Tim Davies has written an excellent post listing 50 hurdles to open government that, from what I've seen, applies to both the public and private sector. What's helpful is that he's breaking down a large problem into a series of smaller issues. He divides the hurdles into 7 types:
- Internet Access
- Office Technology
- Systems and Procedures
- Policy and Guidance
- Organizational Culture
- Basic Technical Skills
- Leadership and Management
He's now asking for strategies to overcome each hurdle.
Like Tim, I've been doing a lot of work lately with State and local governments and at every turn, have been stymied by many of these barriers to social media adoption. Many of these issues are interrelated and an impact on one or two could have profound implications for several others. For example, Tim's section on Internet Access lists the different ways in which sites are blocked and filtered at work sites. If management saw access to social media as a priority and indicated to the IT department that access should not be blocked, most of the items on this list would go away.
Most of these hurdles are really a result of management attitudes and priorities. In my experience, in organizations where social media isn't catching on it's a result of one of two issues. Either management does not understand the possibilities and benefits of social media or they are actively hostile toward social media (usually due to ignorance). The hostile types can be further divided into those who see social media as a "time waster" and those who've allowed IT to convince them that the entire system will be brought down if you let people access access YouTube. In both cases, these are people who are operating out of fear.
Recognizing that we are dealing with two different states of mind--ignorance and fear--can help us better explore the best strategies for overcoming the hurdles.
If management simply does not understand what is possible and how to get there, then this is a simple issue of education. On one current project, I've had the pleasure of working with a manager who is open to social media but doesn't yet understand all that it can do for her. My task here has been to listen to the issues and problems that she's facing in accomplishing her work and then to suggest how social media could help her. I make her aware of the possibilities and then she can look at what she needs to do to address existing barriers (such as Internet access, etc.). In this circumstance, Tim's list actually gives me a good checklist to use for making sure that she's covered all her bases in terms of the challenges her staff may be facing in implementing social media.
Those who are acting out of fear are a little more difficult to deal with. In fact, I started to write more about this and realized that it really requires a separate post. So for now, take a look at Tim's list and drop him a comment on your ideas about how to address some of these hurdles. In my next post, I'll talk more about how I've been working with fearful management.