Making Social and Collaboration Systems Work

Posted 10-10-2013 Print Email

Social and collaboration systems often face implementation challenges when introduced into a company. Here are several strategies for mitigating them.

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By Ajay Deshpande

In spite of organizations investing in social and collaboration software, the C-Suite continues to face challenges when it comes to using these systems effectively. While some success stories exist, many organizations are still struggling to get the most out of their social and collaboration deployments. In this article, I’ll address the most common implementation challenges, plus several unexpected ones; provide the strategies that the C-Suite needs to mitigate them; and discuss the governance models needed to help ensure the success of your enterprise’s social initiative.

Social and Collaboration Adoption vs. Existing Organizational Culture 

A successful social software deployment usually implies introducing a new system into the existing culture of an organization. Understanding and effectively managing this organizational culture is critical to adoption success. More often than not, the culture’s resistance can manifest itself as a change management problem. Indeed, when it comes to social and collaboration systems, there are quite a few barriers that hinder adoption.

A lot of enterprise employees, for example, don’t use social collaboration tools in their personal lives. Driving user adoption among these employees can be particularly challenging. Overcoming this barrier to adoption is not only about helping users learn how to use the new tools, but changing how they perceive the new tools. These employees often think that social platforms like Facebook and Twitter are a waste of time, and have no idea about how these real-time information platforms can help them do business better. So, for employees who aren’t adept with social media, having a meaningful education component as part of the tool’s introduction into the organization can be even more critical than usage training.

Also, the incentives structure in your organization may not be conducive to collaboration. While most organizations promote collaboration in theory, in practice they often have powerful disincentives to collaboration already in place. Imagine, for example, a new sales lead comes in to your group and you want to learn who in your organization has sold to that company. You could use an internal collaboration tool to search for this information. While this sounds ideal in theory, in practice there is no organizational incentive for a salesperson in another location or a different department to help you close a new deal. Often, employees are only rewarded for how they do their jobs, which removes much of the incentive for them to collaborate with others in their organization.

Companies can use change management techniques to overcome such challenges. As change management experts like to say, “All new initiatives need evangelists.” This is also true for social and collaboration software. In particular, when an employee’s fear (“My manager doesn’t want me to collaborate with people outside of my department”) is one of the barriers to user adoption, choosing appropriate evangelists who can clearly demonstrate the benefits of collaboration for the entire company can be a powerful way to get people on board.

Another method is to assign an executive champion to a new initiative. This has two pluses. First, it demonstrates management’s commitment to the new initiative. Second, it provides the people who are implementing the new initiative with a powerful ally and resource. Ideally, the executive champion should be a believer in the new initiative, know enough about it to answer rudimentary questions, and be a source of guidance during the early stages of adoption.

An incentive plan that supports the new initiative is another useful technique. Such plans require careful consideration in terms of how the success of individuals is mapped to the success of the new initiative. Without appropriate mapping, an organization might find that it is providing incentives for worker behavior that can jeopardize the new initiative.



 

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