The last few years has shown us that people love social networks in their personal lives – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have all grown rapidly in recent years. The same cannot be said for most in-house social collaboration tools for SMB’s and the enterprise. In fact, Gartner estimates that through 2015, 80% of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits, i.e., increased staff productivity. In addition, a recent survey of CIOs listed enterprise social tools as the most overhyped technologies of the year. Many organizations falsely assume that because people gravitate to social networks in their personal lives, these systems will automatically encounter the same degree of engagement in their business environs.
So why hasn’t the success of social networks in the consumer world carried over into the corporate world? The technology is fundamentally the same so that’s not the issue. In our opinion, there is a stark difference between consumer social networks and what’s needed for effective enterprise social collaboration. Bottom line, consumer platforms revolve around building a community of interest – content related to a certain topic (a sports team for instance) or a group of friends. People join because it’s fun, interesting, and they want to. Based on pre-determined social connections, these communities thrive under the lack of formality.
In the corporate world, collaboration platforms should revolve around building a community of purpose, as they’re targeted at meeting business objectives. Employees are often forced to join because they’re told it will help them collaborate with peers more effectively. But as waning engagement statistics attest, enterprise social networking implementations are different than traditional software deployments. In a traditional deployment, such as an accounting system or a CRM, employees are trained and have to use the new system, as there aren’t really any suitable alternatives to complete their work (a push approach). Social software deployments, on the other hand, require the company to get employees engaged (a pull approach) and perceive platform benefits. Unlike in the push approach, employees often have more familiar alternatives (e.g., email) to social collaboration tools in order to get their work done.
For an enterprise social network (ESN) as a community of purpose to thrive, it requires structure to ensure quality content and maintain momentum so the initial burst of employee interest doesn’t immediately wane. ESN can refer to a very broad group of software – from social focused platforms (i.e., Facebook-like status updates) to more business focused – platforms where solving business problems is the focus with a social twist added in. At MindQuilt, we believe our platform falls into the latter. Most people don’t consider MindQuilt a social network… but rather a hard-ROI, Q&A-based collaboration platform that fulfills business objectives, albeit with a social element.
Before implementing an ESN, we recommend you take the time to ensure your company is building a solution that employees will actually use and that delivers measurable business results. Three important points to consider in this effort:
1. Business Purpose & Objectives
First, don’t think of an ESN as a technology; rather, think of it as a way to solve a business problem. Don’t implement an enterprise social network without defining its business purpose and identifying how it will improve work practices for both workers and managers. Ideally, the purpose should be to motivate people to participate (what’s in it for me). Users should easily understand the importance and see the value in participating. If you have to create costly initiatives to stimulate use, you’ve probably chosen the wrong purpose.
Setting up an ESN under the “provide and pray” approach is destined for failure. Even with a specific business purpose, establishing accountability is critical to success. Someone should be actively managing the platform to focus on objectives that create value for the organization, and subject matter experts should be tasked with fielding questions and providing content that’s germane to their department. For instance, within MindQuilt, each topic is assigned an admin that is responsible for overseeing that topic’s content and ensuring users are receiving the information they need (questions answered quickly, updated documentation, etc.).
3. Measurable Goals
Every ESN deployment should outline measureable goals from the onset and provide some means for determining what constitutes “success.” For instance, if your ESN was installed to provide a way for your customer service team to be more efficient and provide better service (answer questions quickly, be knowledgeable about products, quickly find procedures, documentation, etc.), then you should be able to calculate a ROI based on better one call resolution, shorter call durations, etc.
In summary, deploying an ESN is vastly different them implementing a consumer social network. It requires thoughtful planning to ensure the ESN has a business purpose, post-implementation accountability and goals are established, and that a clear definition of measurable success is defined.
For more information on how MindQuilt’s next generation Q&A platform might help your organization meet its ESN or employee collaboration objectives, please contact us for details. Thank you!