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6 BIG don’ts on the road to Enterprise Social – SPR Consulting Series 2 of 8

Read the first post in the series, Five reasons to launch Enterprise Social NOW!, here.

It’s clear that deploying Enterprise Social technologies can represent big wins for businesses. You agree, right?  So how best can you position your organization for success? Begin by avoiding a few seemingly harmless pitfalls. These simple mistakes can create unwanted drag on your efforts; crushing participant enthusiasm and leading to lackluster outcomes. If your organization falls prey to any one of these errors, you’ll likely end up wedged in a corner trying to figure out how to jumpstart momentum and regain credibility. Let’s evaluate what not to do.

1)      Don’t kill a grass roots network.

Because humans are prolific in using social media, (1.5B have at least one social media account) sometimes they’re inclined to go it alone – sans sanctioned support. Big picture, that’s not a bad thing. What’s not to love about having a built-in faction spurring adoption and leading other teams down the happy road to social success? Well, control, for one thing.  IT types get very persnickety when not running the show. For good reason. There are myriad challenges and issues to be considered. But the knee-jerk reaction to kill a thriving outlaw implementation is out-of-place. Instead, sit down with the rebels, uncover why they are so engaged and the value they’ve experienced. Then create a plan that deftly applies a framework which serves mutual interests. Don’t be heavy handed! This is a delicate dance. Get it right and this small group of mavericks will be prized allies as you extend the value of Enterprise Social across your organization.

2)      Don’t imagine that consumer tools are a good start.

Avanade’s 2013 survey on Enterprise Social reveals that many BDMs who’ve adopted social networking technologies report using Facebook at up to four times that of enterprise class tools like SharePoint or Chatter. There’s value here and it may seem like an easy first step. Yet this approach all-but guarantees the intrusion of several significant challenges.  First, once that community gets rolling and starts to experience value, it can be really difficult to move the participants away from it. After all, it’s working. And Facebook is home. People know it well. Why would they scrap it for some corporate wannabe and lose the freedom and spontaneity they’ve created? Second, you have absolutely zero control. Any guidelines you want to impose over content, process, or privacy are nonexistent. The consequences can yield unimaginable problems. The easy answer, don’t start with Facebook. Get ahead of these issues by offering an excellent business-class option early.

3)      Don’t pitch it over the fence.

If you think marketing or sales is a good place to start, you could be right. But don’t just hand the project off to a mid-level marketing manager and wait to see what happens. One of two things is likely; you’ll end up with a project that’s languishing and ineffective, or you’ll create a wild duck environment that’ll require reigning in. Instead, have conversations with leadership from the appropriate disciplines. Sales and marketing are good starting points, but engineering or research might be the genesis in your organization, talking to your users (the real users, not just their managers) will help you build a successful tool and quickly drive adoption. Once you’ve gained commitment, create a social success council. Call it what you will, but populate it with key stakeholders who are fervent about guiding the project through to success. Establish a regular cadence to assess progress, capitalize on new learnings or alter course. And (this should go without saying) make sure that much of that cadence is facilitated using enterprise social methods.

4)      Don’t begin without a clear business objective.

Enterprise Social is like any other business initiative. Sort of. You need a clear set of objectives in mind; ones that can be evaluated when the dust begins to clear. Being selective is crucial. Let’s say increasing top line sales is the thing. OK, good one. But it’s too general, drill down to the base denominator.  Increases in top line revenue could come from higher closing ratios, or hawking your wares to a greater number of prospects, or tightening the sales cycle or…see my point? Seek the ultimate result, but your objective should be focused on improving a step in the process. Here’s an example. If proposal development averages 14 days, perhaps getting down to ten is a good goal. More proposals out the door faster will surely contribute to enhanced revenues. And it should be fairly simple to measure. This leads to my next point.

5)      Don’t expect to use traditional ROI models.

Again, Enterprise Social is like any other business initiative. Except it’s kind of, sort of, not. Measuring success here using traditional methods has proven highly ineffective. Organizations must rethink how to measure value. The criteria needs to be more granular, more indicative of improving a specific process. For instance, we know how much time is wasted looking for documents or searching for experts. These well-worn pain points stall productivity and frustrate those involved. If you decide that finding experts is your goal, be clear about the current limitations and the associated impact.  Then create a tracking mechanism to reveal how Enterprise Social is affecting the process. Once you know the process has improved, you can bet there’s contribution to a larger goal. The bottom line is analysts are already seeing data that points to an intriguing connection between social engagement and corporate financial performance.


6)      Don’t think adoption will take care of itself.

Since humans are deeply engaged in social media networks in their personal lives, logic suggests that when presented with similar tools in the work environment, said humans (having now donned their spiffy employee hats) will leap tall buildings to take part in this new, yet familiar endeavor.  Build it and they will come. Uh…no. Here’s why. In general, only a small minority of employees are actively or highly engaged in their work, around 35% or so. The other 60 plus percent are moderately engaged to actively disengaged. So what’s the fix? Work on the culture; the stories, systems and structures within the company. But you should be doing that already. I’ll share more about user adoption in my next post.

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Image from Microsoft Enterprise Social / Microsoft News Center, July 2013

Now here’s a bit of homework. Do a little internal research on your own. See if you can uncover a rogue network in your organization to capitalize on. Or begin to list processes that you know are cumbersome and could use modernizing. Finally, be sure to come back in two weeks for the next post in the series, 4 roads to Success in Enterprise Social.

Questions and comments can be addressed directly to:

Melissa McElroy
User Experience & Social Collaboration Evangelist – Senior Manager
e. melissa.mcelroy@spr.com
LinkedIn http://linkedin.com/in/melissamcelroy