This is the first in a series of posts on how FSG-Social Impact Consultants, is implementing emergent collaboration strategies and technologies within its organization. Founded in 2000 as Foundation Strategy Group, FSG is a nonprofit consulting firm specializing in strategy, evaluation, and research. Today, FSG with approximately 80 employees and celebrates a decade of global social impact. We interviewed Carl Frappaolo, Director of Knowledge Management at FSG, which has been implementing its emergent collaboration technologies and strategies for around two months. The full case study on FSG can be downloaded for free along with half a dozen other emergent collaboration case studies and resources .
What were the Business Drivers For Emergent Collaboration?
The main reason FSG invested in collaborative technologies was due to the growth of the company. FSG was growing very quickly and they realized that knowledge sharing and collaboration under the old model did not scale very well. They went from one geographic location, to three, and then to four, with a commensurate uptake in work experience and employees. As they expanded, there was realization that collaboration via email and their shared drive was starting to show cracks of stress (they realized this with just 80 employees!). They relied heavily on traditional communication systems such as the phone, email and the memory of employees. Someone might ask, or pose the question in an email, “Did we ever do this type of a project in this geographic area?” and fellow employees would just remember and respond. However, with more employees, new locations and an increasingly greater history, it became more difficult to continue with this.
New employees at FSG in particular had trouble knowing who to go to with questions or where to go to find information. Employees would spend a significant amount of time searching for and looking for information. This oftentimes placed an increased demand on their most senior consultants’ time and prompted the question, “Is this the best use of our time?” For FSG, the business driver was not financial in nature such as cost savings and profitability, but rather a desire to grow and reduce the on-boarding time for new employees in order for them to become productive quickly. Another business driver was to allow communities of interest and communities of practice to organize together and share information in a dynamic, asynchronous, and flexible way.
Where did the push come from?
The implementation was a very top-down initiative for FSG. In fact, most of the senior leadership team was behind this. When Mr. Frappaolo interviewed for the Director of knowledge management position at FSG, one of the company founders was the first person to meet with him. This demonstrated to Mr. Frappaolo that FSG was serious about emergent collaboration.
However, there was also a grassroots, albeit less formal, push in this direction as well. There was a fair amount of renegade and rogue use of collaboration and e2.0 technologies. They were not company sanctioned or widely deployed but teams and individuals were already using Dropbox, Basecamp, and Google Docs. Each employee also had their own taxonomy and approach to file management and organization on their own computer drive. It was very autonomous. The senior team did not have a problem with doing this because it helped employees get their jobs done. However, they realized that how this was being done was not in best interests of the entire organization. These pockets of emergent collaboration were not strategic and needed to be centralized.