Guest post written by Parsa Rohani. Parsa Rohani is CEO of Neudesic, a provider of enterprise social and collaboration software.
The enterprise social collaboration road is littered with the corpses of product implementations started with the best intentions but lacking clear goals or connections to overall business goals that would have made them successful.
Recently surveys by Altimeter Group, Information Week and Microsoft/Harris Interactive have found that business and IT leaders increasingly understand the value enterprise social networks could deliver, but that many are still unsure about what they want to achieve with social/collaboration software. As a result, companies tend to choose enterprise social networks based on technology features rather than determining their goals and how these tools can help people do their jobs more effectively.
Moreover, when companies approach enterprise social networks as a technology deployment they often fail to understand that the new relationships created by enterprise social networks are the source for value creation. This results in an initial widespread adoption that then drops off after the first few weeks.
There are some key guidelines to follow when considering the right enterprise social/collaboration platform for a business:
- Tie to your business goals: Consider your organization’s overall goals and how more effective collaboration can assist the company in achieving them. Think about how better collaboration and communication will improve customer relationships, knowledge sharing, product development and project management.
- Know what’s not working now: Determine your current barriers to communication. Is your company’s shared knowledge trapped in e-mail ? Do critical documents get buried in inboxes? Are workers unable to identify peers with expertise that would help in other parts of the company?
- Choose wisely: Select the technology based on your current barriers/gaps in communication, and not on the specific features. Features are important, but it’s more important to think strategically about how the software will address your challenges.
- Don’t fix what isn’t broken: Identify which communication and collaboration tools currently work for your employees. You probably don’t need or want to throw out everything you’re already using. In many cases social/collaboration tools are an enhancement not a replacement – at least at first.
- Think about integration: Consider the existing systems that you are already using and how enterprise social software can – or can’t – integrate with them. Some enterprise social software integrates well with legacy platforms. Others operate as a separate silo. User satisfaction tends to much higher when enterprise social software creates a fabric across existing platforms as opposed to being a standalone platform that doesn’t add value to the systems workers are already using.
- What does success look like? Determine how you’re going to measure and benchmark the success in relation to your overall business goals. It’s important to go beyond counting the number of posts and people using the network. Those things get to the quantity but not the quality. Look for what’s below the surface – new connections between employees who didn’t know each other, stories of how the collaboration capabilities helped close deals, time and cost savings by relying less on email.
- Executive support: Require consistent C-level involvement and encouragement from the time of deployment. If the boss uses it effectively, employees will follow suit.
- Preach openness over appropriateness: Create guidelines for generating and maintaining employee adoption and employee rules and guidelines. But don’t be draconian. You want employees to feel comfortable sharing. Trust them to know what is appropriate.
- Give incentives for participation: Reward employees not just for participating in the enterprise social network but also for business achievements. When someone does something worthy of praise, the network is an ideal place to post acknowledgement from a supervisor or executive. Several social vendors offer merit badges and other recognition.
- Make a splash: Set a roll out date. Build anticipation. Train people in advance. Get them excited. Make sure company leaders are involved and setting the example. It might help to start with a few divisions within the company at first, but to truly create a social enterprise, you’ll want to add it companywide. That also shows employees that the solution is one to which you are dedicated. That will speak volumes.