Business social software adoption: How to make it successful

Even all the benefits of business social software can't ensure enterprise adoption. Here are four tactics to make your social deployment successful.

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Recently, my husband, who works for a large technology firm, was complaining that one part of his company didn't know what the other part was doing regarding a project both departments were independently working on. I thought to myself, This is a perfect use case for social software in the enterprise.

Enterprise or business social software makes it easier to find resources and identify experts in an organization who are working on similar projects or have the expertise required to share insights and assistance. In addition to social searching, business social software allows you to collaborate with employees in order to achieve desired business results. Some of the ways employees can be identified is based on their involvement with current or past projects, their communities of interest and their written papers or blogs.

Business social software benefits: Find the right people and expertise

According to Alistair Rennie of IBM, "For an individual worker, the new [social] software can help find and recommend experts within the company to solve, say, a specific marketing or manufacturing problem."

While still small, there are growing examples of companies that have deployed business social software solutions for the enterprise. Management consulting firm A. T. Kearney created an internal Facebook-like tool, called Globalink. The social application helps users identify people in the organization by including a global contact database that is searchable by office, position or department and features photographs, contact details, activity streams of employees and more. Consultants within the company can do a skills search to find people that have worked on similar projects or have the expertise needed, and can also get profiles of other consultants in the company, including what languages they speak, their education, professional affiliation and so forth, to help the consultants be more effective and productive.

Business social software is all about collaboration and finding the right expertise and resources to get needed information in order to do one's job. Despite the many benefits that social software can provide to enterprises, the number of companies actually deploying and using these tools is very small. There are various reasons for this lack of adoption, including:

  • the fear of disruption and changing the way people work;
  • the lack of a clear return on investment;
  • the cost of purchasing and deploying social software;
  • getting management buy-in; and
  • privacy and governance issues.

Building social software user adoption

For companies that have already made the investment or are considering investing in social software solutions, building end-user adoption is critical. Increasing the number of people with whom you can collaborate increases the value and benefits of the solutions by order of magnitude. The key to increasing user adoption is to focus on the end users and the impact the social software tools will have on their day-to-day jobs and their productivity.

Here are four sure-fire ways to make your internal business social software deployment successful:

1. Focus on your business goals

To increase end-user adoption, organizations should look to the way the business social-software tools will impact individual users and business processes by focusing on the business value social software provides. Social software isn't just the latest cool toy -- it's a serious business tool that provides companies with a competitive advantage, whether it's speeding up the time to develop products, answering customers' inquiries, or addressing and fixing problems within your organization. As part of your organization's overall collaboration strategy, social software provides significant business value. As you deploy these solutions, clearly identify your organization's strategy, goals and objectives, and focus your efforts on meeting these goals.

2. Focus on user experience

Make the use of social software a natural part of the workday by tying the tools into your business processes, workflows and applications. If you don't use a system integrator, this needs to be accomplished by your IT team. If workers don't utilize the tools provided, they will have less impact and benefit. Ensure that the social-software tools are easy to use and intuitive, to provide a satisfying user experience.

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3. Focus on your employees

Rather than being viewed as a productivity tool, business social software may be seen by some workers as a time waster and work disrupter. To combat this, do some initial preparation educating workers about the new tools by providing "do's and don'ts" about how to use them effectively. Focus on how these tools can help the individual worker be more productive and do their jobs better and even have fun with colleagues. Head off and address any risks and concerns that workers may have about privacy, time management, security and so on. Expect to see an impact on the corporate culture, so set policies to help workers understand what is and isn't appropriate use of the social-software tools to help alleviate potential concerns.

4. Watch your business social-software adoption grow

Once people see the benefits of social software in the enterprise and how it helps improve collaboration, productivity and effectiveness, they'll start joining in. By deploying a solution that is easy, intuitive and fun, your organization will benefit from workers who collaborate and share information with colleagues, improving the time it takes to make decisions, and impacting your bottom line.

This was first published in November 2013

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