Making Social and Collaboration Systems Work

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

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Social and Collaboration Governance: Be Aware, Be Prepared

While change management deals with successfully introducing social or collaborative software into an organization, governance deals with the issues that might arise from the usage of these tools. Governance means being aware of the issues that might occur, implementing ways to prevent them in the first place, and being able to provide a coordinated, consistent response when they occur. Most of the time, it is difficult to formulate a good response if the organization’s governance model is taken by surprise. Once an issue arises, what matters most is how management responds and handles the situation. Being aware and prepared is half the battle.

Important issues that demand good governance include information security- and privacy-related data leaks. Although technology provides many ways to protect information, it is still possible that data might fall into the wrong hands. It might be relatively innocuous—for example, an ill-timed announcement via Twitter—or a very costly breach of customer privacy. In each of these cases, the system should detect such breaches and the governance model should have policies on how to handle them.

Collaboration channels usually get orphaned in large organizations, and people look at IT as the end-to-end owner of collaboration solutions. While this is true for the technology component, it is usually untrue (and, in fact, unfair) to expect IT groups to handle the “softer” issues, which have legal, financial and customer service-related implications. Senior management must be involved in the policy setting here. A new collaboration environment will, to some degree, impact the way an organization works and that will impact the bottom line and affect various components of the organization. Therefore, having clear ownership at the different levels in the collaboration stack is essential.

Organizations should start with a multi-disciplinary governance model. Usually such policies stem from HR, but they also need to encompass other departments such as marketing, IT and corporate security. Ideally, organizations will have a cross-departmental governance committee. This committee should not only have multi-disciplinary representation, but also be empowered to make quick decisions. Issues arising out of social and collaboration platforms require a fast response—and this requires agile governance structures. The solution may be as simple as disabling access to limit damage, but time is of the essence.

Information security needs to be addressed as part of the model’s design in order for it to be most effective. Organizations should think through roles in the company and what access levels are needed prior to deployment. Having these issues and scenarios sorted out before a collaboration or social system is implemented will help prevent privacy or compliance fiascos.

Remember: governance is about empowering action, not confining it. A successful governance framework is one that balances the needs for control and security with the employee empowerment that is the essence of enterprise collaboration.  

Using effective change management techniques and planning ahead for strong governance will help ensure the success of an enterprise’s social collaboration rollout. Adding an excellent communication plan to consistently and constantly get this message out to all users of the system should help meet the technology and business challenges that companies often face when deploying new collaboration systems.

About the Author

Ajay Deshpande is chief architect, collaboration solutions, at Persistent Systems, a global software product development and technology services company.

This article was originally published on 10-10-2013
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