Risk and an ESN

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 13.51.45There are some genuine risk issues to consider when you set up an Enterprise Social Network, they fall into roughly four categories;

  • technology (if this is a business tool, what is availability required?)
  • legal
  • data
  • user behaviour

In the first phase of implementing our ESN we spent a lot of time discussing these, particularly the last one. I felt that too often we build something starting from a risk perspective – focusing on all the things that can go wrong. I really want us to start from a principle of trust, after all we wanted our people to trust each other in their online collaboration.

I kept these three principles in mind in all the discussions with the risk and legal professionals;

  • We trust our employees – most employees do the right thing, few make mistakes, and only a tiny tiny minority deliberately go against policy
  • We will demonstrate that trust
  • We will address real risk or legal issues

There were several “fear-based proposals” that came up for discussion during the implementation. I recall one proposal that someone should review all the images used by people in their profiles. My heart sank. I made a counter offer – as it was non-standard functionality it would need to be built and would cost x euro, I asked them to let me know when they had budget available. I never heard back. In the two years since launch thousands of people have chosen an image for their profile, most often an image of themselves. None have been problematic in any way.

In the end we went with the simplest terms and conditions we could when we introduced a collaboration platform at ING. We had really simple terms, in daily language and framed in the positive; “be nice”, for example, rather than “do not”.

For the most part people were “nice”, they posted mostly work-related content, were generous with their comments and mindful of the tone they were using. Even more remarkable, on the rare occasions when someone wasn’t “nice”, it was the community who addressed it directly and on screen. In at least one case the response reminded the poster that our business values include “respect”.

A reporting mechanism was also a requirement for us – so all users can report a post that they think is an issue – in 2 years, with over 50,000 users and over 25,000 posts we had just two posts reported, neither of which had lead to any real negative impact.

We’re not alone in this finding – other companies report similar outcomes.

It turns out that when people are posting under their own name, and where their colleagues and boss can see it, they post responsibly. You can trust them.

Image: Risk Factory / CC BY 2.0

This post is part of a chapter on risk from the book I am writing called “The ESN Playbook”

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