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The Principles of Open Business: Principle Five Connectedness

Part VI in a series of blogposts describing the 10 Principles of Open Business

Our fifth Principle of Open Business is Connectedness.

Connecting all employees internally to one another and externally through open social media.

This is not simply a matter of buying the right software. Too many harassed execs fall for this approach. They know they must start making their business operate in a more connected way internally. They know closer connections to customers are important. What they don’t know is how to achieve this.

Along comes a tech vendor who offers a magic bullet and our harassed exec can tick his ‘social’ box, tell the board he has it covered and carry on: Business as usual.

It’s critical to understand that Connectedness is another organisational design principle – not simply a physical fact of connecting a-to-b. Without the attending cultural shift required our harassed exec will have landed themselves with yet another layer of tech for the IT department to ringfence and control – and no new value created.

Once again, we invite you to score your organisation against this Principle and offer a guide at the end of this post to help you do so.

True, there is only so far along the road to Open that you can travel without a digital way to connect within the organisation and without. But the decision on which way to do this should be a secondary consideration. Achieving the cultural shift to be an organiation which values connectedness comes first.

Opening the flow of dialogue often has to start inside but it must always reach beyond the boundaries of the org to scale the value available when we connect.

The alternative end of that scale is a world in which no one is allowed to use the web to find solutions. We’re at the point now that companies which restrict connectedness do so to their own cost. So many staff have smartphones now, they will find a way around bans in any event.

Rather than working against connectedness (usually out of fear), work with it. You’ll be working in the same direction as your teams.
Without our daily connectedness to others our ideas remain un-nurtured and un-tested, our understanding of the realities of the eco-system within which we all live, severely limited.

This eco-system, this market, is not something you can take a snapshot of once a year, it is ever changing, something you are part of and which must be listened and responded to in as close to real time as possible if you are to maintain a best possible fit with its needs.
Connectedness is an essential part of this. Connectedness scales the organisation’s ability to listen, respond and adapt to the market. Connectedness provides an early warning system for changing need, for rising dissatisfaction, for new competitors.

But beyond all of this, connectedness humanises a businesses. It allows your customers and other stakeholders to interact with the living, breathing, passionate, caring people on whom your business depends. It takes down the walls.

Using the digital tools at our disposal enables humanisation at scale. Simply – your people can talk to people. Other people like this. Your people like this. You should like this. You should do this – personally.

The fear may be that some will abuse the freedom. That they will waste all day fraternising on Facebook or taking time out on Twitter.
But the fact is, that is a management issue not a technology one – or even a cultural one. Don’t blame social media if you’ve selected the wrong employees or have failed to manage them effectively.

Great employees, the ones you want on your team, know the value of building relationships (internally and externally) to achieve shared aims. If you’ve got your (Principle 1) Purpose right, your staff will be exactly the kind who do what they do all day every day in pursuit of the goals they share with your organisation. Give them tools to do this more effectively and they will deliver with honesty and integrity.

It comes down to another of the key principles we will discuss later – Trust. If you trust your employees enough to put them in a uniform and place them in front of customers, if you trust them enough to pay them for the tasks they perform, then trust them enough to engage in social media on your behalf.
Of course, you may want to create some governance to protect yoursellf initially – training, guidelines, protocols. But do so with the understanding that these are simply sign posts of the cultural change you are aiming to achieve – that they are a step on the road to Open.

Among the most powerful benefits Connectedness will deliver are that it:
• Demonstrates openness and accountability – improving customer satisfaction
• Increases the opportunity for serendipity and innovation – inside and out of the org
• Humanises your company – making business personal in the way most humans crave
• Allows employees to grow build and manage relationships and customers and partner more effectively – improving retention
• Connects organisations to their employees’ personal networks which can scale collective reach
• Enables two-way flows of information and intelligence improving market knowledge in real time

Case Studies:
Yammer: Internal enterprise social tool Yammer has been deployed to connect employees in 200,000 companies worldwide (including the likes of DHL, CapGemini, Shell, 7-11). A Forrester report on the total economic impact of deploying such a social tool over a 3 year period in a company of 21,000 employees with one third using the tool, measured: “a risk-adjusted return on investment of 365 per cent with a payback period of 4.3 months and $5.7 million in net present value.” (Source, Forrester Research)

Burberry: Going further – and externally – this global luxury brand has committed to being the first ‘digital end-to-end’ company. CEO Angela Ahrendts says: “You have to be totally connected with everyone who touches your brand. If you’re not I don’t know what your business model is going to be in five years.” Burberry’s social strategies have been credited with a 10% rise in same-store sales (source: beingpeterkim.com)

Is your organisation closer to Goal State or Worst Case? Share your thoughts.

Goal State All employees are using open social media daily for external connection and applying it to make best use of the synchronous/asynchrynous opportunities of the global web. Internal/external comms are rarely distinguished.
Worst Case Social media is actively discouraged during working hours. Internal comms are one-way broadcasts from the centre and kept strictly internal.