Social is one of the hottest trends in enterprise software, and many
companies are considering rolling out products and services that make it easier
for employees to share information with each other and communicate with
customers and suppliers.
Social software covers a lot of ground, but in general,
products in this field enable people to share ideas and documents, find
expertise and connect with colleagues, and communicate interactively with others. Gartner reports that “social software technologies as a whole are among the most hyped in the
industry at the moment,” but is quick to warn companies that different social software technologies are “at different
levels of maturity.” Meanwhile, Forrester predicts that social software will grow to a $6.4 billion industry by 2016. There is
definitely something going on here.
The reason so many companies
are looking at social initiatives is simple: When people work together, they accomplish much
more, without reinventing the wheel or duplicating work efforts. But social initiatives are expensive and are
potentially disruptive to the business.
So it behooves smart executives to avoid the pitfalls uniquely inherent
in social initiatives. Here are eight
missteps that can sink more than your social initiative. While these points
relate primarily to internal, employee-facing social initiatives, many of them
are equally relevant to customer-facing initiatives as well.
- No interest from key
users: Analysts estimate that approximately a third of workers will download
and share new technology, with or without corporate approval. Suppressing or ignoring these folks and
heading straight for IT creates unnecessary and often insurmountable resistance.
In fact, ignoring them squanders your biggest advantage. Reach out to technology
seekers and embrace them; they are your greatest allies.
- Too many tools: Technology
silos are a reality, but you need a road map for creating a single collaboration
platform. We are in the midst of an adoption cycle that mirrors that of email
in the early ’90s. Then, it took time before disparate corporate emails
systems worked together. But could you
imagine working with two email systems today, one to communicate with internal
colleagues and one for external contacts? The same will be true for
collaboration tools going forward.
- Unclear business
objectives: Technology-driven projects are a sure recipe for failure.
- Not paying attention to
key stakeholders: If your project
manager is a bulldozer type who tells key stakeholders that he “knows better” because he has already done five such projects, you’re headed for trouble, big
- IT and the business are
at loggerheads: With the advent of SaaS (software as a service) solutions,
business units now have viable alternatives to central IT. Smart IT organizations realize they have to
support the business to make initiatives, such as social business work. IT’s alternative is the (slow) decline of
budgets and eventual demise.
- No culture of technology
grassroots adoption: Collaboration and social initiatives must have eager
champions at the business-user level. A top-down approach to a social initiative
makes it difficult to pump up worker’s interest in being part of the project.
It is much easier to leverage the excitement of existing users by getting them
to be social at departmental or division levels, first.
- Project is not aligned
with other business initiatives: A social initiative without business
goals will die on the vine. Business users need to understand why being active
in a social initiative brings value to their everyday work responsibilities.
- Taking the wrong
approach: Introducing “rip and replace” technology that ignores daily work habits is probably the biggest failure factor in the list. The fact
that people are change-averse is well-documented. A recent blog
post talks more about why “rip and replace” doesn’t work.
If you have experienced a failed (or failing) initiative,
weigh in with your own reasons in the comments.
[Image: Flickr user hans.gerwitz]