Making social collaboration work - MWD Advisors conference

On Thursday the 15th of October I attended the Making Social Collaboration Work masterclass, MWD Advisors. Through the power of Twitter I was lucky enough to win a free place, so was looking forward to hearing from other practitioners on how they were implementing social technologies. This was the first event MWD Advisors had ever hosted and I have to say I was very impressed right from the start.

Venue and Facilities

The venue for the Making Social Collaboration Work masterclass was the Wallspace event space in Clerkenwell. Not only was it a convenient location, but the conference started with a free breakfast! What is there not to like about a conference that starts with a free breakfast, apart from my ever expanding waistline. After breakfast masterclass attendees moved down into what was called "The Den" but was essentially the basement, despite this it was a well lit and very welcoming space, with more free tea and coffee, sweets, biscuits, chocolate bars, cans of coke and even Irn Bru in the fridge! I think I was definitely distracted by the sweets!


Back to the important stuff and the agenda. This was a mix of case studies and some interactive sessions, which are always good to keep attendees awake and engaged. First up was Angela Ashenden from MWD Advisors who provided an overview of the key drivers and some of the challenges facing organisations that are thinking about implementing social technologies. Below are some of my notes from this first session.

Better collaboration = a better business

  • Better sharing of knowledge
  • Driving innovation
  • Connecting distributed teams
  • Building better relationships

What does it mean to be collaborative?

  • Networked and non-hierarchical
  • Open, honest and trusting culture
  • An engaged and valued workforce

How to get there!

  • Organisational support and leadership
  • Strategy and purpose
  • Technology alignment
  • Governance and community management
  • Adoption management

Top 3 challenges

  • Getting senior level buy-in
  • Expanding adoption beyond the early adopters
  • Convincing the middle management layer to engage

A key takeaway from this first session and something that Angela stressed was that social collaboration is about more than just a technology in other words building or implementing something and then expecting people to use it just isn't going to happen!

The next session was delivered by Kim England of Pearson who talked about how they were using Jive to mobilise colleagues and drive change across Pearson. This was a really interesting look at their 5-year journey, which highlighted how important it is to engage with senior leaders to help drive adoption. My takeaways from this sessions were as follows:

  • Transformation within organisations can take time
  • You (or senior leaders) need to lead by example
  • Two way engagement is critical

The next session was delivered by Sheila Parry who looked at how to build a business case for social collaboration. One of the first things that Sheila discussed was what the outcome was when people started working together in a more connected way, the following should all be positive results:

  • Reduced duplication of effort
  • Reduced time wasting
  • Improving difficult processes
  • Making isolated workers feel less isolated
  • Reducing silo thinking

After a very pleasant lunch (curry) we hear from two more speakers about their collaborative efforts. The first of these was Virginia Henry who I have heard speak before. Virginia talked about how her organisation (UnLtd) was using Igloo to provide a collaborative workspace for her users. UnLtd were using Wikis a lot to facilitate collaboration including allowing users to post news content on to the homepage of the intranet! This looked like a truly social intranet, which had a significant role in the on-boarding of new joiners. The final speaker was Katherine Jones from Springer Nature, Katherine spoke about how Macmillan who have recently become part of Springer Nature were using Jive to create a collaboration hub to unify a merged company. This was a really interesting case study and according to Katherine they are having to do it all over again since Macmillan education became part of Springer Nature in May 2015. 

Overall this was a very interesting day, full of some very practical advice from individuals who had already rolled out collaboration tools as well as some interesting discussion among the other attendees. For even more analysis of the event I would recommend Angela Ashenden's blog post on the MWD website. This post include sketch notes from the event, which I think are fantastic!