‘We’ll see what happens’ could kill your social business project

Forget “build it and they will come.” Don’t ever say, “We’ll see what happens.” A Gartner analyst explains how to set your firm up for real, sustainable collaboration

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We’ve all heard the promise: Social tools provide new opportunities for collaboration in the workplace among colleagues, and potentially even partners and customers. Sounds great, but what exactly does that look like?

A lot of IT projects fail without a strategy, and social business systems are no different. The problem is, people seem to think they are, says Jeffrey Mann, research vice-president for collaboration and social software with Gartner Research, who recently hosted a webinar on how to build a social strategy to encourage and optimize collaboration.

After all, people started using Facebook and Twitter on their own. So build it and they will come. But that expectation, says Mann, leads toward the most dangerous words you could hear when planning an IT project: “We’ll see what happens.”

Maybe that’s why many social projects aren’t successful — either no one uses them, or people spend too much time on them for “fun” rather than work purposes. If you take the approach that social will “just happen,” it probably won’t. And even if it does become successful on its own, it will likely be more successful if you have a strategy behind it.

Even though we’ve seen massive adoption of consumer social tools, we haven’t seen such a swift uptake of similar tools created for the enterprise. And there’s a reason: People are using social tools at work for fundamentally different reasons than the ones they use in their personal lives (finding an expert who can answer a question about a project vs. perusing a friend of a friend’s vacation pictures).

Social in the enterprise is a little more complicated. While there are a number of generic social platforms on the market, we’re now seeing social tools enter the corporate world through capabilities embedded in other software, such as customer relationship management or performance management systems.

That means you’ll have well-integrated capabilities, says Mann, but there’s also a risk of having multiple silos across the organization — and that could lead to the siloing of organizational insights.

And, like the “bring your own device” trend in workplaces, employees are also bringing their own social tools into the workplace, adding to the problem of siloing insights.

Collaboration these days is a “nexus” of forces, says Mann. You can’t really have a good social initiative without a mobile component, and you can’t really have access to scalable analytics without deploying cloud in some way. In turn, social provides a lot of that information for analysis.

“Seeing what happens” probably doesn’t tie in with your plans for mobile, cloud and big data analytics.

Strategy, then, is a replacement for hope, says Mann. A social strategy may involve acquiring technology, but that’s only part of it. SharePoint isn’t a strategy; it might be part of your strategy, but the technology itself isn’t a strategy.

A strategy should start with a purpose, says Mann. Becoming more innovative isn’t a purpose — it’s too high level. Instead, consider the ways in which you want to become more innovative, such as looking for new ways to interact with your customers.

If you build it with a purpose, then there’s a much better chance they will come.

Learn more: Download ‘How to Transform Your Organization Into A Social Business: Seven Steps to Success,’ from Frost & Sullivan.





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