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Why did my Enterprise Social implementation fail? - Part 1

With an increasing interest, investment and ‘sampling’ of social technologies within organisations around the world, a worrying mirror trend is also surfacing – adoption failure. Social technologies are a unique solution. They are incredibly different to CRM’s, ERP’s, and accounting technology deployments. Yet they are being implemented using the same steps, processes and methodologies. 

Let’s have a quick look at why up to 80% of enterprise social implementations fall short in success.

Too much emphasis on technology

A common mistake that is being made by organisations is that they begin the systems development lifecycle (SDLC) with the technology first. That is, they decide ‘we want social’, then they focus on procuring the right product they think has all the features they need and will fit within the existing IT environment. Once this has settled, the focus then shifts to ‘how do we make it fit into our business process and get value from it’. By this stage, your ROI is already diminishing.

As Gartner points out, “Social business initiatives need to shift their emphasis away from deciding which technology to implement. Instead they should focus on identifying how social initiatives will improve work practices for both individual contributors and managers.” *

By forcing the technology to fit into existing business processes, users will look at the technology as ‘extra work’ or ‘noise’ when working  on their tasks. If they don’t see value from using this tool to work, they won’t user it. This will almost secure poor adoption.

Tip: Focus on the knowledge retention, communication and collaboration issues that your organisation faces and map these to functionality features that can then support or facilitate the reduction of these problems. People first, processes second, technology third.

Overload of features

Here’s a simple rule… A product that is simple to use with loads of features, doesn’t equal relevance and value to a user, unless there is context. The more features there are initially, the more the user will be overwhelmed and dismissive of the value of its use.

Why? People need to see the value and the benefit for them in using the technology within the workplace. It’s our job to ensure that they don’t see the social tools as ‘noise’ or a distraction from their tasks. An excessive amount of irrelevant features, can initially be perceived as ‘too hard’ or ‘too much work’. Unfortunately, this distracts away from the good features that may have higher adoption rates and more defined use cases.

Many organisations assume that users know how to use social technologies and that adoption is natural. Whilst to a degree this might be true in our personal lives, the same behaviour should not be expected in an organisational context. This is not a duck to water scenario.

Remember, this technology isn’t just changing task processes, its changing how people interact with one another and more importantly, how we have worked throughout our entire careers.

The issue is further enhanced if the functionality is not integrated or is separated from a user’s work environment. Gartner recognises that “intractable behaviour and adoption problems occur when technologies are disconnected from a work context”. (Gartner: Agenda Overview for Social Agenda Overview for Social Software and Collaboration 254692) This tends to lead to unintended misuse and business goals will most likely be unattainable due to the separation from the users work environment. Usage will also mimic that of a more personal nature and will not generate the business value in using it.

Tip: Keep it simple. This can’t be stressed enough. Start with the very basics, such as newsfeeds within communities, project sites and team sites that help facilitate communication and knowledge sharing. If your users are suffering from ‘feature fatigue’, re-evaluate, by gathering feedback from users, functionality validation and then removal. I like to call this functional reduction. Remove what is distracting so users can focus on the key tools.

Little identification of use cases 

Many enterprise social solutions are purchased and implemented without clearly identifying the business issues that the product should solve. Instead, there is a growing trend to procure social technologies, well, because it’s social!

We then try and push social technologies into business processes that actually might not benefit from it at all. It kind of reminds me of when I was in kindergarten trying to bang a triangle shape into a square hole. After enough forcing, I got it in there!

Purchasing a solution without identifying and validating the mid to low level problems or processes for which it would support, might be a little too keen at first. If your users don’t see how it supports their tasks, usage will continue to drop off.

Tip: Weave the technology into the business processes. Integration is key here. Create a set of use cases that can be reused across different communities and sites. Then create uses cases to support specific existing business processes for teams and departments. These use cases can also be used as part of the training and change management stages of your implementation.

Part 2 coming soon….


Posted by: Peter Cooke, Team Leader, Portals & Productivity Solutions Office365 | 24 March 2015


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