Stop, YammerTime

I've worked with hundreds of organisations that are either looking to launch Enterprise Social for the very first time or they are looking to re-launch their networks into the stratosphere and beyond. There are four common warning signs that you're on the path to nowhere, which, by the end of this post you're definitely, definitely not going to make.

IT Own  Enterprise Social. 

Who says this: 
Someone with little knowledge of social technologies or an old school project manager that is used to waterfall projects run over a number of years, where there have been numerous POCs, pilots, updates on Excel, Visio and MS Project, and probably blood, sweat and tears.  

Enterprise social is about people and culture, in fact Gartner (2012) state that the deployment of ESNs is 80% culture and 20% tech. So whilst we should not isolate IT, the ESN project just doesn’t fall into this category. In no way am I saying that IT shouldn't have a seat at the table in these discussions, actually the most successful projects are where IT support and enable the business. The IT department will be heroes if they are able to support the adoption of Enterprise Social to make this as easy to use for employees on devices, services or corporate environments. Obviously the role IT plays increases the more you integrate with other systems of record such as CMS, CRM, ERP, or HRM or other line of business apps.  

Why do they say it:  
Scenario 1:This topic is usually brought up because there is no formal ownership of the platform beyond the initial purchase. The IT department probably own the relationship with the vendor and therefore assume as they've paid for it, it sits along side the technology stack. But value is positively correlated to engagement - and is predominantly people & culture.  

Scenario 2: There is no internal communications team to own this. This isn't usually an issue but there does need to be an overall owner and more often that not it sits within HR or Marketing. HR is usually a good candidate to own the use of Enterprise Social, where there are some extremely compelling use cases around employee engagement. An alternative to internal communications team would be to link the ownership of ESN to the change team, but if your organisation doesn't have a comms department it's unlikely there will be a team dedicated to change.  

What do you do to change their mind:  
Having ownership of Enterprise Social will not only result in better long term business outcomes it will also allow IT to have more time to work on the core information systems and technology. Having IT to integrate to other systems, advise on governance, support and enable the users will be where they add value to this project.   

How does this new approach benefit the company:  
Having ownership of Enterprise Social within the business will yield tangible business outcomes. For instance, some of the airlines that I've worked with it has in fact been cabin crew or even the pilots to own the ESN project.

Build it and they will come.

Who says this: 
Someone, with even less knowledge as someone who said that Social is an IT project. 

Why do they say it: 
This is a complete misconception, which is often the result of the relative success of early adoption through virality. 

What do you do to change their mind:  
Successful enterprise social projects do require a lot of thought and time. Despite using social tools in our personal lives transferring these skills isn't as easy as you'd think. It's not so much a question of how to use Enterprise Social, its usually a case of why and what do we use it for.Therefore investing the time to clarify the purpose and value proposition will be hugely beneficial in the long run.  

How does this new approach benefit the company:  
Not having a Vision for Enterprise Social doesn't mean to say that you will not be successful, but without having vision you'll not know if you've achieved success. Having an understanding of the success criteria will help to prioritise the areas of focus on.

How  do  we  stop  people  from  doing  stuff?!?!

Who says this: 
Internal Communications and IT 

Why do they say it: 
This is also a common question and it's often the result of an unfamiliar new way of working and historically being able to control what our employees do.  

What do you do to change their mind: 
Firstly ask why, and then why again. The conversation will usually unfold like this;  
- "We want to control what the users do on our Enterprise Social Network" 
- "Why?" 
- "Because our employees are creating lots of groups and people may say the wrong things spreading false information" 
- "Why is that a problem?" 
- "Because people there will be duplicating efforts and spreading false information, which exposes our risk."
- "Exactly, this is an opportunity"  


How does this new approach benefit the company: 
The consumerisation of IT empowers users more than ever to have access to a multitude of cloud services that are often based on a freemium model, where they can bypass the iron wall of IT. Having a platform where users are able to post freely, indicates the success of training within the organisation. If information were spread that wasn't fully correct, well we've identified a gap in our training procedures, which obviously needs addressing. Without an open platform the same question may have been answered in a closed environment such as email and we'd have not realised that there were such issues.  

With active community management these issues can easily be converted into opportunities. 

We need data.  Data, Data, Data.

Who says this: 
Project owners  
Why do they say it: 
There is an assumption that data will tell us how successful our Enterprise Social network is (partly true...).

Whilst I'm not opposed to data, I am opposed to the suggestion data, results in engagement and business outcomes. Data is good when used properly and at the right time. There's little point in focussing on data when we're unclear about what benefits we are looking to achieve or what this shows. 

What do you do to change their mind:  
When searching for data don't assume that data alone will determine the rate of growth or what causes growth, engagement or business value. I remember from Business School one of Peter Drucker's quotes, "A yard stick does not determine a child's growth". 

Data and analytics should be an indicator of whether we are on the right path. For instance if there is a lack of engagement on the network, data could suggest that there's more we are able to be working towards around engagement activities.  But it won't tell you what works because there are just so many factors that need to be considered.

How does this new approach benefit the company: 
Looking at data will help determine if ESNs are being adopted and the level of engagement, but it doesn't show what real tangible business benefits we have achieved. This is where the focus should be. 

Steve CromptonComment