Social Collaboration in the enterprise frequently begins as a grassroots initiative in a department by department level. A particular department has a specific need to collaborate and goes out in search of a tool that will help team members communicate more efficiently and effectively on a particular project. Impressed by the simplicity of personal social networking tools, often times these departments will seek out something similar, but designed specifically for business. And because the team members are only making a decision for their own department, the decision-making process often happens quickly and in many cases on a “let’s just give this a try” basis.
But what happens when a company decides to take a more programmatic, enterprise-wide approach to bringing social collaboration to their entire organization? In this case, there is certainly more at stake in picking the right solution for multiple departments throughout a company. And far more factors need to be considered to ensure it’s a wise investment for the entire organization.
We recently sat down with Jacob Morgan, principal of Chess Media Group, a management consulting and strategic advisory firm, to discuss best practices that companies can use to develop a results-driven, enterprise-wide, social collaboration strategy. Jacob is also the author of the Amazon best-selling book, “The Collaborative Organization”, which is the first comprehensive strategy guide to emergent workplace collaboration. The book has been endorsed by leaders such as the former CIO of the USA, CIO of ManpowerGroup, CEO of Unisys, CMO of SAP, CMO of Dell, and dozens of others. He blogs at Social Business Advisor can be found on Twitter @JacobM.
This is the first of a two-part blog series that highlights our conversation.
Q: What is the first step in developing a social collaboration strategy?
The objective of a social collaboration strategy is to find a better way for employees in a company to work together and more efficiently. So the first step in creating a social collaboration strategy is to step back and try to fully understand the set of business problems that a company is experiencing in group collaboration settings. For instance, are employees spending too much time responding to emails? Or are employees having difficulty collaborating on projects because they are working from different locations and different time zones? You must first understand the issues at the heart of your need to find a better way through your strategy.
Q: Who is typically assigned to help a company develop its corporate social collaboration strategy?
There is no set formula to building the perfect social collaboration team, but it’s clear that the ideal team consists of a mix of people throughout an organization. Ideally, the team includes an executive sponsor, a person from the legal team and the IT department, and employees who are passionate about bringing social tools to the organization. Community managers and employees focused on content creation can also be valuable additions to the equation.
Q: How early on should IT be involved in the process?
We see the best results for enterprise-wide social collaboration deployments when IT is brought into social collaboration strategy planning from the very beginning. Having the IT team involved is important because they are the ones who understand all of the issues relating to integration, security and customization. They will help the social collaboration taskforce think through such important issues like how to roll out the technology to the enterprise and how to handle upgrades and maintenance. One challenge that teams may face, however; is that their IT team might be unfamiliar with social collaboration software since the technology is still relatively new. In these cases, the IT team may first need to get up to speed on social collaboration technologies, so that they can help lead these initiatives.”
Q: How do you ensure that your social collaboration strategy is truly responding to employee needs?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important for the task force to get out and have conversations with employees and understand the ways their teams currently collaborate and what issues they would like to overcome. The taskforce needs to understand the business processes that are used throughout the organization and the bottlenecks. Once the technology is rolled out, it’s also important to integrate employee feedback into the process. The good news is that with a social collaboration platform in place, getting feedback is easy to accomplish. The task force needs to understand if the technology is really helping employees be more productive. If it’s not, they need to determine why and address that right away so as not to create any opposition.
Q: Do companies have more success when they roll out their social collaboration platform department by department or all at once?
Truthfully, it can be done either way. Both approaches can work. But, there are some common denominators for success no matter what approach is taken: 1) communication through internal marketing to build awareness of the new social collaboration tools and inspire people to give them a try, 2) education and training on how to incorporate the tools into daily business practices, 3) commitment from executives who will not only support the use of the technology but also use it themselves and 4) a corporate culture that inspires employees to try new things, and celebrates the spirit of strong company-wide collaboration.
Q: In addition to those four common denominators you just mentioned, what other steps can be put into place to ensure strong user adoption and continued utilization of social collaboration?
This sounds obvious, but it’s important: You want to make sure you select social collaboration tools that are easy to use. It’s also really important that the social collaboration tools can be easily integrated into employees’ daily business processes. Employees will be more inclined to use a tool that works well with the way they already work and the technology they already use. If the tool is mission critical and seamlessly fits into the workflow, people will naturally and consistently use it. Some other best practices include: integrate employee feedback into how the platform is developed, make it fun so that employees enjoy using it (don’t just limit this to work-related content), have leaders lead by example, provide the necessary support in terms of training and education, and finally understand that this will take time. The social collaboration tool becomes the new way to work and it catches on.
Posted by Elynor Chiu