As the person responsible for driving social media within our enterprise, I have come to realize that the best darn enterprise social tools don’t magically turn your company into a social enterprise. There is a core foundation that must be present or else you cannot reach social enterprise utopia. There are realizations that must occur or else you will not succeed. There are (sometimes) painful things you must do.
• Silos must come down like the Berlin Wall:
I bang into silos on a daily basis. Corporations love silos. I remember clearly one of my university professors stating that a threat to innovation is that people hoard knowledge. Knowledge is power. In order to become a social enterprise, sometimes a significant cultural shift has to occur. Power must shift from teams, groups, organizations, individuals to the masses. Knowledge needs to make the enterprise powerful versus silos within the enterprise. For example, I recently happened into 3 proposed silos in our marketing organization. One team wants to build a knowledge sharing and collaboration system to vet through innovative ideas.. Another team is budgeting to put in social networking software for all sales and marketing personnel, mainly for the field to “find experts”. And lastly, the marketing organization as a whole will have an exclusive best known method (BKM) sharing and networking solution that just marketing will use. If you are making the assumption that all the innovative ideas and expertise you will need is housed within one organization- then you are sorely mistaken. Applying a social tool over a silo doesn’t suddenly make you more innovative. Smashing down and not allowing any new silos serves innovation up to the company Social media routes around those silos and traditional boundaries. It connects people based on interest, not position in the hierarchy. True social enterprises apply social tools that allow wisdom of crowds and six degrees to prevail.
• Consumerism affects what you do inside your four walls:
How people use technology to interact, collaborate and communicate outside of works DOES affect what they want to do inside work. There is a very clear bar that have been set by expectations because of the consumerism of social tools. For example, if your social networking tool isn’t as intuitive to use as external sites, employees won’t use it. This doesn’t mean employees want a “wall” to write on or widgets that allow you to throw pies at each other. They just want a similar ease of use and utilitarian enjoyment that we receive externally but appropriate for business. Read What Gen Y Teaches Us About Enterprise Social Networking for ah-ha’s out of a focus group with recent college graduates.
• Understand that people will go down with the email ship:
We are not delusional and think that any of these social tools will replace email for people. We all know that email was never meant to be a collaborative tool, but somehow it is reality. Social tools need to be engrained into current business processes. For example, email alerts should occur when I am asked to join a community or someone comments on my blog post. My profile that I have in my social networking tool should be the unified profile that everyone sees in the company directory, email, instant messaging, blogs and wikis (to name a few). The Wiki should be incorporated into team workspaces and easily accessible. Implementing social tools in a disparate way or thinking that you can replace current knowledge management tools – will be a barrier to adoption.
• If it takes a manual to use it – throw it out the door:
When was the last time you read a manual? Seriously. Does any software or computer even ship with one anymore? Can you even find an online manual with Digg, LinkedIn, Twitter or the like? If you answered no to these questions, then you will need to say “no” to manual required for pulling social capabilities inside the enterprise. It all comes down to usability. Ease of use has to be your #1 criteria. We are recommitting to user driven design. We have painfully realized that the complexity of our enterprise architecture has the capability to turn our social software into mush. Our users are guiding us to rise above the complexity and to focus on simplicity without sacrificing feature richness.
• If IT doesn’t act now, then someone else will:
Social media tools can quickly “go wild”. Listening to your business customers and becoming keenly aware of what people are doing within external applications or what is housed on a server under someone’s desk, is critical to tame the wild beast within social tools. Just like instant messaging (IM) got into your enterprise, so will social tools. We have some taming to do…particularly with wikis. We are at the critical inflection point of deciding to pull in enterprise grade social networking. If we in IT don’t act swiftly, I guarantee you someone else will. It is a reality IT cannot run from.
So far my key learning comes down to the above. I fight these challenges daily. It all boils down to the fact that at the end of the day, social media isn’t about the tools….it’s about people.