Richard Acreman is a Partner at WM Reply, a company dedicated to building world-class intranets and business solutions with Microsoft Technology. Their mission is to build the world’s best Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 solutions to help organisations overcome business challenges. Here he discusses with CEO Today the three Rs: reputation + relationships = revenue.
The workplace is full of relationships, and when more than a third of our adult waking lives is spent at work, taking a few moments to consider how those relationships could be improved is more than worthwhile.
The Three Rs model (reputation + relationships = revenue) is a good place to start. The Three Rs talk about a company’s place in the world, i.e. its outward looking strength. Reputation, put simply, is a combination of quantity and quality – how widely is a company known, and how well is that company thought of among those who know it. Relationships are the same, but the axis is between how extensive a network the company has, and how much of that network have decision-making power in companies and markets relevant to its line of business.
Switching the focus to the internal for a moment, in a week where relationships are under the microscope, it’s a chance to take a closer look at the importance of relationships within companies and the intranets that provide the framework and the opportunity for those relationships to form. Specifically, how they influence and underpin a business’s external relationships, reputation, and ultimately revenue.
We’ve said that how many people know a company, and what they think of it are the two key components of reputation. Across both of these, the trail of breadcrumbs lead quickly back to internal relationships. Discounting for a moment the incumbent scale of the business and how many lives it touches, a market’s exposure to a brand is based on the quality of its marketing. The quality of its marketing is based on the quality of its thinking. And the quality of it’s thinking is based on its ability to connect creative minds, writers and storytellers to the commercial experts and the troops on the ground. In the end, it’s about how companies communicate, and how they encourage all those elements to better connect with one another, and they do all that through their intranet.
Thinking creatively in a way that will cut through the fog of homogeneity is a process that, according to Thomas Edison is “one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” Many hands make light work, but many brains are essential. Another great thinker, Isaac Newton famously said, “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”, which for someone as famously arrogant as Newton is a surprisingly frank admission of the collaborative nature of success. But the crux of the point can be summed up using the ever-relevant words of Darwin, that in “the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
Nearly a century and a half after Darwin’s death, technology has unleashed collaboration on an unprecedented scale. Through tools like Microsoft’s Yammer and Teams, collaboration is not only woven into the fabric of the workspace, but all the individual experts within an organisation are also at an employees fingertips. Forming valuable relationships has never been easier.
In the battle of the brands where everyone looks alike and survival of the fittest is largely a question of creative differentiation, harnessing combined expertise across marketing, R&D and product centric business units is the corporate equivalent of opposable thumbs – a winning advantage.
The kind of relationships that companies thrive on – the ability to get through the door and secure the precious time of exactly the right person at just the right moment – result from a combination of factors that are far from scientific. Some people have spent years building up and maintaining strong networks while others are experts at harnessing particular events or situations to get them the attention they need.
The common theme is always relevance. Why is it relevant to engage with me, and why now? There are two basic gambits: “we know the same people” or “we’re interested in the same things”. Both of them lead straight back to internal relationships. In most medium size organisations full of smart, engaging, sociable professionals, there will always be someone with either the knowledge or personal connection necessary to build, save or enhance an important relationship. What is almost always lacking is the awareness of that interconnectivity within the organisation – another problem that intranets have been designed specifically to solve. Even with tools like LinkedIn, which can map us within up to three degrees of separation (i.e. more than enough for any external relationship within our own market) those without carefully constructed intranet setups still so often fall down because of the dearth of internal communication.
On the shoulders of giants
Celebrating relationships is easy; building them is less so. That’s where having the right suite of tools that bring people together comes in.
There have been many articles about how enterprise social networks break open business siloes, fuel collaboration and create companies united by a culture and common purpose, but here’s just one quick example of how that can work – and it just so happens to be the best.
The axis of Yammer and Teams, both from Microsoft and both part of Office 365 lets employees reach out, make connections, share and learn, and then consolidate and perfect all in the one workflow. Yammer is a one-to-many platform, where employees can challenge or question their colleagues across the whole organisation, connecting to the relevant person whether they are a complete stranger or someone in a common interest group. That means that the sum of any company’s formidable experience and expertise can be always on tap.
Once that connection or connections have been made, enter Teams, to bring together the most relevant people and give them the group workspace they need to achieve their aims.
While standing on the shoulders of giants is great if you’re hoping to be a world renowned physicist remembered through the ages, for most of us, standing on the shoulders of our colleagues still makes us twice as tall.