What's Your Unadoption Strategy For Enterprise 2.0? - InformationWeek

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12:25 PM
David F Carr
David F Carr
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What's Your Unadoption Strategy For Enterprise 2.0?

Stop fretting about adoption and start thinking about what needs to stop. What will you get rid of to make way for social collaboration?

Enterprise Social Networks: A Guided Tour
Enterprise Social Networks: A Guided Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
One of the great challenges of introducing new collaboration technologies is often said to be adoption--getting people to use the technology productively in their work.

Andrew Carusone of Lowe's Home Improvement thinks the focus on adoption is wrong on a couple of levels. "The goal of social business is performance, not adoption," said Carusone, the director of Lowe's integrated workforce experience and community governance.

Technology adoption is part of the strategy, but so is change management and embracing new ways of working. Overlooking the human part of the equation can be a critical mistake. The success metrics to focus on include higher employee engagement, retention, better knowledge exchange, better employee on-boarding, higher levels of employee understanding, and the ability to better solve complex, non-repeatable problems, Carusone said.

Rather than focusing on the adoption of any particular technology, you ought to be looking at whether whatever you are promoting translates into a real difference for your company's business, he said. If the goal is to make employees more efficient and effective, you ought to be looking at what work they can stop doing, now that they're doing social business. If the actual result is that you're making them spend twice as much time on communication and coordination, now that they have twice as many ways to do it, what have you accomplished?

"Before we ask, what's your adoption strategy, I say, first tell me what's your unadoption strategy," Carusone said.

[ Missing any on this list? 5 Social Skills IT Pros Must Have. ]

I'm mixing quotes from Carusone's presentation at June's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, a follow-up phone conversation I had with him this month, and some subsequent emails. I was intrigued by his notion that unadoption is one of the keys to success, an idea he raised during our BrainYard discussion session at Enterprise 2.0. Lowe's is one of the big reference customers for IBM Connections, one of the leading enterprise social networking platforms.

Carusone was less interested in talking about how his company has used the technology than about what he believes are the elements of success for any such strategy. He believes part of his role is to combat the "technology installation mindset" of believing that software alone can deliver results.

"The companies, the enterprises that tend to do the best see it as being as much about change management strategy. What's fundamental about Enterprise 2.0 is that it's about changing the way employees work," Carusone said.

Unadoption is often framed in terms of reducing the amount of email we exchange, since communicating on an enterprise social network is supposed to be better in every way. Right? Not quite, Carusone said.

Although he sees group email lists as a ripe target for elimination, email itself is not the enemy of collaboration. "We should go back to using email for what it was designed for, which is single point-to-point messaging," he said. The misuse of email, as if it were a collaboration environment, is the real problem, he said.

Enterprise social networking is superior for certain types of communication, where a message can be widely shared and a question can be answered once rather than over and over again. That's perfect for some things, like asking and answering technical support questions, and completely inappropriate for others, like private communication about a medical issue between an employee and the benefits coordinator in human resources. So email still has a place.

Just as it's important for people to understand when it's better to deliver a message over the phone or in person rather than email, they need to learn the types of communications that are best served by social technology. What we'd like to get people to unadopt are unproductive behaviors, like blasting out an email to a distribution list and spawning a mess of reply-to-all messages. We'd like them to unadopt the habit of hoarding information by demonstrating the recognition they can get from sharing.

As for demonstrating the value of social collaboration to company leaders, showing great adoption numbers isn't the way to get that done. What do they care that you've got more people blogging, tagging, and commenting? Finding the right way to impress those people is about as hard as "playing poker with someone who has got the cards facing the other way," he said. "Ask them what's on their quarterly review or on their annual review." In other words, find out what numbers they have to move to impress their boss, or their board, or the shareholders. Find out what you can do to contribute toward that goal.

While you're at it, think about the distractions you can eliminate to make way for progress. What will you unadopt?

If you get it figured out, maybe you can tell me in person at the E2 Innovate conference in November or at E2 Social next year. Or, comment below. That works, too.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

Every company needs a social networking policy, but don't stifle creativity and productivity with too much formality. Also in the debut, all-digital Social Media For Grownups issue of The BrainYard: The proper tools help in setting social networking policy for your company and ensure that you'll be able to follow through. (Free with registration.)

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Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/14/2012 | 1:03:50 PM
re: What's Your Unadoption Strategy For Enterprise 2.0?
Email may not be the enemy of collaboration, but as long as it is a separate system, I think most people will default to its use. It makes a Gmail/Google+-type system sound really smart.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
User Rank: Apprentice
8/14/2012 | 12:56:16 PM
re: What's Your Unadoption Strategy For Enterprise 2.0?
Adoption is yet-another-vanity-metrics to showcase the ROI on technology investment done by company management; however, the roots for success is "Qualitative Sharing" than Quantity.

Trying to replicate the rules of interaction and conversation done on Public Platform to Closed Enterprise calls for shift in Mindset and well tuned Social networking policies within enterprise boundaries. I would want to ask all my peers and managers just one question, "Can you share?"

I really liked the article and Idea of "Unadoption". It's time to go beyond adoption :)
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2012 | 4:07:49 PM
re: What's Your Unadoption Strategy For Enterprise 2.0?
Thanks for the article. It's important to emphasize the fact that in order to do social right, employees need the bandwidth in their schedules in order to realize its potential. Otherwise, it's just another thing for them to add to the already long list of things they have to do.

In addition, one of the things that projections and predictions tend to gloss over is the assumption that people actually want to collaborate. That largely depends on culture, and there are many places where collaboration is a foreign concept, or at least unfavored. People want credit for the work they have done, because performance is so closely tied to compensation and bonuses. For many knowledge workers, there is an inherent disincentive to sharing the knowledge they have acquired, because sharing what they know levels the playing field. It's only natural to ask, "what's in it for me?". Along with the changes to the communication model, there need to be changes to feedback and recognition.

In some cases, the erroneous notion that "Big Brother" is policing their every move can kill a social initiative before it starts. Some organizations seeking to mitigate risk may hobble their own initiatives by disabling functions that employees want or need in order to use social tools effectively. There are ways to address these issues, but they must be unwound delicately, as they often have a more to do with fragile egos and individual insecurities than shared goals and corporate unity.

One approach may be to pilot social tools with one or two high-performing groups within the organization, thus creating a safe place to address any concerns or missteps on a smaller scale before implementing company-wide. By building in the opportunity to fail and learn, you create a model for larger-scale success.
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