Three keys to Successful Enterprise Social Network Implementation

Implementing a successful Enterprise Social Network is no simple thing. What we know from various surveys - Gartner, McKinsey - is that while 70 - 80% of enterprises have access to internal social networking systems - Yammer, Chatter, IBM Connections, Jive, Telligent, Tibbr - that 80% of them fail to meet their objectives. While the organisational environments cover the complete spectrum the reasons for failure are reasonably consistent and hence the converse of these reasons provide the fundamental clues to success. These clues point to Strategy, Leadership and Measurement.

The three hygiene factors for enterprise social success

The factors below, distilled to the core of what has to be right to achieve implementation success with and enterprise social network, are necessary but not sufficient. That's why we've called them "hygiene" factors. In fact the organisations which are most likely to succeed are those which have a recent track record in other successful change management programs.That makes sense since those change management skills are also essential for implementing an ESN. The organisations who know how to run good change management programs would also have the following requirements under control.

Here are the core factors - having a clear strategy, the leadership being visible and engaged, and the right attitude about measurement.

  1. Have a clear strategy towards social. This will ensure:
    • Priority for resources - no clear strategy no resources, right?
    • Good business case - means strong alignment to at least one business process in detail.
    • Provide essential organisational support resources - these can be subtle but important.
    • Add value not complexity - which relates to clarity of understanding of the "at least one" business process.
  2. Visible and engaged leadership.
    • Leaders need to explain WHY and what this means for the organisation.
    • Signal the importance through personal use - walk the social talk.
    • Clarify the reason that participation is important and valued.
  3. Right attitude about measurement.
    • Track impact and evolve metrics - they will change as communities evolve.
    • Measure just a few things and continuously improve - don't measure too much.
    • Focus where measurement counts - think "a few KPIs" related to business outcomes.
Getting just these factors right will improve your chances of returning value from your ESN investment.

Of course there are other critical elements to get right, but we're suggesting that unless the issues above are in order then the rest will fail anyway. You can't build a skyscraper without solid foundations. When we distill down the surveys and reports and reviews coming from multiple credible sources we see those three core factors as being the fundamental drivers of social business success and failure.

Based on our experience, what follows from having the above factors in order is the need for attention to other key (common) challenges which inhibit business outcomes. These are the second-order factors which lead to failure, plan to avoid:

  1. Isolated deployment and usage - often a symptom of "organic adoption" or "spray and pray";
  2. Lack of internal marketing and advocacy - make this a cross-functional team and activity;
  3. Lack of pro-active community monitoring and engagement - effective use of analytics is a core differentiator of a good ESN platform - if you don't use it then you just get another Sharepoint with chat!
  4. Poor content strategy - understand what content is base knowledge, what guides in using business processes, what builds engagement, and master curation and repurposing;
  5. Lack of effective integration into how people do their work - content and process.
Our advice is not to fiddle while Rome burns - ensure that you can get the hygiene factors right before investing unnecessary time and money into the second-order factors. (Note that the 2nd-order factors need to be understood in the context of the organisation as inputs to some of the hygiene factors.)

What would you add to the "essential" list of hygiene factors?

Walter Adamson 

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