Often times I talk to organizations that have no idea what their goals are or what they want to do with the latest and greatest social tools on the market. They focus too much on the technology and whether it looks pretty as opposed to the business problems you're trying to solve (assuming you even know what those problems are in the first place). Just because the technology has the halo and the hype of the social enterprise, doesn't mean the solution is secure, it doesn't mean it's compliant, and it doesn't mean it integrates well with existing technology investments.
More than ever it's time to get back to basics. People, Process, and Technology. It seems a little cliche, but it's simple enough for everyone to understand especially when introducing social software that is broad in context and feature-rich in capabilities. Regarding the overall user experience, it’s important but the UX can easily be tailored with simple branding or navigation changes to fit the business use cases. Social is very much reflective on the organization, its culture, products, brand, and people. Social is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s about the people, the processes, and the technology that are relevant to the products or services you offer.
People focuses on who (and what).
Social is very much focused on people. And social tools provide a number of capabilities to make it easier to subscribe to relevant content and target both people and groups (aka communities) with messages and knowledge. The problem is that most organizations have never taken the time to step back from the technology and understand the various audiences that social tools are there to serve. Do you know what types of communities and networks already exist in your organization? Who are the influential people and subject matter experts and champions in your organization? What type of knowledge is being shared or needs to be shared? Who should be subscribing to what? What communications are sent to whom and when? What type of communication is it (rich content or text-based)? It’s time to take inventory and understand who the audiences are that social technology addresses and what value is in it for them.
Process has purpose.
When it comes to collaboration, process is often ad-hoc and driven via email. Unlike a factory where logistics and supply chains drive manufacturing processes, knowledge worker processes are a collaborative set of activities. One of the keys to recognizing value is to look at these collaborative processes within your organization and identify ones that can be improved with social technology. In other words, what are the use cases and business problems are you're trying to address? In a broader sense, what’s your social purpose? Across all industry verticals, there’s a fairly common set of business drivers including:
- Accelerating Onboarding, Training, or Innovation Process
- Increasing speed and access to knowledge and expertise
- Attracting and retaining talent and improving employee engagement
- Improving relationships and relevancy of communications
The challenge today is that these ad-hoc business processes are informal, not measured, and have no baseline understanding of who, what, where, when and how these activities are accomplished. We all know they need improvement and they are critically important to the business. The goal is to make knowledge work more productive, faster, easier and more relevant. It’s also about providing more visibility in these sets of activities and influencing the right collaborative behaviors.
Technology is all about the ecosystem.
When it comes to the technology platform, you want to choose one with capabilities that enables you to realize the goals you identified, recognize and quantify real value, and solve real business problems. You also want to choose a solution that offers an integrated technology and user experience. The last thing you want to do is add yet another silo into the organization. Most organizations have too many systems, too many repositories where content lives. The key to success is take a step back and think about how social technology integrates in the flow of work and other enterprise systems. How do social tools leverage and compliment (vs. compete with) existing investments you have in other tools? At the end of the day, enterprise social is just user generated content under the covers and it needs to be managed, needs to be secured, and retained as knowledge assets.