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Optimising Digital

Collaboration from
the Inside Out
How Digital Collaboration Boosts
Employee Engagement, Knowledge Management,
Company Culture and Customer Relations

By Anthony Poncier, Director of Social Business, EMEA, MSLGROUP,

and Sbastien Faure, Social Media Strategies Consultant, Publicis Consultants

01 Introduction
01 Optimising Digital Collaboration from the
Inside Out: Fad or Fundamental?
02 New Business Models Spur New Behaviours
03 Behind the Scenes at Airbnb
04 Digital Collaboration Leadership
05 Digital Collaboration Transitions Backed
by the Executive Committee
06 Governance to Support the Vision
08 Case study: Behind the Scenes at Cannon
10 Boosting Employee Engagement
11 The Crux of the Transition
12 From Information to Participation
13 A Culture Change for Employees
15 Case study: Behind the Scenes at Ahold USA
16 Digitising Customer Relations
17 Ongoing Actions and Reactions
19 Organising in a Branded Content Setting
21 Conclusion
22 A Fresh Vision of Your Company
23 About the Authors

Optimising Digital
Collaboration from
the Inside Out:
Fad or Fundamental?

some employees in
European organisations
spend an hour or more
duplicating the work
of other employees
every day.

some companies have
increased the speed of
their employees access
to knowledge

some companies
have increased their
suppliers and
partners satisfaction

some companies have
increased their marketing

When Andrew McAfee, now a research scientist

at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),
coined the term,Enterprise 2.0 in 2006, he
called it, the use of emergent social software
platforms within companies, or between
companies and their partners or customers.1
More simply put, its all about companies using
social media, collaborative tools and social
networks to connect people, information and
company assets in more effective ways.
Companies have come a long way since those early days, with many
seeing significant improvements in operations, people satisfaction and
bottom line results. Among the lessons learned is that its not just about
technology. Determining digital collaborations role, how it will be used
and how to incorporate it into company culture are what really matters.

The focal point: improving internal and

external interaction

Smart companies use digital collaboration technologies to improve

interaction within their ecosystems of employees, stakeholders,
customers, partners and prospects all of whom use various
applications to network and streamline processes. Usage is growing,
with 89% of top managers believing digital technology has a major
impact on their companies. 2 This is far from a fad, but rather a
fundamental response to a world where the pace of work, change
and collaboration continues to accelerate.

Technology expectations: target vs. truth

We all know the world is moving faster and faster, decisions must
be made quickly and employees must be able to find the right
information, right now. What companies need and what theyre
getting, however, are two different things.
The truth is, companies must substantially increase knowledge
worker productivity, the same way management increased manual
worker productivity in the 20th century.3 Employees today waste
about 5.3 hours per week due to inefficient processes.4 Two-thirds
cant find the help theyre looking for.5 Sixty percent of employees
in European organisations spend at least an hour a day duplicating
other employees work.

1 Andrew McAfee, Enterprise 2.0, version 2.0,
2 CSC 2015 Survey on the Switch to Digital Technology
3 The productivity of knowledge workers increases by
between 20-25% if we improve the communication
and collaboration processes. McKinsey: The Social
Economy: Unlocking value and productivity through
social technologies, McKinsey Global Institute Report,
July 2012
4 Measuring the Pain: What is Fragmented
Communication Costing Your Enterprise?: enterprise.
5 Harris Interactive and Tacit Knowledge Systems Poll,
6 McKinsey Quarterly: The Rise of Networked Enterprise:
December 2010
7 IBM: Leading Through Connections - Highlights of the
Global CEO Study, IBM Institute for Business Value,
May 2012

Digital technologies and collaborative processes help significantly by

creating links between people, information and resources. Seventy-seven
percent of networked organisations have increased their employees
speed of access to knowledge, 63% have increased their marketing
effectiveness and 45% have increased supplier and partner satisfaction.6
Technology certainly helped achieve these results, but it takes a
change in a corporate culture to inspire employees to behave differently.
Collaboration is the first thing CEOs seek from their employees; 75%
consider it critical.7


New Business
Models Spur New

Consumers new practises



and real time

are forcing companies to rethink

their organisational models

Theres nothing particularly new about

Enterprise 2.0 or social business concepts.
Whats new are nontraditional competitors who
are changing the playing field by interacting
with customers in nontraditional ways. These
may be pure players or companies from
completely different sectors adopting new
approaches. Free of the usual constraints and
expectations, they are reshuffling the cards and
redefining markets.
This change is occurring at a rate that traditional businesses struggle
to follow. Uber in transport, Amazon in commerce, Airbnb in hospitality
and Google in any number of areas are designing a networked society.
There are endless examples in every sector including energy, telecom,
transportation and so on.
The shift may motivate you to rethink your business model, not just
because of new competitors, but because it shows customers habits
have changed. They accept and demand an increasingly digital culture
based on interaction, sharing and commenting.
Theres no question the new environment calls for technologies to
improve your supply chain, customer service and employer brand.
The biggest change, however, comes in adjusting your culture. These
models require engagement among internal and external stakeholders
to improve the experience and user pathway. Otherwise, uberisation
awaits you,8 primarily because:
 ocial ties, mobile technology, real time, new web applications
and digital tools make this requirement even more important and
 he relationship with the outside world and specifically your
customers and prospective customers is driving you toward this
change so you can meet these new demands effectively.
It is not the technology thats important, but what it provides and
the new culture it spawns.

8 Everyone is beginning to worry about being Uberised.

The idea is that you suddenly wake up and find that
your traditional business has disappeared. Customers
have never been as disoriented, or concerned about
their brand and their business model. Maurice Levy


Behind the
Scenes at Airbnb
An interview with
Nicolas Ferrary,
Director of Airbnb France

Q Would you introduce yourself

and Airbnb?

Q What impact does this have

on the way your employees work?

A Airbnb, which was founded in San

Francisco in 2008, is a community
platform that connects people who want
to rent all or part of their homes, with
travelers from all over the world. We
connect people in more than 34,000
cities and 190 countries.

A We all use collaborative

consumption services! This is
undoubtedly reflected in our way of
working as well: our teams collaborate
naturally on cross-functional projects.
We use collaborative corporate tools
like Google Documents and Hackpad.
Trust and discussions, together with a
spirit of enterprise, are key collaborative
consumption values, which are also
found in our corporate values. We
reinforce these values with team
activities outside work.

We opened a French office in Paris in

2012, which I manage. Before joining
Airbnb, I was the regional manager
at Groupon France, after working for
McKinsey as a consultant.
Q What has changed in Internet

users behaviours and/or practises
that made the collaborative
economy take off in such a
significant way?
A The collaborative economy

represents practises we are familiar
with on a small scale (swaps between
neighbours, for instance). It has
increased significantly over the past
few years for these reasons:

Technological: the Internet has

enabled development of local
practises (barter, swaps and rentals)
on an international scale.
Societal: people have a genuine
desire to escape from individual
consumerism to focus on more
human models.
Financial: French residents
purchasing power has fallen by 4%
since 2009, resulting in searches for
good deals.
Indications are that the collaborative
economy meets a need and a desire,
i.e., consuming in a different way. If we
take the example of Airbnb, the travel
experience has not changed much, even
though global tourism has continued
to grow. Airbnb not only provides
additional accommodation capacity, but
a new, more local and genuine travel
experience. Accordingly, we believe
that this new form of travel will stay the
course and will continue to expand in
the coming years.


Q What makes you stand out from

your main traditional competitors
in your business sector?
A Airbnb offers trips that are more

focused on experience: sharing good
times with your host, obtaining the
advice of a local in order to take part in
activities that are off the beaten track,
staying in less touristic areas, etc. We
also have a very strong community with
which we have established relations
based on trust and goodwill. Airbnb
is much more than a website it is
a concept that can change the way
individuals discover the world.

Indications are that the

collaborative economy
meets a need and a
desire, i.e., consuming
in a different way.


Digital Collaboration Leadership

Backed by
the Executive

For a long time, collaborative working was

all about the tool. It was thought that a new
technology tool would naturally inspire
employees to start collaborating. This
assumption led Gartner to estimate that more
than 80% of social network projects conducted
by information technology (IT) departments
would fail, as these departments are used to
providing technological solutions, not solutions
focused on the value to businesses
or customers.9
Nowadays, executives know the transition to digital collaboration
goes far beyond the tool to organisational structures, attitudes and
governance. Accordingly, 74% of executives have a digital strategy
aimed at changing the way they work and meeting these new
Escalating collaborative technology decisions to management, which
is increasingly frequent, is good news, as we are actually talking about
overall change in organisational structure. Lets be honest, though.
Many people still focus on the tool instead of the transition. Digital
collaboration tools may have spurred the transition, but they are not
the central issue by any means.

Management must commit

Sponsorship at the highest levels has been one of the keys to successful
digital collaboration implementation. Therefore, companies must adopt
a collaborative enterprise view, which goes beyond merely implementing
a technology tool. The desire to change is increasingly important, since
88% of companies surveyed by Altimeter Group are introducing a
system to transition to digital technology.11
Companies must stand on both feet and adopt an approach that
addresses short- and long-term issues. It will show employees the
company is not focused just on cost-cutting, but on a long-term view
where all employees have a role. This strong signal opens up new
prospects and enables organisations to move forward. The goal is
not to add complexity, but to overcome stumbling blocks to change.
Top management must focus on providing direction and measuring
results, and less on micromanaging teams. They should help speed
decisions, review and act on feedback, break down silos and encourage
transparency as a result of information circulating more easily.

Action steps toward change

If your executive committee is removed from digital collaboration issues,
an inverse mentoring approach12 to raise their awareness is one possible
solution. Caution: even if the executive committee backs the project, it
must not give rise to a top-down approach.
10 Forrester: State of digital business 2014
11 Altimeter Group: Digital Transformation Survey, 2014.
12 The roles are reversed: it is not a senior employee who is
transmitting their experience and know-how, but a younger
employee, who will share their knowledge and bring the
older employee up to speed on certain issues, such as
digital technology.


Digital Collaboration Leadership

to Support the

An unbalanced breakdown of
the budget between the staff
and the solution






Although the transition to digital

collaboration is not merely a matter
of tools, top management must
understand the challenges and
opportunities associated with these
Creating a digital culture does
not happen overnight. It involves
establishing a robust governance
process, which can prevent the silobased and hierarchical environment
that exists in many companies.
Processes must be flexible enough
to adjust to what exists, as well as
support practises that will evolve.
As important as governance is, only
16% of respondents to a 2014 survey
believed governance systems are
well understood and rolled out in

A governance process that

serves corporate needs
To be legitimate, the governance
process must genuinely support what
the digital enterprise will be and its
impact on employees and customers
day-to-day lives. In a nutshell, it
must have meaning and bring your
employees onboard to respond to new
customer challenges.
Digital collaboration must enable
companies to meet business
requirements and simplify existing
processes before going further to
develop new practises and meet other
requirements. When raised to the
highest level, this helps you avoid
reproducing existing silos within your
information systems via separate
collaborative solutions, while covering
most end-users requirements and
In addition to enabling employees to
interact differently, governance also
helps employees understand the new
culture and want to commit to it,
entering into a win-win for themselves
and the company. This is one of the
main keys to digital collaboration
success. Bringing employees onboard
ensures they apply new practises to
existing processes initially and develop
new processes later.

13 Altimeter: Social Business Governance: A Framework

to Execute Social Business Strategy, November 2014.


Action steps toward change

There is no perfect governance process,
and the process must be suited to your
company. It should address project
governance (which can be more or
less centralised), information systems
governance and an overall operating
process that enables everyone to share
their experiences.

Yes, the tool matters

While the tool may take a backseat
and blend into the background, it
can become a genuine hindrance if
its not ergonomic or does not meet
user requirements. To avoid this
situation, you must start with business
requirements that can be turned into
collaborative practises. Dont restrict
yourself to a short-term view; as your
employees become more experienced,
their collaborative practises will change
over time. Although collaborative
working did not wait for the 2.0 version,
its expansion within companies is
linked to the ramp-up of collaborative
tools such as corporate social networks.
These technologies make collaborative
practises more tangible, just like e-mail
in its day, which significantly simplified
companies communications, even
though they had done just fine without
them until that point.

The tool can hide a forest

of other problems
Infrastructure is important, but it is
only the vehicle for new collaborative
practises. Results depend first and
foremost on you. Your investment and
engagement will make the difference,
so dont neglect preparation before
launching the platform.
People often blame the tool when a
technology project fails. The tool is
rarely the problem. The reason for
failure is more often the lack of getting
employees to buy into the tool and use
it in their day-to-day lives.

Digital Collaboration Leadership

Action steps toward change

Managing change,
an illustration
Based on Kotters
8 stages of change

There is no miracle technology solution

that will meet all your requirements.
Instead, look at your business and end
user requirements, then find a solution
that meets those requirements and
works with existing constraints such
as knowledge management, social
customer relationship management
(CRM), co-creation and open
innovation. Likewise, think about your
targets, your requirements and your
strategy from an external standpoint.

Communications director
at the helm
As long as digital collaboration is
seen as tool-based project, the IT
department is responsible for it. Today,
IT departments are responsible for 29%
of digital transition projects.14
Now that these kinds of projects have
been escalated to executive committee
level, companies should assign them
to a cross-divisional function that
serves business lines internally and
externally. Organisations often turn to
the communications department and
to human resources (HR) when the CEO
does not back the project directly.15
HR, which remains somewhat in the
background, rarely spearheads these
initiatives and may be completely
removed. Communications is typically
more proactive on this issue and takes
over to back it at the company level.

Internal communications
leads the charge
The internal communications
department, which is used to social
networks, is usually more aware of the
digital culture and issues. In addition,
communication processes are the first
ones affected by the introduction of
a corporate social network tool and
collaborative environment. The tip of
the iceberg is the infamous intranet a
symbol of top-down communications.

14 Altimeter Group: State of Digital Transformation, 2014

15 Ibid. 42%
16 40% of companies in the CAC40 Index have already
hired a Chief Digital Officer (Microsoft Techdays Ideas,
February 2015)

Change management, which will lead

users to adopt the new tool initially
and new practises later, is often driven
by the internal communications
department. This doesnt mean they
should be the only department backing
it, but they should facilitate others who
are involved, including IT, business
lines and HR.

Do you need a chief

digital officer?
Chief digital officer (CDO) and
director of digital technology titles are
appearing more frequently16 at large
companies. These professionals often
find themselves in difficult positions.
Sometimes they are attached to the
board, which gives them a kind of
moral authority, but they have no
troops and find it hard to act. In other
cases, they are attached to a division
such as Communications, Marketing
or IT, and end up engaged in trench
warfare. Theyre often either internally
or externally focused, depending on
their personal career paths, but they
must manage both dimensions, as one
cannot exist without the other in social
An effective CDO has a wide range of
skills in technology, communications
and change management. In addition,
he/she must be able to:
1 Establish a sense of urgency
2 Create a coalition of change
3 Articulate clear goals
4 Communicate the philosophy
5 Give people independence and
authority to implement programs
6 Celebrate short-term victories
7 Build on the gains achieved
8 Institutionalise change

Action steps toward change

Should you start by rethinking the
internal operating process? Putting
a corporate social network in
place? Reviewing the organisations
operating process? Reviewing the
business model? Reviewing your
customer relations?
The issue of digital collaboration did
not appear at your company for no
reason. There have been trials, at the
very least, and people have experience
on the issue. Put your key people
around the table to see what you
have, your strong points, your weak
points, expectations, support and
potential obstacles.

Digital Collaboration Leadership

Behind the
Scenes at Canon
An interview with
Neil Barnett, European
Marketing Manager,
Canon EMEA

Can you tell us a little bit about

Canon, its history and your role in it?

Almost everyone will have heard of
Canon. Synonymous with photography
and visual imagery, the company has
been going strong for nearly 80 years
since it was founded in Japan in 1937.
Most people know Canon from its
consumer business of cameras and
printers and we are frequently named
as one of the worlds most popular
brands for this reason. However, theres
a lot more to Canon than that. Not
only are we involved in lots of varying
industries from medical imagery to
CCTV (closed circuit television), but
for a company with such a rich history,
were actually incredibly innovative too.
We file an average of five new patent
registrations every day in the U.S., and
for almost 30 years weve consistently
been in the top five most prolific
companies in this area.

Most importantly, its our company

culture that allows this to happen.
Its really special and something Canon
and all our employees are very proud
of. We call it Kyosei, a Japanese word
that means, living and working for
the common good, and it shapes the
way we treat our people and conduct
our business because we are mindful
of how our activities impact our
customers, employees, partners and
the world around us.


On a personal note, Im part of

the Marketing and Corporate
Communications team within EMEA
and I recently led a project we called
Miru, which was designed specifically
to bring our employees closer together
and enact Kyosei across all areas
of the business.
What was Miru, and why was it
necessary when you already had such
a proud company culture?

A Everyone is very aware of our

culture and lived it in their own silos,
but we wanted to broaden it so teams in
different areas, different countries and
different parts of the company could
reap the benefits of sharing knowledge
and working together easily. In the
most basic sense, it is a new company
intranet but in reality, its more like
a digital workspace thats engaging,
inclusive and most importantly
incredibly useful.

Miru means to see in Japanese and

the intended function was twofold.
Firstly it was to encourage behavioural
changes that would encourage diverse
teams from across the broad Canon
spectrum to work collaboratively,
instead of just within their own offices.

Digital Collaboration Leadership

Companies need to
support the digital
workplace by shifting
their culture from
knowledge is power
to knowledge sharing
is power.

Secondly it was technological. Our

people werent fully empowered to
behave according to Kyosei because
they didnt have all the necessary tools.
In less than a year, Miru introduced
lots of really useful, cutting-edge digital
and social platforms such as Yammer,
Skype for Business and OneDrive that
have genuinely become part of Canon
employees daily lives. Now everyone
can and does work collaboratively,
innovatively and with more agility and
responsiveness than ever before.
Q How long has it taken to do this,

and what have the challenges been?
A Its taken about a year to

conceptualise and start implementing
Miru nowhere near as long as you
might think for a company that employs
17,000 people throughout 116 countries
and with the obvious language barriers
that go alongside this. In just a few
months, weve got the vast majority of
employees using Miru in some way and
the feedback from this time has been
inspiring a 67% uptake of Yammer
versus an industry standard of just
16%; an average of over 90% positive
feedback from leaders, mentors and HR
directors across the board; and dozens
of business successes that have come
about directly thanks to Miru.

The challenge is an ongoing one,

because we dont consider the process
finished and it may never be. While
we have made good progress with Miru,
we know that it is very easy to fall back


into old habits and, because technology

is evolving rapidly, another challenge
is to become comfortable with ongoing
But this is actually a big opportunity
for us. A lot of the digital change we see
in the world is tightly interlinked with
products and services Canon can offer,
including trends such as 3D printing
and virtual and augmented realities.
Having Miru in place means Canon
is much better aligned with how
quickly this new world moves, so we
can be proactive instead of reactive
when it comes to emerging digital and
industry trends.
Whats next?
A We keep innovating by using

the growing digital dexterity of our
employees, which is and always has
been really important to Canon.
Its about delivering a more consumerlike computing environment thats
better able to facilitate flexible working

We believe that, to be successful,

companies need to support the digital
workplace by shifting their culture from
knowledge is power to knowledgesharing is power no longer rewarding
heroes, but celebrating collaboration.
That will breed faster sharing of ideas,
more innovation and the ability to make
changes quicker, which is what Miru
does, and will continue to do, for Canon.


Boosting Employee Engagement

The Crux of the

Symmetry of attention

Research shows that around 80% of employees

are not committed to their companies and
many do little more than show up.17 Many
factors influence this situation, including
management styles, leadership, company
reputation, working conditions, opportunities
to get involved, interesting work, recognition
and personal development programs. Digital
collaboration can help with most of these,
provided you dont just install a tool, but use
the tool as a driver of cultural change.
It is important to understand how a digital collaboration engagement
will lead to a win for the company, its employees and its customers.
The goal is a better process flow to make life easier and the work more
rewarding for all stakeholders.
This is especially necessary since, as part of an approach based on
the symmetry of attention principle, the quality of a companys relations
with its customers is equal to that of the companys relations with its
employees.18 This internal-external mirror can be used in the context
of an e-ambassadors program involving employees, as we will see later.

18 Employees First, Customers Second, by Vineet Nayar,
published by Editions Diateino,


Boosting Employee Engagement

Information to

Circulating information within a

company has always been fundamental
and heavily controlled by the internal
communications department.
Today, this top-down control is partly
obsolete. Remember, 50% of useful
information comes from conversations
around the coffee machine. Although
this mode of communication is obvious
and natural for employees, especially
younger generations, the company and
communications department dont see it
the same way. Corporate networks tend
to be used as top-down intranets rather
than channels for conversation and
employee interaction.

The end of top-down

Breaking with the top-down approach
to communication means reversing
the flow of information in a traditional
intranet, which is top-down by nature.
You want dialogue, not a monologue.
This may involve losing control of the
message, possibly calling the timetable
into question and creating the need to
answer questions before youre ready.
Historically, the communications
department was in full control of
the announcement timetable and
production processes for a potential
event. Once a collaborative approach
is introduced, conversations emerge in
various communities that affect timing
and actions required. Information flows
across divisions and among employees
while the communications department
becomes a mere spectator. This doesnt
mean they do nothing. Their jobs shift
to curating, optimizing and sharing
information for the benefit of employees,
stakeholders and the company.


Theres no need to panic

Despite its bottom-up nature,
collaborative communications are not
intended to be a forum for employees to
say anything they want. Discussions
can be guided, thanks to theme-focused
communities. The lack of anonymity
leads to self-censorship rather than
people going overboard with their
It will probably be harder to manage
a lack of content than to moderate
comments, but you must realise
discussions can become emotional.
These situations requires management
to step back and allow people to speak
up. You must trust your teams. This is
the first step toward cultural change.

Action steps toward change

Companies must address the issue
of moderating comments in the event
an employee overreacts. Many still
lack the trust that forms the basis of
collaborative working. You cant expect
people to engage if the message at the
outset is, We dont trust you.
Meanwhile, this absence of trust is
mutual. Many employees wonder what
will happen to them if they voice their
opinions on the corporate network. This
refusal to let go on both sides stems
from the fact that collaborative working
goes against current management
methods, which are more command
and control than participatory. It is up
to you to make your management style
more inclusive and send out the right

Boosting Employee Engagement

A Culture
Change for


As mentioned, projects of this kind

have traditionally been implemented
by IT departments, which applied the
change management processes of large
IT firms. Likewise, organisational and
management consultants, who are more
process-focused, have produced a large
number of change management kits,
which are undoubtedly useful and welldesigned, but do not solve the main
problem: how to gain employee buy-in
to a new culture.
Unlike an integrated software package
where use is mandatory, involvement
in corporate social networks is typically
more reliant on goodwill and voluntary

Boosting employee engagement

Collective working




Getting employees to engage means

the internal communications work will
take place in two stages. It will initially
involve producing a genuine change
communications campaign (on the
condition, obviously, that management
has decided on genuine change;
otherwise it risks a promise that will not
be kept). This will trigger employees
curiosity and make them want to
embark on the digital adventure. It
will be hard to get employees on board
without this emotional connection.
Since a communications campaign
is not enough to manage change, a
network of change officers should also
be set up. This will create support and
more extensive employee buy-in to
these new practises and the resulting

Changing mindsets

The values of the

collaborative company

Ultimately, a culture change is a

change of mindset. Digital enterprise
is not limited to using a corporate
social network properly or aligning
a few business processes. We are
talking about a change of stance and
leadership for the management team,
i.e., agreeing to give before receiving,
sharing, copying, offering opinions,
making suggestions and so on.

19 A hackathon is an event where developers meet

in order to program on a collaborative basis, with the
aim of producing an application prototype in a few
hours. The term is formed from hack and marathon.
The participants are mainly driven by merit.


This implies freedom of expression and

discussion, which leads to inclusive
management and taking collective
decisions by the entire team. Managers
must not be perceived solely as part of a
power and hierarchy-based relationship.
They will play a role more akin to that
of team leader or facilitator. They will
need to know how to coordinate without
centralising, and lead with no hierarchy.
If the management process is inclusive,
presumably there is also significant
day-to-day delegation.
The time a manager saves by
delegating will enable them to develop
their teams, review and give meaning to
their actions and differentiate between
priorities in order of rank (important
and/or urgent). This process embraces
fundamental concepts including:
Respect instead of domination
Trust instead of discipline
Transparency instead of opaqueness
T he collective rather than the
P romotion rather than appropriation
Although the communications
department is not the only one that
should promote this change of mindset
and go beyond an informative role,
it is the primary backer of this kind
of transitional project. They have
already been faced with rebalancing
the relationship between the company
and its customers via social media.
The same change will be necessary
for internal issues.

Action steps toward change

Your managers are the conduit to
employees. You must rely on them to
move the digital collaboration culture
forward. Begin by making them aware
of the issue and changing management
guidelines so they have a reason to
change their way of doing things.
Managers need incentives, like
everyone else. There must be a desire to
change and organise micro-events such
as lunch and learn or innovation
breakfast events to raise everyones
awareness of new challenges and make
them want to go further by awakening
their curiosity.

Boosting Employee Engagement

Trust is the basis for
collaborative working
As noted, top management must
embody a collaborative culture vision
and share the digital technologies
project with all employees. This will
enable everyone to understand what
they are contributing to. Thanks to the
discussions the process may generate,
everyone can contribute to resolving
problems and innovating at their own

The cornerstones of
digital culture


This kind of initiative-taking is

only possible when people trust the
organisation and the right to err. This
view must be shared so the project is
collective and people get involved. This
gives everyone a clear understanding
of the challenges to come and prepares
them to accept requirements for change.
In fact, although decisions come from
management, their application is the
result of employees work.
Everyone must understand what is
expected of them in order to commit.
As Peter Drucker used to say, Ninety
percent of what we call management
consists in making employees
work more complicated. In a new
management world, I see employees
managing their workload, and asking
a coach for support when they need it.
To achieve that ideal, employees
need to:



Be part of something that motivates

them (vision)
Make sense of their commitment
Develop a feeling of belonging
K now their work is recognised


As you can see, the essence of a digital

collaboration culture is apparent in
these four points. Sharing a vision
is important, while being able to
contribute to the resulting strategy
turns out to be even more effective.
This not only gives employees a better
understanding of the strategy, it makes
them feel they are stakeholders in its
implementation. This dual approach
is both top-down and bottom-up,
and characteristic of a new operating

Action steps toward change

As in the case of the governance
process, you must find the
organisational structure that suits you
and embodies the cornerstones of a
digital collaboration culture:
A networked organisational structure
that best fits (community, holacracy,
revolving leadership, etc.) and
includes a leadership process to be
more independent, innovative and
A networked organisational structure
that goes beyond the companys
borders to include all external
partners who are sources of added
A networked organisational structure
that is open and customer focused.
Ultimately, if this structure is
driven by enhanced customer
relationships, it will spawn
other methods of interacting with
employees to reduce intermediate
layers and increase contact points.

Boosting Employee Engagement

Q How have you traditionally driven

Associates engagement with the
A Most division Associates work in retail

stores or at distribution centers. They
arent at computers during the day, and
a 9-to-5 schedule isnt all that typical for
them. This means our divisions have to
rely on printed materials and manager-led
communications to reach and engage
with every Associate.

Behind the
Scenes at
Ahold USA
An interview with
Kim Cannon, Director of
Internal Communications
Tell us a little about Ahold USA.
Ahold USA (AUSA) represents the
U.S. sector of Koninklije Ahold N.V., a
Dutch-based international company
with retail grocery in multiple countries.
AUSAs four divisions operate more than
800 stores across the Northeast and
mid-Atlantic regions. Our family of stores
includes Stop & Shop, Giant Foods and
GIANT/MARTINS. In addition, Peapod
is AUSAs online grocery business.

AUSA stores put the customers constantly

changing needs, habits and expectations at
the core of our business. Not only do todays
consumers want to eat healthier, they want
higher quality, more convenience and to
save money. They want to shop in a warm
and welcoming environment, but are often
too pressed for time to enjoy a casual trip to
the supermarket.
To meet these growing expectations, we
offer better products, a better environment
and better prices. This means containing
costs, improving product selection and
merchandising, and making sure we
have friendly, knowledgeable staff in our
stores. The success of our businesses
depends on Associates commitment
and passion. Without their buy-in, our
businesses cant achieve their goals. Its
incredibly important to have each and
every Associate on board and yes, that
means supporting 100,000+ Associates
to help them understand our markets and
strategy and what they can do every day
help our customers save money, save time
and eat well.

Over the past few years, we have

developed a structure to help Associates
understand our customers constantly
changing needs. Our divisions hold
quarterly engagement meetings to provide
an inside look at our strategy and our
expectations of them. Our divisions follow
that up with printed communications and
other tools such as sales aids, reference
guides and posters. Recently, we also
implemented recognition programs that
reinforce customer service behaviours
our divisions expect their employees
to exhibit, and reward Associates for
exceeding customers expectations.
While this infrastructure has worked,
were excited to continue the transition to
digital communications to support store
managers and ensure we understand
Associate concerns and challenges in
real time. This approach allows our
businesses to be more informative,
interactive and inspiring. A few of the
current initiatives underway include:
Our divisions are launching an
Associate web portal to give in-store
Associates the opportunity to receive
updates on the companys success,
recognition of associates doing great
work and other interesting news
without cumbersome processes or
logins. Managers and district teams
will be able to issue updates in real
time, which is a huge advantage for
One of our divisions is piloting an
Instagram program with Associates
to further spread success stories
amongst store locations. Associates
can share whats working in their
stores and spotlight recent successes
or milestones. This program recognises
great work, gets Associates involved
and allows stores to copy each
others success.


Our divisions launched an interactive

digital career tool that allows Associates
to explore all the different directions
they can go in the company and meet
other Associates who have already
advanced along the same or similar
career paths. This helps Associates
plan and develop the skills they need
to grow.
Q Has going digital been a difficult

sell with leadership?
A Not at all. Peapod pioneered the

online grocery business and our
companys digital strategy is central to
its overall business plans. Its in our
DNA. At the same time, our leadership
wants to ensure we focus on the right
activities and initiatives in this space.

For every digital initiative we consider,

there are a host of questions, starting
with, Does it support Associates in
focusing on our customers needs and
expectations? In addition, we always
consider the business case from a
financial perspective, as well as the risks,
including the unique risks associated with
social media. Risks are managed with a
thorough discussion of the issues and,
where appropriate, detailed mitigation
plans to give our executives confidence
were prepared to address any issues that
arise. This lets us focus on the upside of
driving engagement with Associates to
grow our business.
Q How will this shift toward digital

change Associate communications
and business outcomes in the future?
A Our digital strategy is designed to give

us the opportunity to be more responsive
to our customers and our Associates.
We will be able to gather more real-time
insights from Associates about our
customers and about their wants and
needs, so the benefits are considerable.

However, we also understand the

shift toward digital engagement and
communications does not replace and
should support and complement in-person
interaction. Its simply an added layer
of connectivity, meant to improve the
communications already in place. The
combination of high-touch and high-tech
will create deeper loyalty and commitment
among Associates and, ultimately, lead
to a better overall customer experience.


Digitising Customer Relations

Ongoing Actions
and Reactions

Companies are used to external

communications that are top-down and
completely controlled. Interactions with
customers have been relatively limited, both
from a contact and frequency standpoint,
even though most companies now have a
social media presence for customer relations
The communications department will have to
let go22 to respond to a new collaborative culture
that creates added value via the interactions
generated. This means overhauling interaction
methods and developing new practises in
customer relations, such as an employee
ambassador program. This replaces one to
one or one to many communications with
a many to many approach.

21 IBM: CRM Study 2011

22 7 Chief Communication Officers out of 10 approve all
the messages on social media. Corporate social media
governance (March 2015). Enterprise & Medias/PCNI


Digitising Customer Relations

Smoother inflows and outflows
As mentioned in the previous chapter,
the issue of changing mindsets and
culture has already arisen, due to the
increasingly dominant role of social
media. The conventional internal
organisational structure is far from
optimal to produce content for external

Consumer insights
Competitors comments
Political, economic and
environmental climate

In fact, teams are not coordinated and

dont take advantage of one anothers
experiences or of possible synergies
within the company. Internal and
external aspects cannot be separated;
there is an ongoing experience
when sharing information. The
information and knowledge obtained
via social media must be injected into
the company to be processed and
disseminated outside the company.
At this point, you are involved in an
ongoing action and reaction through a
process based on incorporating external
information into a business function that
is usually centralised (we will see this
management process change later on).

Discussions on multiple themes

Brand and product content
Direct interactions with customers
Employees comments

The various people responsible for

communications on social media
cannot answer all the questions or
support all the requests from customers
or other stakeholders. After all, it is rare
to be a specialist in HR, marketing,
research and development (R&D) and
sales at the same time. They must
act as human filters and forward the
information or request to the employee
in the best position to reply.
Depending on the answer to be
provided, either the communications
department will take charge of
forwarding it outside the company,
or a more expert conversation will
be required. The communications
department will be the link between
employees and the contact person.


The goal is to give meaning to digital

collaboration on a human scale, as
there can be no engagement with
customers without a human interface,
even if a tool is the intermediary. This
approach may increase the knowledge
of all parties involved and can be
capitalised on if it is transmitted,
especially on a collaborative platform.

Action steps toward change

Collaborative customer communications
calls into question the internal silos
created by various departments who
work on your external digital presence
to avoid continually reinventing the
wheel. Everyone must make their
own contributions; however, you must
overcome day-to-day obstacles in the
organisations customer relations. This
is the best time to call on the highest
placed sponsor to get everyone into line.
You must first introduce a governance
process that cuts through the usual
silos and allows everyone to express
This process will also show where there
are disagreements and overlaps. It will
help you make decisions while letting
people express themselves and
share their experiences and practises.
The goal is to determine the main
sources of value on which to focus
to incorporate digital technology into
your companys day-to-day interactions
with all stakeholders, short term and
long term.

Digitising Customer Relations

Organising in
a Branded
Content Setting

Content creation in the

new environment means
the order of priority
changes from media,
themes and stories, to
themes, issues, stories
and media.

Gathering and using internal and

external feedback are essential
to enrich digital platforms and
create valuable content. Collective
participation does not mean
disorganisation. Curation and editorial
processes are needed. In fact, given
the increasing number of messages
to convey, your company may need to
turn into a communications agency to
manage information flow and capture
the attention of your audience, who
are overwhelmed by emergencies and
You need to create a newsroom to
gather your employees, partners
and customers data and content, as
well as stories related to your events,
culture, the market and so on. Every
stakeholder will become a potential
curator who feeds the newsroom either
in push mode (by sending information),
or in pull mode. Your employees can
insert a specific hashtag on Twitter, for
instance, when they relay information,
enabling the editorial team to identify
it more easily.

Organising to produce
quality content quickly
The issue is not to produce and
disseminate as much content as
possible to increase background
noise, but to act as journalists and ask
what will interest and engage your
audiences. It means being creative and
going off the beaten track to attract
attention. An information item is only
relevant and visible for a day or two;
this means you must improve the
smoothness of the process to be agile
and responsive when retrieving, editing
and disseminating information. You
must have the right tools (for listening,
sharing, etc.), as well as the right
organisational structure and processes
to meet these requirements.


Content creation in the new

environment means the order of priority
changes from media, themes and
stories, to themes, issues, stories and
media. It means identifying internal
backers among employees who are
positioned to find, draft and share
information internally and externally.
This is the crossroads between knowhow and knowing how to behave, a new
talent management stage, and requires
a well-organised team:
A nalysts to identify weak signals
and uncover trends
Creators of new digital formats to
change the way you create and tell
your stories
People who will set your campaigns
to music to make them visible,
attractive and interactive
This will allow you to keep every
participant in the system informed
of the actions to take, the content to
co-produce and the dissemination
rate to comply with. You will need
ambassadors to make this happen.

Action steps toward change

Eighty percent of useful information is
inside your company; it is up to you to
organise yourself in a network to gather
that information rather than run after
external content. Useful information
does not necessarily mean material
that can be used for a story. As part
of your information-gathering process,
think about what makes a great story
to disseminate.
Some information is hard to use in its
raw format, like a long report in PDF,
for instance. A targeted interview with
the author, or computer graphics, will
allow you to highlight the main points
in a more digestible and appropriate
format. Showcase employee authors
to get them to participate.

Digitising Customer Relations

From creating content to the
role of ambassador

Supporting employees
in this new role

As we have seen, more companies

know they need to focus on the
outside world from a social and/or
digital standpoint and not remain
on the defensive.

You must organise yourself to support

employees who want to embody the
brand as ambassadors. This means
defining roles (watch, curatorship,
content production, etc.), processes
and metrics, and securing sponsors
among top management who support
the project and encourage employees.
It is especially important to support
employees with training, practise and
knowledge sharing, give them tools to
work in a collaborative manner, plan
processes for responding in the event of
a crisis and capitalise on all information
gathered. The entire process should be
coordinated by a center of excellence
or expertise.

This requires working with partners

in a collaborative way and developing
a digital marketing culture so
employees feel at ease interacting with
customers or prospects. Even though
most companies still perform these
tasks in a centralised manner, the need
to call on ambassadors is increasing.

Whats done inside can be

seen outside
To prepare your employees to become
ambassadors, you must give them
resources and prepare them. This
begins by sharing their experience with
other departments, e.g., marketing,
communications and HR, and arranging
areas where these discussions can
take place. This assumes the company
is beginning to organise itself as a
network, at least in terms of themes,
and in its marketing and communication
departments in particular. This is
even truer for a global group, where
interactions will be so numerous that
an isolated department cannot reply
to requests in a holistic way.

Action steps toward change

Organisation of the newsroom

Content management

Identifying and
aggregating ideas

It is unrealistic to think all your

employees will want to represent the
company, or that you want to involve all
employees in an ambassador program.
It is up to you to identify your most
enthusiastic employees, e.g., those
who have already established a strong
presence on social media and are happy
to share knowledge on the companys
social network. The goal is to turn
people into the organisations eyes,
ears and mouth. This does not
involve them promoting a product or a
service, but embodying the companys
brand. In a digital approach, what you
do inside can be seen outside, and
vice versa.

Creating content

Editorial Director

Although some of your employees will

become ambassadors, you must not
forget that this is not their primary role.
Encourage external ambassadors to
make a commitment and contribute via
employee ambassadors. Enable every
customer to interact at every contact
point along their pathway. This will
increase loyalty, help you understand
their expectations and requirements
and increase business over time.
Another option is to use software
packages that pool messages to be
shared by your employees through their
social accounts. Employee engagement
is often supported by a ranking and/or
gamification system.

Editorial content production

Consistent planning of the content publication process



A Fresh Vision of
Your Company

You will be required to back a new

digital collaboration vision for
your company that welcomes new
generations of employees, seeks to
increase performance and keeps
pace with external trends that are the
focal points of executive committee
It is important to see this as an
opportunity and not a hurdle.
If your employees are the focal point
of your business model, you must
use them as a genuine competitive
advantage. That is, give them resources
to produce collective intelligence by
improving communication flows, giving
them margins for independence and
letting them participate.
You must also encourage and reassure
employees in a world that is moving
faster and faster, is increasingly
complex and continually changes all
of which lead to contradictions. In this
context, management communications
will be central to your system to explain
and share the vision. This is also true
for external stakeholders, for whom
collaborative processes will boost your
corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Your company is becoming a structure
where controls and processes are
more flexible to enable improvement
in results, and where every employee
is viewed as a resource who helps the
company adjust to these changes.


A constantly changing
communications department
The communications department is
at the center of this change and must
evolve accordingly. More and more,
the department is losing control over
editorial timetables, information
management, content production
and timing from one end of the
chain to the other. It can no longer
be the sole producer or conductor of
communications. The communications
department is becoming a center of
expertise that supports all stakeholders
in the collaborative culture. They
coordinate contributions to give
meaning to the companys vision both
internally and externally.

Digital collaboration does not

stop at the intranet
Planning your transition is undoubtedly
based on the usual social technologies,
and their reach is continually
increasing. When used properly,
data gathered on the Internet will
enable you to better understand your
stakeholders and create increasingly
detailed strategies with fewer areas of
uncertainty. The upsurge in mobility
will require you to rethink your
approaches based on a multiscreen
model, not via a conventional intranet
and/or extranet. Connected objects
represent a new world that impact your
products and services, how you interact
with customers and where temporary
or immediate factors alter these
interactions. And what about connected
objects that link the virtual and the
real? Thats a discussion for another
day, but it wont be long. Stay tuned.

About the

Anthony Poncier
Director of Social Business,
Anthony is an expert in collaborative
strategy. He helps companies and
project teams set up internal social
networks and specialises in digitising
customer relations.
Anthony is on the Enterprise 2.0 All
Star List, the author of Enterprise
Social Networks: 101 Questions,
and Enterprise 2.0: the White
Paper. Before joining MSLGROUP,
he was a management consultant
in organisational transformation at
the Institute for Digital Research in
the Humanities (IDRH) and director
of social collaboration strategy at
Lecko. He holds an executive masters
degree in strategic management and
competitive intelligence.


Sbastien Faure
Social Media Strategies
Consultant, Publicis
Sbastien is a consultant in digital
communications strategy at Publicis
Consultants in Paris and helps design
and develop digital relationships
between organisations and all their
stakeholders. He is responsible for
social network strategy, content strategy,
social media, community management,
analysis and reporting. He is an expert
in the deployment and use of change
communication in organisational digital
transformations and also monitors and
assesses the risk in sensitive situations.

For more information, contact:

Anthony Poncier
Director of Social Business, EMEA, MSLGROUP
T +33 1 44 82 46 48
M +33 6 23 34 08 81
Sbastian Faure
Social Media Strategies Consultant,
Publicis Consultants
T +33 1 44 82 45 65