Data-Driven Collaboration Part 2: Recognizing Personas and Behaviors to Improve Engagement

In Part 1 of this series, “Data-Driven Collaboration Design”—a collaboration between Swoop Analytics and Carpool Agency—we demonstrated how data can be used as a diagnostic tool to inform the goals and strategies that drive your business’ internal communication and collaboration. 

In this post, we will take that thought one step further and show how, after your course is charted to improve internal communication and collaboration, your data continues to play a vital role in shaping your journey.

Monitoring More Than participation

Only in the very initial stages of the launch of a new Enterprise Social Network (ESN) or group do we pay any attention to how much activity we see. Quickly, we move to watching such metrics as average response time; breadth of participation across the organization, teams, roles, or regions; and whether conversations are crossing those boundaries. We focus on measures that show something much closer to business value and motivate organizations to strengthen communities.
For our purposes in this post, it will be useful to pivot our strategy to one that focuses on influential individuals. The community or team—whether it’s a community of practice, a community of shared interest, or a working team—isn’t a “group” or “si te,” but a collection of individuals, with all the messiness, pride, altruism, and politics implied. Data can be used to layer some purpose and direction over the messiness.

Patterns Become Personas

The Swoop Social Network Analytics dashboard uniquely provides analytics that are customized to each person who is part of an organization’s ESN. Using the principle of “when you can see how you work, you are better placed to change how you work”, the intent is for individual collaborators to receive real-time feedback on their online collaboration patterns so they can respond appropriately in real-time.
We analyzed the individual online collaboration patterns across several organizations and identified a number of distinct trends that reflect the majority of personal collaboration behaviors. With that data, we were able to identify five distinct personas: Observers, Engagers, Catalysts, Responders, and Broadcasters.

In addition to classifying patterns into personas, we developed a means of ranking the preferred personas needed to enhance an organization’s overall collaboration performance. At the top we classify the Engager as a role that can grow and sustain a community or team through their balance of posting and responding. This is closely followed by the Catalyst, who can energize a community by provoking responses and engaging with a broad network of colleagues. The Responder ensures that participants gain feedback, which is an important role in sustaining a community. The Broadcaster is mostly seen as a negative persona: They post content, but tend not to engage in the conversations that are central to productive collaboration. Finally, we have the Observer, who are sometimes also called ‘lurkers’. Observers are seen as a negative persona with respect to collaboration. While they may indeed be achieving individual learning from the contribution of others, they are not explicitly collaborating.
Using Personas to Improve Your Online Collaboration Behavior
Individuals who log in to the Swoop platform are provided with a privacy-protected personal view of their online collaboration behaviors. The user is provided with their persona classification for the selected period, together with the social network of relationships that they have formed through their interactions:

You may notice that the balance between what you receive and what you contribute is central to determining persona classification. Balanced contributions amongst collaboration partners have been shown to be a key characteristic of high performing teams, hence the placement of the ‘Engager’ as the preferred persona.

Our benchmarking of some 35 Yammer installations demonstrates that 71% of participants, on average, are Observers. Of the positive personas, the Catalyst is the most common, followed by Responders, Engagers, and Broadcasters. It’s therefore not surprising that an organization’s priority often involves converting Observers into more active participants. Enrolling Observers into more active personas is a task that falls on the more-active Engagers and Catalysts, with Responders playing a role of keeping them there.
At Carpool, during a recent engagement with a client, we encountered a senior leadership team that was comprised of Broadcasters who relied on traditional internal communications. Through our coaching—all the while showing them data on their own behavior and the engagement of their audience—they have since transformed into Catalysts.
One team, for example, had been recruiting beta testers through more traditional email broadcasts. But after just a few posts in a more interactive and visible environment, where we taught them how to invite an active conversation, they have seen not only the value of more immediate feedback, but a larger turnout for their tests. Now, it’s all we can do to provide them with all the data they’re asking for!
Identifying the Key Players for Building Increased Participation

When Swoop looks at an organization overall, we will typically find that a small number of participants are responsible for the lion’s share of the connecting and networking load. In the social media world, these people are called ‘influencers’ and are typically measured by the size of the audience they can attract. In our Persona characterization, we refer to them as Catalysts. Unlike the world of consumer marketing—and this point is critical—attracting eyeballs is only part of the challenge. In the enterprise, we need people to actively collaborate and produce tangible business outcomes. This can only happen by engaging the audience in active relationship-building and cooperative work. This added dimension of relationship-building is needed to identify who the real key players are.
In our work with clients, Carpool teaches this concept by coaching influencers to focus on being “interested” in the work of others rather than on being “interesting” through the content they share, whether that’s an interesting link or pithy comment. With one client, our strategy is to take an organization’s leader, a solid Engager in the public social media space, and “transplant” him into the internal communications environment where he can not only legitimize the forum, but also model the behavior we want to see.
In the chart below, we show a typical ‘Personal Network Performance’ chart, using Enterprise Social Networking data from the most active participants in an enterprise. The two dimensions broadly capture an individual’s personal network size (number of unique connections) against the depth of relationships they have been able to form with them (number of reciprocated two-way connections). They reflect our Engager persona characteristics. Additionally, we have sized the bubbles by a diversity index assessed by their posting behavior across multiple groups.
The true ‘Key Players’ on this chart can be seen in the top right-hand corner. These individuals have not only been able to attract a large audience, but also engaged with that audience and reciprocated two-way interactions. And the greater their diversity of connections (bubble size), the more effective they are likely to be.

Data like this is useful in identifying current and potential key players and organizational leaders, and helps us shift those online collaboration personas from Catalyst to Engager and scale up as far and as broadly as they can go.

Continuous Coaching

Having data and continuous feedback on your online collaboration performance is one thing, but effectively taking this feedback and using it to build both your online and offline collaboration capability requires planning and, of course, other people to collaborate with! Carpool believes in a phased approach, where change the behavior of a local team, then like ripples in a pond, expand the movement to new ways of working through compelling storytelling, using the data that has driven previous waves of change.
To get started now, think about your own teams. Would you be prepared to have your team share their collaboration performance data and persona classifications? Are you complementing each other, or competing? If that’s a little too aggressive, why not form a “Working Out Loud” circle with some volunteers where you can collectively work on personal goals for personal collaboration capability, sharing, and critiquing one another’s networking performance data as you progress?
Think about what it takes to move from one behavior Persona to another. How would you accomplish such a transformation, personally? What about the teams you work in and with? Then come back for the next, and final, part of this co-authored series between Swoop and Carpool, where we will explain the value in gaining insights from ongoing analytics and the cycle of behavior changes, analysis, and pivoting strategies.

Connecting the enterprise – one tool breaks the rule

The world is getting more interdependent, and to get stuff done more people need to coordinate what they are doing with people in other business units. No wonder that collaboration is a hot topic. But what has surprised me is that in spite of an increasing number of tools, most of them are actually not connecting people across business unit boundaries. Sounds like a contradiction? Read on…

Collaboration is still mostly happening within business units

I’ve been involved in more than 100 social network analysis projects over the last 15 years, and most of these projects we’ve found that business units operate very much in silos having only limited interactions with other business units.

Physical location has a big impact in who you interact with. Professor Tom Allen discovered this many years ago and coined this the ’50-meter rule’. According to this rule, most interaction drops off when you are located more than 50 meters away from another person.

Given that employees from the same business unit are still being physically placed near each other i our workplaces, this only makes the likelihood of you interacting with someone from another business unit even smaller.

Tom Allen’s 50 meter rule:

Therefore, when I was running a collaboration analysis project for a professional services firm, I expected to find this same Business Unit silo pattern. But this time we uncovered something new.

Our collaboration research partner Dr Agustin Chevez from HASSELL had cleverly designed the study for the client in such a way that the data sources we analysed (see below) covered the exact same 4-week period. That meant that we could precisely compare interaction patterns across collaboration tools/methods:

  1. Face-to-face interaction (via traditional social network analysis survey)
  2. Email data (Exchange)
  3. Instant messaging data (Lync)
  4. Timesheet data (billable hours analysed to find out who works with who)
  5. Enterprise social network data (Yammer).

One tool breaks the rule

While face-to-face, email, instant messaging and timesheet interaction patterns all stayed mostly within business unit boundaries, one tool broke the rule. Yammer, the enterprise social network, was the only tool in the portfolio that broke the traditional 50m rule. This also meant that it was the only tool that was busting business unit silos.

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 10.28.58 am.pngOn reflection that makes a lot of sense. You really don’t bump into someone via email, phone or instant messaging as these tools have a clearly defined list of recipients. However, when you post something on an enterprise social network it is not limited to a set of intended recipients, and the audience is therefore anyone and anywhere in the organisation. We also know from our global Yammer benchmarking study that while enterprise social networks do cater for private conversations, the clear majority of messages (about 80%) are actually public.

These two characteristics (open for all, and fully transparent) that are hallmarks of an enterprise social network, and are completely different from email, instant messaging and phone calls that are by nature restricted to a defined (any typically small) set of recipients. You might find it amusing to know what we discovered that 95% of all emails only had single recipient, and the about 50% of emails sent were to a person sitting less than 6 meters away.

Collaboration within teams or collaboration across business units

We have an increasing number of collaboration tools at our disposal, and these are doing a terrific job enabling people to get work done. But as you’ll now appreciate they are far from equal. Some are making existing teams work more effectively together within the team and that is undoubtedly of tremendous value. But it is up to the enterprise social network to foster new connections across business units.

To drive organisational performance, we must have collaboration tools that serve different objectives, and we need to be very clear about their strengths, weaknesses and fundamental differences. Professor Andrew Hargadon writes in his book How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate (Harvard Business School Press 2003) that innovation happens at the intersection of people and ideas. To do this at on a global scale we need enterprise social networks. They play a fundamentally important role in enabling people to connect across business unit boundaries.

Data-Driven Collaboration Part 1: How Rich Data Can Improve Your Communication

Originally published on Carpool.

This is the first of a series, coauthored by Laurence Lock Lee of Swoop Analytics and Chris Slemp of Carpool Agency, in which we will explain how you can use rich, people-focused data to enhance communication, increase collaboration, and develop a more efficient and productive workforce.

It’s safe to say that every enterprise hungers for new and better ways of working. It’s even safer to say that the path to those new and better ways is often a struggle.

Many who struggle do so because they are starting from a weak foundation. Some are simply following trends. Others believe they should adopt a new tool or capability simply because it was bundled with another service. Then there are those organizations that focus primarily on “reining in” non-compliant behaviors or tools.

But there’s a way to be innovative and compliant that also improves your adoption: focus instead on the business value of working in new ways—be data-driven. When you incorporate information about your usage patterns to set your goals, you are better positioned to track the value of your efforts and drive the behavior changes that will help you achieve your business objectives.

While it’s assumed that doing market research is critical when marketing to customers, investments in internal audience research have gained less traction, yet they yield the same kinds of return. Data-driven internal communication planning starts at the very beginning of your project.

Here we will demonstrate—using real-world examples—how Carpool and Swoop use data to create better communications environments, nurture those environments, and make iterative improvements to ensure enterprises are always working to their full potential.

Use Data to Identify Your Actual Pain Points

One team Carpool worked with was focused on partnering with customers and consultants to create innovations. They thought they needed a more effective intranet site that would sell their value to internal partners. However, a round of interviews with key stakeholders and end-of-line consumers revealed that a better site wasn’t going to address the core challenge: There were too many places to go for information and each source seemed to tell a slightly different story. We worked with the client to consolidate communications channels and implemented a more manageable content strategy that focused on informal discussion and formal announcements from trusted sources.

In the end, we were able to identify the real pain point for the client and help them address it accordingly because of the research we obtained.

Use Data to Identify New Opportunities

Data can drive even the earliest strategy conversations. In Carpool’s first meeting with a global retail operation, they explained that they wanted to create a new Yammer network as they were trying to curb activity in another, unapproved network. Not only did we agree, but we brought data to that conversation that illustrated the exact size and shape of their compliance situation and the nature of the collaboration that was already happening. This set the tone for a project that is now laser-focused on demonstrating business value and not just bringing their network into compliance.

Use Data to Identify and Enhance Your Strengths

In-depth interviews can be added to the objective data coming from your service usage. Interviews reveal the most important and effective channels, and the responses can be mapped visually to highlight where a communication ecosystem has broadcasters without observers, or groups of catalysts who are sharing knowledge without building any broader consensus or inclusion.

Below, you see one of Carpool’s chord chart diagrams we use to map the interview data we gather. We can filter the information to focus on specific channels and tools, which we then break down further to pinpoint where we have weaknesses, strengths, gaps, and opportunities in our information flow.

CHORD CHART

Turning Data Into Action

These kinds of diagnostic exercises can reveal baselines and specific strategies that can be employed with leaders of the project or the organization.

One of the first activities organizations undertake when implementing an Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) platform is to encourage staff to form collaborative groups and then move their collaboration online. This is the first real signal of ‘shop floor empowerment’, where staff are free to form groups and collaborate as they see fit, without the oversight of their line management. As these groups form, the inevitable ‘long tail’ effect kicks in, where the vast majority of these groups fall into disuse, in contrast to a much smaller number that are wildly successful, and achieving all of the expectations for the ESN. So how can organizations increase their Win/Loss ratio? At Swoop Analytics we have started to look at some of the ‘start-up’ patterns of the Yammer installations of our benchmarking partners. These patterns can emerge after as little as 6 months of operations.

Below, we show a typical first 6 months’ network performance chart, which measures group performance on the dimensions of Diversity (Group Size), Cohesion (Mean 2-Way Relationships formed), and Activity (postings, replies, likes etc.). We then overlay the chart with ‘goal state’ regions reflecting the common group types typically found in ESN implementations. The regions reflect the anticipated networking patterns for a well-performing group of the given type. If a group’s stated purpose positions them in the goal-state region, then we would suggest that they are well positioned to deliver tangible business benefits, aligned with their stated purpose. If they are outside of the goal state, then the framework provides them with implicit guidance as to what has to happen to move them there.

BUBBLE GRAPH

At launch, all groups start in the bottom left-hand corner. As you can see, a selected few have ‘exploded out of the blocks’, while the majority are still struggling to make an impact. The 6-month benchmark provides an early opportunity for group leaders to assess their group against their peer groups, learn from each other, and then begin to accelerate their own performances.

Painting the Big Picture

The convergence of multiple data sources paints a holistic picture of communication and collaboration that extends beyond team boundaries. This new picture extends across platforms and prescribes the design for an ecosystem that meets user and business needs, aligns with industry trends, and is informed by actual usage patterns.

ECOSYSTEM DESIGN

The discussion about the ROI of adopting new ways of working, such as ESNs, hasn’t disappeared. While we believe it’s a waste of resources to try measuring a return from new technologies that have already been proven, it’s clear that developing business metrics and holding these projects accountable to them is just as critical as any effort to increase productivity.

The nature of these metrics also needs to shift from a focus on “counts and amounts” to measures of a higher order that tie more closely to business value. For example, knowing that posting activity has risen by 25% in a year may make you feel a little better about your investment in a collaboration platform. Knowing that there is a higher ratio of people engaging vs. those who are simply consuming is much better. Showing a strong correlation in departments that have higher percentages of engaged users with lower attrition rates … that’s gold.

So now is the time to look at your own organization and wonder: “Do I track how my people are connecting? Do I know how to help them become more engaged and productive? When was the last time I measured the impact of my internal communication ecosystem?”

Then take a moment to imagine the possibilities of what you could do with all of that information.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part 2 and Part 3 when we address the topics of driving engagement by identifying types of enterprise social behavior in individuals, and the results we’ve seen from being data-driven in how we shape internal communications and collaboration.