7 Quick Tips for Social Business Transformation

There are three unique characteristics about enterprise social software that inherently make it unlike other technology decisions and implementations

For some reason people assume that implementation methodologies are different according to the type of software and newer technologies such as enterprise social software are somehow unusual. From an implementation perspective, I don't believe that there is a lot of difference between rolling out an enterprise social software solution compared to another collaborative application. In fact, most of it is based on common sense. I would argue, however, that there are three unique characteristics about enterprise social software that inherently make it unlike other technology decisions and implementations. These differences (whether using internally or externally) are:

1. Culture. The mistake that some have made when implementing social software is that they have made it about the technology first and culture second when in fact it should be the reverse. You may be saying to yourself that any introduction of a new technology within an organization requires a behavioral change for adoption - and to that I would certainly agree. Yet what you and your colleagues say have the potential to be much more unrestricted regardless if whether you are sitting at home on Facebook or using corporate-sponsored social software. This has huge implications on culture and individuals' behavior since everything you write, tag, bookmark, "like", post, or share is likely much more public than before.

2. Transparency. Whether using enterprise social software for internal collaboration purposes or external community building, the notion of social business transformation promotes transparency (as well as accountability). It is rare that a software application can have such a broad and apparent impact on an organization, its key stakeholders (employees, customers, and partners), and company brand. The positive and negative implications can be profound.

3. Scale. Social business transformation allows more people to have a louder voice and the ability to impact a wider audience with activity updates, knowledge, opinions and expertise than ever before either behind a firewall or on the social Web. Along with participation comes openness and sharing on a larger scale that helps to flatten an organization from an employee perspective or provide increased access to a company from a customer or partner standpoint. Ultimately, the effectiveness and success of an enterprise social software solution resides on involvement.

Keeping these characteristics in mind, there are some basic elements that you should have in place to help achieve positive results when embarking on a social business journey. Below are 7 really quick and practical tips for enabling transformation.

1. Devise social media guidelines to aid adoption and shift cultural behavior. One could argue that social media is the same as any conversation or piece of content that you share with another. However, because of the transparency and scale associated with social software, participating in a community or writing a blog post can make some a little apprehensive about sharing since opinions and documents are much harder to take back or delete. By devising corporate social media guidelines, it will help those hesitant about adopting and using social software to overcome their fears and identify where the corporate boundaries are in terms of posting appropriate content. These policies should also include how to report someone that may violate these rules and the consequences.

2. Involve multiple departments early in the social business transformation process. The more departments that are brought early into the process will encourage participation and create evangelists within these functions. Social software should not be a factor in reinforced application silos, but should really be the barrier breaker to the stovepipes so often found in our organizations.

3. Enlist executive support for utilizing social software regardless if it is used internally or externally. It may sound like a no-brainer, but it's true: to invoke change, management needs to lead by example. If employees see that their executives are using these tools it establishes that there is a commitment to change. Although sales, marketing and service departments are the groups more commonly associated with using social software, it is really for anyone in the company from product development, engineering, procurement and payroll to human resources (HR) and legal. (You should also have the HR and legal departments involved from the start to help develop the policies and head off any unforeseen issues or challenges.)

4. Find an evangelist to help promote transformation from a technology, process and cultural perspective. New technology implementation within an organization takes time. Different people have different levels of acceptance with new methods, practices, business processes, tools, and devices. And there are some people that just don't like change. For all these reasons, it's a good idea to get at least one evangelist (although the more the merrier depending how big the enterprise or project) that can serve as a champion for the social product or business initiative. This individual is one that has made the change, has experience, and embraces the benefits that social software can bring which will help encourage adoption.

5. Plan ahead. Consider the social business initiatives that you are going to employ today and what you may use over the next 12 months. These initiatives should directly correlate to your objectives. Do you want to reduce call-center traffic? Do you want your departments to share information more easily? Do you want content and answers to be found more quickly by employees, customers and/or partners? How will you accomplish all these objectives? Management will likely ask you to justify the expenditure and it is best to be prepared with a sound plan for tracking progress.

6. Continuously educate and demonstrate business value. Determine what your success factors are going to be whether it is the activity levels on a monthly basis, number of blog posts, number of page visits, or number of leads generated and convey those to all involved. This will reinforce the people and technology investment to upper management as well as key stakeholders. Have success stories, best practices and tips to readily available and proactively communicated to help encourage, maintain and grow participation.

7. Encourage sharing! Last, but not least, is the backbone to a successful social software implementation. Social software success relies on people, content and conversations to make it work. Social software is not merely a channel to socialize, but also a means to work more collaboratively and productively. IDC research shows that people using social software have experienced 11-30% in times savings. Don't keep the secret to yourself, but encourage others to use what is offered so funding can continue and your organization can become more knowledgeable, efficient, and collaborative.

I'm sure that there are many more, so feel free to post your best practices and tips!

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