5 Steps to Getting Started with the Social Enterprise

October 27, 2011 Appirio

Brandon Oelling (@cloudy2me) and Balakrishna Narasimhan (@bnara75)

Over the past few months we’ve talked a lot about what it means to be a social enterprise and how there are enormous benefits to those companies who are on the path to becoming social. This means not only changing the way your people work internally but also how your company interacts with customers, partners and distributors. It’s a major transformation, but as companies like Starbucks, Brown Forman, Avon and others have shown, there’s a significant reward in terms of efficiency, agility and innovation. As the Dachis Group eloquently puts it “The social business is alive with energy and big ideas – you might call it a Renaissance for the information age.” (more here)

So, how can you get started on the social enterprise journey? There’s a temptation to think that all it takes is buying a license to Heroku, Radian6, Chatter, Jive, Yammer, Box or some other app. But, becoming a social enterprise is much more about behavioral and process changes than it is about technology. Based on our own experience becoming a social enterprise as well as numerous client engagements developing social enterprise blueprints, we’ve come up with 5 simple steps to getting started. We’re going to focus on internal collaboration using Salesforce Chatter because we’ve found that’s a great place to start. However, these tips are equally applicable to rolling out other social collaboration tools.

1. Identify the use cases you want to target 

For an initial rollout focus on a ‘less is more approach’ by targeting 3 – 6 use cases. These should be clearly aligned with business objectives and the user communities that will benefit the most from breaking down existing silos of communication (email, instant message, phone, etc.).

Typically, these use cases involve improving collaboration across distributed teams, making it easy to find quality content, finding true experts, harnessing the power of the broader team or simply reducing email traffic. The key is to identify a function or process where collaboration will make a difference and then to understand in as much detail as possible the pain points that Chatter will address.

While this may seem obvious, this is the place where many Chatter rollouts fail. So, start by identifying the stakeholder groups and specific pain points you want to target.

2. Clearly define where Chatter fits in with other collaboration platforms 

Chatter typically doesn’t get deployed into an organization with no collaboration tools. It needs to fit in with other tools, whether it’s Sharepoint (yes, some organizations still use it!), email, instant messaging, or other social tools like Jive or Yammer. Understanding how Chatter fits in and integrates with the other collaboration tools that people use is critical to driving adoption.

3. Define initial rules of engagement for how to use Chatter

Chatter is a great tool that can be used in a lot of different ways – following people or objects, broadcasting information, collaborating within semi-private or private groups, tagging/liking/commenting on content and sharing files. But as mentioned above, Chatter needs to fit in with other tools that people are already using as part of how they work.

So, it’s critical to think through both the use cases or pain points that Chatter is going to be used to address and how this will happen within Chatter. This doesn’t need to be a major science project but simple guidelines, e.g., use Chatter groups for project or account teams, use Chatter for collaborating on work products but post to Sharepoint or Box.net once you have a final product. Guidelines like these clarify the purpose of Chatter and make a big difference to adoption and usage.

As with any new tool that’s rich with features, you need to make it easy for people to know why and how to use it.

4. Run a pilot with sufficient scale to work through the kinks 

Social collaboration typically requires a new way of working for employees. Piloting the new technology plays a critical role in clarifying the defined use cases, communications, training and end user support required for success. Pilots should be the centerpiece of any change management plan since they provide ‘real life’ feedback on what is required for a usable future solution.

A collaboration pilot requires a certain amount of scale so it’s critical to have a sufficiently large user population involved in your pilot roll-out. Typically, at least 100s of users are required to experience the kind of social graphing that brings to life the benefits of social collaboration amongst groups.

5. Define your broader roll-out and change management approach

Once you’re armed with the learnings from your pilot, you’re ready to build your plan for an enterprise-wide rollout of Chatter. The principles are the same as any enterprise rollout so you’ll need to think about training, change management and phasing. In addition to these basics you’ll need to identify engaged executive sponsors, business unit level evangelists and active community managers. These visible evangelists are the lifeblood of the internal community’s continued relevance and are essential to its short and long-term success.

Once you’ve actually rolled out the solution, make sure that you track metrics such as # of users, # of groups, etc., so that you can see how people use Chatter and interact. Salesforce provides a Chatter Usage Dashboard to get you started.

All of this may sound hard but remember one great advantage with social technologies is that people actually enjoy using these applications. It’s a lot different than trying to get people to use SAP or Oracle. Good luck and you know where to find us if you have questions!

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