Social networking has changed the way people interact with each other. Today, engagement announcements, political debates, travel planning, fund raising and simply staying in touch all take place on the pages of social network sites. And it works.
The enterprise equivalent, often termed “social collaboration,” has had a long, bumpy start. Social collaboration promises new, improved ways of working. However, as many organizations have realized, it’s not a panacea for automatically resolving communications and knowledge-sharing issues.
So, What’s the Problem?
During the last two Enterprise 2.0 conferences I attended (Boston in June 2010 and Santa Clara in November 2010), I had a chance to see firsthand just how fast the social collaboration market is expanding and evolving. Still, regardless of how much their solutions had matured, vendors continued to drone on about “the death of e-mail” and “how it’s Facebook for the enterprise.” In other words, total snoozefests.
Well, perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh in my critique. There were a couple of interesting points worth noting. In the case studies presented, a recurring theme that emerged was how to get past all the launch hoopla and get people actually using the social collaboration tools in their daily activities. Because what typically happens is that after the initial rush to sign up, there’s a tremendous slump, as people fail to actually use the tools to do their jobs.
When you consider that many enterprises simply assume that collaboration will be natural once employees have the right tools in front of them, you can begin to understand why the projects fail. No software tool will automatically resolve a problem without investing the necessary time and work.
Still, There’s Hope
So how do you overcome collaboration project failure—and build a compelling business case for using social collaboration in the enterprise?
The only way I know is to evaluate collaboration software use in light of critical business processes and specific business goals. Citing specific projects and activities for a new product launch can help. Consider measuring time-to-market, project execution, and sales enablement among other things. When you capture metrics like this, you can then map them to an ROI model and calculate collaboration tool effectiveness.
Of course, there’s always a learning curve. When you deploy any type of enterprise software, it will take a certain amount of time and work before it can be used effectively. In other words, after introduction, it will take a while before your collaboration software actually has an impact on the time and efforts that employees invest in completing tasks and projects. And this will vary depending on content and community type. In its recent social collaboration deployment project, Deloitte U.S. discovered that it’s important to recognize that there are different types of user communities, just as there are different types of content.*
Solutions like Novell Vibe can be invaluable here. Available in both cloud- and on-premises-based solutions, Novell Vibe combines team workspaces with business social networking to make it easier for people to work together and drive results.
Be Ready to Invest Some Time and Energy
Social collaboration has the potential to become a standard business tool in the enterprise. But it’s going to take an investment of time and energy before such tools can be effectively implemented and used.
As always, thanks for tuning in.
*Nikos Drakos. Case Study: Evolving Employee Social Networks to Support Strategic Communities at Deloitte. Gartner Research Note. September 10, 2010.
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It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test, test, test before you do anything drastic with it.