Government // Enterprise Architecture
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8/12/2013
01:32 PM
Angela Ashenden
Angela Ashenden
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Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees

It's hard getting employees to leave their favorite apps to use social collaboration tools. Instead, incorporate social in the apps where they live and breathe.

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In the last few years, the idea of using social technologies inside a business has progressed from a passing fad adopted by only the most fashion-conscious of organizations to the point where most companies are thinking seriously about how social collaboration can deliver real business improvement.

The focus of these benefits depends on the challenges that the organization faces -- whether it's about connecting a large, distributed workforce to create efficiencies or about igniting innovation by allowing employees' ideas to surface through the cracks of the everyday routine. As a result, we've seen an explosion of new software products focused on social collaboration (or "social business"), some from established software vendors such as IBM, Salesforce.com, Oracle and TIBCO, and others from new "pure play" vendors such as Jive, Yammer (now owned by Microsoft), Igloo and Telligent. And now we are reaching the point where it's hard to distinguish them based on their core "social" features because they've become pretty standardized.

So how do you decide which social business software is best for you? Of course it will depend on what problems you're trying to solve, but the key is always going to be to what extent the technology fits into your existing business. Yes, in the long run you might be hoping to change your company's culture, but the first challenge is getting people to adopt your new solution -- and you will quickly learn that it is hard getting the majority of people to adopt.

[ Have you considered creation spaces? Read Take Social Collaboration To Next Level. ]

One of the common traps that businesses fall into when deploying social collaboration tools is to think we "just collaborate." We don't. We collaborate in the context of a business activity, process or task; we engage with other people to get something done. However, many social collaboration platforms are deployed as standalone environments, forcing staff to step outside their usual technology environment -- be that the CRM, ERP or email application -- in order to come to grips with the new platform.

Some people will jump at the opportunity to stretch, particularly if they are naturally drawn to social technologies, or have been looking for a better way to collaborate. But many won't jump, and convincing them to change their habits can be a real battle.

So you need to take social technology to where your employees are comfortable, integrating it with their business applications or email so they can take advantage of its benefits without much upheaval. Make the change more incremental, and not a complete shift that will inevitably trigger that human instinct to resist change. Allow collaborative discussion to take place in the context of, for example, a sales opportunity or a business report, so that the process can be enhanced in situ, keeping all the related information together.

It's worth noting the importance of social tool integration with email. As much as social technologies aim to provide a better alternative to email for certain tasks, the reality is that email is a hard habit to break. It makes more sense to enhance the email application to enable social collaboration, rather than face the challenge of pulling your staff out of email altogether. As for today's social collaboration technologies, some allow you to integrate with applications better than others. It's great that we are now seeing social tools pulling data in from business applications, integrating applications data alongside people's posts in the activity stream.

But fewer allow integration in the opposite direction, embedding social collaboration in the business applications themselves. Jive Software, for example, is particularly strong here, and Salesforce.com's Chatter is inherently integrated with Salesforce's CRM application. But this is an area where more work is needed from vendors to help smooth that transition for end users and become embedded into people's everyday business processes.

So when choosing your social collaboration vendor, you need to make sure the technology offers the social features you need and expect, and that you can work with the vendor to shape your social collaboration strategy going forward. But don't underestimate the importance of context when getting people to adopt the new technology: sometimes it just makes more sense to "take the mountain to Mohammed," as it were.

Think about how you can integrate social collaboration tools with your existing business processes, and challenge the vendors to help you do this in a manageable and cost-effective way. It'll make your adoption journey so much smoother.

Click here for more on this topic and to download three free reports from MWD Advisors.

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David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
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8/13/2013 | 1:58:32 PM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
What practical applications have you seen of this embedding social in other apps? Chatter and Salesforce CRM are joined at the hip, and there are other examples of social platforms integrating with other products from the same vendor. But I haven't seen a lot of real mix and match between vendors where social features are readily available wherever employees would find them useful.

Still seems to be more theory than practice. I think having "social everywhere" is a great idea in theory, but who is really doing it?
aashendencb2
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aashendencb2,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2013 | 2:54:40 PM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
At the moment, the best example I'd say is Jive, which allows the creation of Jive-powered "deal rooms" in Salesforce's Sales Cloud, and also has some good pre-built integration with the likes of Box as well. Other vendors allow you to do it to some extent, but typically require more custom development, or are more lightweight in nature. It's certainly an area where there is more the vendor community can do to help customers make this work more seamlessly (and easily).
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
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8/13/2013 | 3:59:49 PM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
As Seinfeld's Kramer would say, this column "scratches me where I itch." The author states: "We collaborate in the context of a business activity, process or task; we engage with other people to get something done." Forcing people to step outside their natural platforms (email, IM in my case) and embrace a platform that's unnatural to them for those activities is a mistake. Social platforms must complement or plug into those natural collaboration platforms.
KMBurnham
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KMBurnham,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2013 | 5:00:17 PM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
Another way to take the fear out of social and collaborative tools: education. Training and examples of how the tools help you do your job better is essential. Company early adopters of the tech, or advocates, are good in this education/training role.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2013 | 5:31:54 PM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
Microsoft has put a big emphasis on embedding Yammer within Dynamics CRM, and it's planning to the same with Dynamics AX ERP. SAP has also emphasized this approach with its Jam collaboration offering.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2013 | 6:58:32 PM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
Social tools are too often considered in a vacuum. But social software really needs hardware to back it up. Not to name names here, but when you're working on under-powered hardware and each page load takes a measurable number of seconds, any attempt to increase participation is going to run up against the friction of inadequate IT support.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2013 | 8:23:20 PM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
Ah, well if you get a notification on the Hub that I posted a reply to your edit on one of my stories (which you sent by email), that was me screwing around with the Jive for Outlook plugin. Our community management folks don't seem to promote it, but I installed it in the process of doing research for my Social Collaboration for Dummies book.
aashendencb2
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aashendencb2,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/14/2013 | 9:45:13 AM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
Absolutely - too often there's an assumption that because it's "social" technology, people don't need training on it. And while the tech is usually relatively simple to use, the key is educating people on why they should use it and in what context, rather than just how it works.
JakePlum
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JakePlum,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2013 | 5:35:48 AM
re: Ensure Social Adoption Success: Bring It To Employees
Interesting points Angela,

The key message is to look for opportunities with high human latency or tasks
where there is a delay for a human action to occur. Intelligence and adequately managing this policy-making culture is critical to adoption success.

Jake Plum from Mumba Cloud http://www.mumbacloud.com
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