Archive for category Communities of Practice
This post reviews progress against my 70:20:10 Certification pathway. It focuses on improvement of SharePoint infrastructure to better enable knowledge sharing in my business unit, Supply Chain.
SharePoint is the platform that Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) uses for intranet, shared file storage, and Enterprise Social Network (ESN). CCA does not use Yammer. In early 2014 CCA decided to upgrade from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013. In the same period we also updated the Supply Chain Capability strategy to include ‘continuous workplace learning,’ and decided to introduce Communities of Practice. At this time use of the SharePoint newsfeed was negligible, and discussion forums were not used. I had been actively using Twitter as a professional development tool for several months and could see the potential of online social to enable knowledge sharing.
The upgrade scope included migration of all shared files from servers to SharePoint document libraries. If most people started using SharePoint on a daily basis for file management there was a leverage opportunity to encourage the use of other platform features, including online social. I volunteered to assist with the SharePoint upgrade to position myself to take advantage of this opportunity.
What I Set Out to Achieve
My goal was to create an infrastructure that promoted online social interaction and supported Communities of Practice. Of course, simply ‘building it’ would not guarantee that ‘they would come.’ However, improving the infrastructure was a pre-requisite to creating vibrant communities.
Prior to the SharePoint upgrade there were almost 150 Australian Supply Chain SharePoint sites – around 1 for every ten permanent employees. The range of sites largely reflected the geographic organisation structure. Most teams had a dedicated SharePoint site, each of which had it’s own newsfeed. This impeded online social. It was a lot of effort to find and follow either individual people or the sites of teams with similar work roles and challenges across the organisation. People could see little point in engaging in discussion on a site newsfeed if the only people they could interact with were those they saw face-to-face every day.
I took a two-step approach:
1) Rationalise the range of SharePoint sites to make it easier for people to find other people and resources relevant to their work, while retaining the ability to use SharePoint as part of local team workflows.
2) Build hubs to provide spaces for Communities of Practice to interact.
SharePoint Site Rationalisation
In conjunction with IT, we redesigned the high-level site infrastructure, setting up one site for each Supply Chain function e.g. Planning, Manufacturing, Logistics. These are accessible via a dashboard. A small number of existing project sites were also retained.
Each site has a single newsfeed on the home page. This makes it easier to interact with others who work in the same function, regardless of where they work. Every geographic area (State) has a landing page on each functional site, with a dashboard containing links to document libraries or other pages required for local team use.
We formed a Supply Chain SharePoint migration project team with one to two representatives from each State. These people were local change agents and coordinators. They worked with local stakeholders to promote the benefits of the new infrastructure, set up dashboards, and coordinate file migration from local servers.
Migration commenced in July 2014, and is now 95% complete, 18 months later. This timeframe far exceeded the estimate of 3-4 months. While the rationale for the change was readily understood and generally accepted, there were several practical challenges. The effort to clean up existing files and folder structure exceeded our estimates. Migration activity halted during our peak production season (October to January inclusive). Both Supply Chain and IT were restructured during this period. Within IT the physical migration tasks were handed over twice. Technical issues arose (if you are interested in these please leave a comment on this post and I will provide more detail). Due to these obstacles the project paused several times and needed to be kick-started again. It has taken persistence and a commitment to the long-term vision (knowledge sharing to create business value) to continue the migration.
Improvements and Next Steps
Although not traditionally the remit of a Learning and Development team, within Supply Chain my team has taken the lead on governance and support to our SharePoint infrastructure. This is an extension of our remit to support knowledge sharing and to contribute more broadly to value creation in our business through social practices. Sustainability of the new site infrastructure is a key goal.
Requests for new Supply Chain SharePoint sites come to me in the workflow. I discuss the business need with the requester and help them find ways to address this need within the existing infrastructure. There have been very few site requests in the past twelve months since we implemented and promoted use of the new infrastructure.
Each national site has two site owners who are responsible for site management. Along with one of my team members I provide direct support to these site owners. We are rolling out a training plan and site management routine for site owners. Additionally, migration project team members have become local SharePoint Subject Matter Experts. They provide advice and responsive local support to people on how to use SharePoint more effectively. We will sustain this SME network.
We are documenting the governance framework and principles that have evolved. These include the overarching infrastructure, role of site owners and my team, support available to users, key infrastructure decisions and the principles that apply. For example, the principle of openness, means that the majority of sites, document libraries and forums will be public.
Community of Practice Hubs
Four community hubs are now set up on SharePoint using a common design. I’ve previously described the hub design and set up process.
The hubs were all set up using standard SharePoint apps and have not required any maintenance. From an end user perspective, it is straightforward to post on each element of the hub. However, community interaction is impeded by limited SharePoint notification functionality. Community management, administration and reporting functionality is also limited.
By default SharePoint displays newsfeed posts made by any person or on any site that someone follows. However, notice of posts on discussion boards will only display in the newsfeed if the individual posting has ticked this in the advanced settings on their personal profile. Few people take the time to adjust their advanced settings. A person can set up email notification of discussion board activity, however the way to do this is not obvious to users. After several attempts to encourage community members to set up their own notifications I manually set these up for every individual member. I also set up email notifications for members on the custom list in the Knowledge Bites site, where user-generated content is published.
SharePoint social lacks the fluidity of open social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. As both an end user and community facilitator I find this frustrating and inefficient. As a result it has taken a lot of effort, support and encouragement to build online community interaction.
Improvements and Next Steps
The value of Communities of Practice to Supply Chain has been demonstrated but is well short of being fully realised. We will expand the use of communities in 2016. Before we do we will assess scalability and user experience of the current community hub infrastructure. We need to decide whether to:
- continue to use dedicated hubs for each community with any improvements identified in our review; or
- move to a new design with a single community site for all of Supply Chain using a new design recently adopted by our IT department.
Some variant of these two options may also be possible.
The new IT community and knowledge base that uses functionality not available in the standard SharePoint apps used by Supply Chain. This provides an alternative template for our online communities. However, it represents a shift from separate hubs for each community to one community for the whole of Supply Chain. One of the lessons we learned from our Maintenance and Engineering community is that members need to have enough common interest for them to get value from interacting. A single Supply Chain community exacerbates this challenge. We will explore the use of tagging as a means of associating content (posts or knowledge base entries) by domain to address this challenge. In effect, this could create ‘virtual communities.’ User experience and adoption are key factors to guide community infrastructure design, so we will involve a range of existing and new users to provide feedback in a test environment.
I’m up for another round of grappling with SharePoint to improve the user experience and community management. Getting the infrastructure right is an important hygiene factor for building online communities. This takes more effort than it should in SharePoint. It’s effort and time that I’d rather invest in building habits and behaviours to generate community interaction. However, it is the platform that the organisation has invested in so I shall do the best with my colleagues to make the most of it.
This post is part of a case study on the development of a Community of Practice (COP) for Maintenance and Engineering teams at Coca-Cola Amatil. A previous post outlined the COP evaluation strategy. This post summarises evaluation following completion of the five-week Work, Connect, and Learn (WCL) program.
This evaluation examines:
- Increase in networks (potential value)
- Engagement with work and Community (potential and applied value)
- Opportunities for community value creation
Data gathering methods used were:
- Pre and post program surveys sent to all 200 (approximately) Community members. 115 people responded to the pre-program survey and 78 to the post-program survey.
- Data from monitoring Community SharePoint site
Community members are from nine operational sites and two head office locations in Australia and New Zealand. Job role and age distribution are shown in the tables below. The geographic and age distribution of respondents was similar between the two surveys. The percentage of trades-people who responded to the post-program survey declined compared to the pre-program survey. This is consistent with feedback about barriers to entry for this group to take part in the online community.
|% Program Respondents|
|Tradesperson – Fitter (performs hands-on maintenance and repair of mechanical equipment)||27.4%||23.1%|
|Tradesperson – Electrician (performs hands-on maintenance and repair of electrical equipment)||24.8%||16.7%|
|Maintenance – Other (e.g. Coordinator, Planner, Manager – plan and manage maintenance tasks and resources)||17.7%||28.2%|
|Engineer (production line design, project manage changes to production equipment)||12.4%||19.2%|
|% Program Respondents|
|< 30 years||10.5%||10.3%|
Increase in Networks
Completed Online Profile
By default, all employees have a brief personal profile in SharePoint and contact details in Lync (now Skype For Business). We also set up a contact directory on the Community site, organised by work location and job role. People were asked to update their profile with details such as experience, past projects, and interests. Profiles are included in SharePoint search results, so these details make it easier to find and connect with relevant people. As an entry level networking activity, updating a profile is an important step in community participation.
31% of respondents updated their SharePoint profile during the program. This increased members with complete profiles to 40%, against a target of 80%.
Interaction with People at other Locations
Unfortunately, we are unable to gather any network analysis data from SharePoint or Lync. We asked about the interaction between Community members in different locations using SharePoint and Lync. We compared the number of people respondents interacted with in the four weeks before each survey. WCL webinars were excluded from the data.
The graph below shows two key shifts:
- Approximately 20% increase from no interactions to 1-5 interactions
- Approximately 6% increase from 6-10 interactions to 11-20 interactions
We asked respondents to list up to five people they had interacted with at other sites in the previous two weeks. However, we lacked an effective tool or method to analyse this data.
Interaction across sites increased during the WCL program. Sustaining and building interaction would require effort.
The Maintenance and Engineering Community used an existing SharePoint site. General updates and transient chat could be posted on the newsfeed. However, the newsfeed was rarely used before WCL.
An early WCL activity was for everyone to follow the SharePoint site. Following a site ensures that site newsfeed posts appear in your personal newsfeed. SharePoint does not ‘push’ notifications of newsfeed activity outside of the newsfeed itself. This means that the only way a person will be aware of newsfeed posts is if they check their feed. The graph below shows how often respondents checked their feed. The number of respondents who never check their feed dropped from 62% to 27%. Those checking at least once a week rose from 18% to 48%. There was a slight increase in the people who check their feed daily from 9% to 13%.
Two discussion forums were added to the site: one for the WCL program, and a second for ongoing Community use. During WCL, we gradually moved activities from the program forum to the Community forum. We encouraged people to use the Community forum to share knowledge, solve problems and collaborate on improvements.
Forum posts do not appear in the SharePoint newsfeed. An alert can be set up on a forum to receive email updates of activity either immediately, daily or weekly. WCL participants were shown how to set up an alert and asked to set one up on the forum. At the end of the program only 30 people (approximately 14% of the group) had set up an alert. However, only 30% advised that they ‘never’ check the forum. This indicates that most are visiting the forum without being prompted by email alerts.
Activity on the Community forum was analysed. The count excluded activity on the WCL program forum and by program facilitators.We counted the number of questions, likes and replies, and the number of active individuals. There were 115 interactions from 23 individuals, representing 11% of the Community population.
Participation rates are consistent with the 1-9-90 rule which is a positive start. A small number of community champions are emerging.
Barriers to Community Engagement
The survey listed a set of activities and asked respondents who had not done at least two why they had not been more active. The table below shows frequency of different responses.
Respondents identified the key barriers to community engagement as:
- Time – finding the time to do activities
- Skills – not being sure how to use SharePoint and/or Lync
- Need – not having identified a need to engage
- Technology – Inadequate access to computer or mobile device
- Who would be interested? – Uncertainty about what they can contribute and who would be interested in their contribution
Opportunities for Community Value Creation
Two open-ended questions gathered views on how participation in the Community could add value. The questions focused on improving business results. The were also phrased so that the answers reflected personal pain points and opportunities.
Q1: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to improve work practices and maintenance results at your site?
Key themes in responses were:
- Access to information
- Communication and collaboration between production plants
- Relationship and collaboration across departments at a local level
- Improving troubleshooting and speed to resolve equipment faults
- Time / workload, improving workflow
- Standard processes, setting standards, accountability
- Maintenance planning
- Improving technical knowledge
Q2: How do you think the Community of Practice could help you with this opportunity?
Key themes in responses were:
- Drawing on everyone’s experience
- Allowing information to be shared
- Ease of communication with others
- Having a greater number of people to ‘bounce’ ideas, solutions and improvements
- Use forums to ask questions and access feedback/experiences from other sites
- Learning from mistakes and successes of others
- Not reinventing the wheel
- Alignment to common goals through interaction in new ways
- Training on technical skills
I am actually writing this post seven months after the WCL program. This gives me the benefit of knowing what has happened in the intervening period. I recall being positive immediately following the WCL program. The WCL program had helped us to launch the Maintenance and Engineering Community of Practice. Participants understood how a Community of Practice could create value. The interaction between people in different locations had increased, and community engagement was growing. We could build on this with strong community facilitation. We had some barriers to address, particularly if we wanted to enable the trades-people to take part. There were also opportunities. Community Champions were emerging. The Community had identified improvement opportunities that we could build activity around.
The National Engineering and Maintenance Managers had a deeper understanding of tacit knowledge. They had a stronger appreciation of the value of networks and potential contribution of a Community of Practice. Our next step was to support them to develop a strong plan to build and sustain the community. We engaged Helen Blunden of Activate Learning Solutions to provide coaching on Community facilitation.