Social's Enterprise Value: Lessons From Random House - InformationWeek
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Social's Enterprise Value: Lessons From Random House

In an essay from newly published The Collaborative Organization, Chris Hart of Random House talks about how companies can translate social technologies into value for their organizations.

Questions About Microsoft's Acquisition of Yammer
Questions About Microsoft's Acquisition of Yammer
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On Monday, we published an excerpt from Jacob Morgan's book, The Collaborative Organization, on the organizational challenges of social--or "emergent"-- collaboration. At the end of each chapter, Morgan includes an essay from one of the social business practitioners he spoke with while researching the book. This essay is by Chris Hart, VP of IT at Random House Publishing.

The value of Enterprise 2.0 tools seems clear from a technical or business analyst position. The tools offer more real-time data, better collaboration in teams, ambient awareness of the company's independent units, and single solutions to all those internal department blog and wiki requests. But the lack of a clear ROI and the looks you get from upper management at the suggestion of adding a "social tool" to the enterprise can be a bit daunting. Social tools at work meet with some staff derision as well: "Why do I need to Facebook for the company?" or "Don't we have enough communications already: email, phone, mobile, etc.?"

So what does an Enterprise 2.0 tool set offer to a company, and who should lead the effort forward? Who drives innovation in your company? Of course, IT has an interest in all things cool and buzzy, and so it is engaged early on in social tools. The good news is that the tools are simple to install, and moving some existing communications to microblogs and Twitter makes good technical sense and models the behavior corporate users need to display. Beyond IT, most business areas can find immediate advantage in an internal social network as well.

A top-down approach is rare in my experience, because E2.0 tools can be received with general derision from resistant staff. The message that senior management "wants us to tweet" might not be a clear call to effective action. It's better to build a strategy focusing on communication and collaboration and then ask for teams to coordinate those solutions. Involving senior management in your roll-out and asking it to post and set the tone of the conversations is great, but expecting people to work socially because management demands it is unrealistic.

Human resources can immediately post job offers, policy changes, green initiatives, and more, easily creating an HR newsletter. HR is a great enabler because it wants to expand communications. A social networking tool might be an effective solution for HR, with many cross-functional communication features; otherwise, HR relies on email and intranets and gets no direct feedback and can't judge the impact. Additionally, enabling search in your tools adds a powerful means to keep staff informed.

This column is adapted from The Collaborative Organization by Jacob Morgan, released July 9.

Sales suddenly can collaborate and share contact details. It becomes like email, where IT runs the software and different business areas can use it the way they see fit. If email is accelerated snail mail, social collaboration is accelerated--and expanded--email.

Project teams often are driven by technology adopters and evangelists; they are looking for tools to collaborate and report on projects. Project milestones and tasks are crucial to track but hard to communicate without spamming the enterprise. Rather than provide emails, Excel sheets, or solutions such as Basecamp or Salesforce, an internal social site can accomplish multiple goals with one piece of software. Project documentation, status, alerts, notification, and change management all fit nicely into social media.

Because E2.0 tools in the enterprise can lead to the evolution of business toward "social business," they can affect all areas. Social media can go viral with more connections and engagement in all areas of the business.

What do you do with people who resist, or who find it uncomfortable to work openly? You can leave them and circle back. Don't spend too much time convincing resisters and fighting for the value of open communications, knowledge management, and clear status views. If they don't see the value now, they will as more work is done outside of email and more actions are real-time. Social media draws both readers and participants by offering the energy and engagement of staff, not by being a smarter tool or by being feature rich. E2.0 tools open the work being done to the visibility of other teams, management, and colleagues. If people are resistant to this change, over time they will engage, just as people did with email.

If you can, avoid the squishy discussion of "changing the corporate culture" until later. E2.0 tools offer the on-ramp to the long-promised gift of knowledge management. If people share project status, work events, and exceptions to the rule and share real-time work issues, you start having a learning organization. The possibility to learn from others opens up staff to a broader context if all the work streams can be easily indexed in a central area, pointed to with URLs, posted to with RSS, linked, etc. The huge amount of time spent trying to find the right person or event decreases dramatically, and people can start seeing broader impacts of events within the company.

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Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/17/2012 | 11:42:28 AM
re: Social's Enterprise Value: Lessons From Random House
This is really great, actionable advice. I think one of the problems with adoption is that users have been hearing for so long about "Facebook for the enterprise," and they don't see the value in that. It's funny how the term "knowledge management" is cropping up more and more. We heard so much about KM a few years ago, but it never seemed to really play out in a meaningful way for most organizations. Maybe social is the means by which KM will be effectively implemented.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
User Rank: Apprentice
7/13/2012 | 5:01:18 PM
re: Social's Enterprise Value: Lessons From Random House
These are excellent insights from the trenches. Would have wanted to read examples of how Random House achieved user adoption of its collaborative technologies. But maybe those are in the rest of the book?

Anyway, as the author pointed out, the problem is expecting employees to use a social enterprise platform like they do Facebook or Twitter. That's naive and unrealistic. Rather, as the author says, adoption happens when we're able to demonstrate value.
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