03/15/2012

Social in Business: Rubber meet Road

Tags: strategy social business social software social in business

In this next installment of Social in Business we focus on Strategy.

Hopefully the thesis of this post shouldn’t knock your socks off; in a nutshell, businesses need a social software strategy in order for the social in business to be successful at the firm.

Want to reach the holy grail of an e-mail free working environment? In reality what you’ll likely find, especially if you do the strategy legwork, is that the goal is not getting rid of e-mail. Rather, the goal is to improve e-mail usage so that it is not a drag on productivity. And yes, social tools can help with that. That goal, however, will never be achieved unless the firm puts in place a strategy with plans and guidelines for effectively mitigating e-mail stresses through social tools.

By strategy I mean a well-considered plan for selecting, deploying, managing, and educating users on the technology that will support social working activities. Social software options (e.g., vendors, tools, cloud, on-premise) options can become overwhelming very quickly. A good strategy considers the different options, how the business works, and then gauges success through identifiable metrics and milestones. It also means doing a fair amount of homework on the technology state, corporate governance, internal communications, cost factors, and operational requirements for deploying different options. Assessing this information and building a strategy that addresses these factors of the business not only aids in making decisions but also helps to identify viable solutions and (hopefully) documents the rationale for those decisions.

Why is this necessary? Because, like anything else in business, times and technology change. If the firm knows why it chose something in the first place, and documented what was successful and what failed, it will be a lot easier to modify and keep up with new trends as they come along. For example, knowing why the firm chose an on-premise solution over cloud-based solution is valuable information, especially if the reasons, cost, and rationale for that choice are documented and the plan is clearly defined on paper. It becomes much easier to recalibrate choices or make changes should a compelling reason for one choice become obsolete. Going back to the example, subsequent network upgrades might cloud-based solutions easier to support and more cost effective, hence the firm can quickly revisit the old rationale and decide if it applies any longer.

Strategies also help to communicate to the business and executives the nature of social software and that it takes time for success. Documenting the plan for development, deployment, and success metrics for social in business helps non-technical colleagues understand the cultural and working shifts that come with social software. It becomes much easier for the business to support new technology efforts if they know what to expect and when.

We all know that a good strategy and plan makes life easier with fewer gotchas when it comes to deployment. It can be hard to reign in enthusiasm for something new that will solve the “big” issues, but it’s worth the effort to take the time for strategy. No matter what the strategy is, the firm is better off with one. Even if the strategy is to let things grow organically and ad hoc, at least the consideration of the risks have been addressed, communicated and documented. What’s not to like about that?

Our Social in Business Series


Part 1 - What we are talking about
Part 2 - Build it and they will come (?)
Part 3 - What are we doing here anyway?

About Karen Hobert

karen_hobert.png

Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.

03/08/2012

Social in Business: What are we doing here anyway?

Tags: social business social software enterprise

This is the third post in the Top Dog/Elguji Social in Business blog series. The first post was entitled "Social in Business: What we are talking about" and the second was entitled "Social in Business: Build it and they will come (?)".

Today we focus on Objectives.

So if you’ve followed my blog (or other similar minded bloggers) you’ve likely come across one of my occasional rants about the pitfalls of buying technology for technology’s sake. This is sort of one of those posts in this installment of “Social in Business”, Objective.

It’s hard to pick a technology, even an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink type of technology as social software, if you don’t know what you need it for. Actually one of the drawbacks of technologies that offer many options, such as social software, is that it is the potential answer to many issues. Vendor’s sales and marketing like the Swiss Army Knife utility of social software because they can answer “yes” to many customer needs but it makes things that much harder to for the customer to figure out if it really needs the product or not. More specifically, with so many options it can be very hard to identify which parts of the product offer the most value to customer’s business.

Who knew the toothpick on the Swiss Army knife would end up being so handy? Taking the Swiss Army knife analogy a bit further, today there are many versions of the renowned knife on the market that customer’s really need to know what they want to carry around in their pockets and what is likely to be most useful; corkscrew or none? For me a corkscrew-less version would be virtually useless. And what about the semi-retired boy scout who might benefit more with a Leatherman. It’s all a matter of knowing which features will serve the greatest purpose for the unique needs of the customer. Regardless of which model the customer chooses, they will likely use some tools in the kit more than others depending on their needs.

The same applies when choosing social software for enterprises. Much depends on the firm’s needs and how it operates. In other words, if a firm has a strong hierarchy with lots of structure and formalized ways of completing work its social software needs are likely to be different from a de-centralized, cross-organizational firm that functions in more organic ways. Both are viable organizations but they have very different objectives and expectations for the social software technologies that they employ.

Before picking a specific social software technology, and more specifically a vendor, enterprises should look at the objectives for the technology. If it turns out that there are many objectives, pick the objectives that will provide the most value to the firm. Make these the leading objectives for the technology to solve and focus on how to achieve them. Some may be solved without any technology or simply by improving on existing technologies. But the key idea is that the firm must know what it needs to work on before picking a tool or technology.

Identifying the leading objectives for social software in the enterprise and how to meet them cannot be done in an IT vacuum and must include input from the business and operational sides of the firm. This will ensure greater success and adoption when the business is part of creating the solution. It is vital for enterprises to understand the working culture, needs, and goals for the social technologies they want to deploy prior to choosing which one to buy. Otherwise they might just end up with a giant, expensive brick in their pockets.

About Karen Hobert

karen_hobert.png

Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.