should talk to her, if you have a similar problem at another customer. The search for experts on specific topics gets easier.
SZ: Where are the differences?
SL: The platform offers much more possibilities than Facebook. For example, a blog function. Every employee has the option to share topics that are important to him with the community. There are forums where we can discuss. We can – similar to Wikipedia – jointly acquire knowledge. There is the option to save documents in a way that you can edit them together. Unlike as with e-mail, where 25 different versions are circulating and no one knows which the latest is.
SZ: Does a medium-sized company have to have something like this nowadays?
SL: There are certainly medium-sized companies where such a Social Business platform is necessary yet or not at all. For example, if all employees are at a single location, or if you already have clear rules for communication that you do not want to change. Such a platform only lives if it used by the majority of the employees. If there is no need, or the employees do not feel the need, then I would not introduce that.
SZ: How have your employees adopted the platform?
SL: I will answer with an analogy: On the one hand, there are the scouts and trappers, and on the other, there are the settlers. The scouts and trappers are those who have already long been working with wikis that have used related programs for their projects, and were excited about it. Then there are the settlers that say: What is in it for me, where do I profit if I do that? You best convince those if the scouts precede on the trek and find the right place to settle.
SZ: And have you found that place?
SL: Any employee can work with the platform as he wishes. There is no longer only the one correct usage. There is no specification how it is to be used. However, you should set up a few rules, what may not be done. For example, in no case should there be negative posts on profiles, and limit the topics to business- related ones.
SZ: What does that mean for the company?
SL: The employees have more freedom. Hierarchy is no longer in charge of information and communication, the individuals are. And it cannot be controlled that way any longer. This changes the culture in the company.
SZ: Will this concept assert itself?
SL: I think this is a trend, which is more than a fashion. I believe the platforms for Social Business Collaboration are a very strong development of what we have come to know in the last century already under the name of groupware. It provides the Company with the opportunity to give the flow of information and exchange of knowledge a new set of wheels. I am convinced that this will prevail in the coming years.