The next phase in the journey to becoming a digital organization is digital engagement. Obviously, email is the grandaddy of digital engagement for both external and internal communication and collaboration, and it’s a technology that virtually all organizations have adopted (even if it’s a technology they love to hate).
For most organizations, more advanced forms of digital engagement begin with an external focus, emphasizing marketing, branding, sales, public relations and customer service. Moving beyond the one-way communications of traditional websites and email blasts, it typically involves things like setting up some form of e-commerce, creating and managing a blog, and establishing a presence on social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. Depending on the organization, it can also involve creating and implementing some kind of mobile app that facilitates customer transactions and engagement.
Internally, digital engagement manifests itself in the implementation or upgrading of an organization’s intranet using a software solution that incorporates more social features (aka, a social intranet, or intranet 2.0). These features would include things like user-generated profiles, the ability for employees to form internal networks and groups, internal blogs, status updates, chatting or instant messaging, etc. The basic idea is to provide more sophisticated tools that improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of internal communication and collaboration.
Digital engagement can also enhance communication and collaboration on the boundary between an organization and its key stakeholders. Leveraging what I refer to as private digital networks or digital work spaces, organizations can work on long-term projects with customers, facilitate joint ventures, enhance supply chain processes, etc. As with internal systems, these approaches to inter-organizational communication and collaboration are far more efficient and effective than more traditional approaches, including (and especially!) email.
Even for early adopters (e.g., the federal government, large consumer-oriented enterprises), digital engagement is still in its infancy. The underlying technologies – both on the public platforms and in proprietary solutions – are still evolving rapidly, and the companies that offer digital engagement solutions are constantly refining their offerings and business models. Frankly, that’s hard to keep up with! In addition, organizations are hampered by underdeveloped and inadequate governance systems for managing digital engagement, both internally and externally. And – as they are becoming perhaps painfully aware – the intended users of these technologies lack the digital competencies they need to leverage them effectively, and they have not been adequately prepared to adapt to new ways of working.