For Enterprise Social Networks, how much adoption is enough?

Originally posted on the Yammer Blog, I wanted to share here for people that might not follow that blog.

In traditional enterprise change initiatives, you tend to start with a defined set business requirements to address a given problem or opportunity. Socially-driven enterprise change, however, is different because parts of the organization are already changing prior to full articulation of a problem or solution. Companies find their employees using social technologies without any formal support within the organization. People are finding value, but may not be focused on quantifying that value into a business case that can be used to support the effort.

Once a company finds itself in the midst of groundswell of social adoption, it needs to determine how to effectively integrate it into its culture and operations.  And a key consideration is; “How pervasive must adoption be?”  To determine the answer, the organization must understand the scope of the solution:  is it a global one or targeted to a specific department?  We can then start to map the population to the AdoptionCurve to best predict when users will start using the solution.

Effort/Cost of Adoption

If we look at the effort it takes to achieve widespread adoption in a large enterprise, the further you get along the curve, the more effort (and cost) is needed to get people on board. This typically means engaging smaller groups that may have very specific individual reasons for not adopting social, and may require things such as small team meetings, printed collateral, travel and other off-line channels. At the extreme, this may include classes and/or mentoring programs to help people get up to speed.

The ROI of Adoption

As we start to examine the ROI of social inside an organization, we must start with the value and then subtract out any cost to achieve this value. The further along in the adoption curve the higher the cost of getting people on board. This increased effort has an impact on your ROI and can significantly decrease the ROI without significant gain in adoption.   (Note: This assumes that each individual contributor provides potentially equal value). The actual value to the organization can only be answered if you determine where your stakeholders and use cases fall on the adoption curve. This can be achieved by performing a Stakeholder Analysis to determine where the various stakeholders fit along the adoption curve and the potential value each represents. For example, Sales may be late adopters because they are too busy focusing on customers to experiment with new tools and processes but may offer great value by shortening the sales cycle.

When to stop?

Knowing when to stop focusing on adoption is difficult, but I would offer that once you reach the point where the costs are starting to impact the ROI in a negative way, that you should give up on adoption and focus your efforts elsewhere. In an average large organization getting 100% adoption is very unrealistic. Usually complete adoption falls in the 60-70% range due to many factors.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are reducing the value that your solution provides, but instead that you are reducing the cost component of the ROI equation, leading to higher efficiency. This is something IT has been doing for years.

What about the rest?

Focusing on getting the Late Majority and Laggards to adopt social technologies may not be your best use of effort initially, but eventually they may become participating members of your network. Keep focusing on the people who drive value out of the solution and the others will eventually catch on (or not). It is through recognizing the success that the solution creates, that the others will participate. Even with that being said, there is a small fraction of your employee base that will never use a solution. Their reasons in many cases are valid. I would encourage you to try to understand why people don’t want to use the solution, but not put a lot of effort into trying to change their minds.

Where to focus?

Knowing where you effort can be best realized is a challenge as it may be different for every company, but in general, you should look to areas where you can increase the value with the least amount of effort.

One area would be to help to ensure the people who are using the solution are leveraging it to the maximum. I cannot begin to tell you how often I see solutions (both social and non-social) implemented where people are only using 10-15% of the capability. When I asked to better understand their jobs, I often come across many more ways they could realize value, but they seemed to lack the understanding of how they could do this. A good way to do this may be through a capability blog, where you take one capability and demonstrate how it works and how people are using it to make their jobs easier.

Another area of focus could be around bringing new employees on board. Since these individuals are new, they are much more likely to adopt something new and can be brought up to speed using these new methods of getting their jobs done faster and better. One thing to keep in mind is that as a community matures, the rules of engagement for new users will also change; you should be periodically checking to ensure that the new user experience remains easy.

Conclusion

While there are no hard and fast rules for determining when to shift your focus, by understanding where your key stakeholders fall on the adoption curve, you can better understand the timing. The cost of adoption will eventually cut into your ROI — this realization should drive your actions. By continuing to share the success that your adopters are realizing inside the organization, you will eventually draw the others in. Behavior change always takes a long time; it is always best to be patient and focus on activities where you can have greater impact.

Ok, I’m convinced it’s ‘Enterprise 2.0’

One of the most powerful things I experience in my life is talking to someone about something that I have a strong opinion about, and walking away from the conversation realizing that I had it wrong. Usually the reason is a small nuance that I overlooked.

Yesterday was one of those days. I had the pleasure to meet Steve Wylie for coffee and to catch up. We somehow got on the topic of the debate between Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business. Steve made one statement, “the debate hurts everyone.” What I walked away made me think. It was powerful.

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What’s wrong with being “Social” at work anyway?

Social may be a 4 letter word in some companies, but I have to wonder why? Social is nothing new to enterprises, the only thing is we are now labeling it.

In the “Old Days”, companies encouraged their workers to socialize and party together. Sometimes even going so far to build communities for their workers to live in. Why did they do this? For the company of course. The feeling was that this interaction made people work better together producing more, generating more profit, building loyalty.

A more recent trend was to replace offices with cubes. While some would state that the purpose was to reduce cost of  real estate, others suggest that this was done to encourage casual knowledge exchange. While I personally didn’t like the distractions of a cube, the things I heard over cube walls helped me on many occasions.

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Analytics Gap: The Enterprise 2.0 Evangelist’s missing feature

Tap Dancing WeekendThere is not a day that goes by that I am not asked “Why is social computing important to the business?

Then it’s time to break out the tap shoes and start the dance about breaking down silos, and improving productivity, morale, etc. What I wish I had was great analytics that would let me extrapolate data, mashup with the corporate directory and be able to make a core set of dashboards. These dashboard need to be exposed to my users so that they can see overall why these platforms are important, and help understand their own personal success with them. They also need to be available to my management to reassure them that the money and effort that people are spending being “social” are indeed providing value. Yet I find most vendors are wrapped around new features that the competition has or a trend that is emerging from social platforms like Facebook and twitter, and analytics often get left behind like a forgotten step-child.

Let’s look at a few examples:

How many active contributors are from Country X?

How has use of platform y impacted our e-mail usage?

How is this platform breaking down silos?

How many people use this platform regularly?

Enter in the new licensing 2.0 model: the “subscription” model. Many of the Enterprise 2.0 vendors are  looking to execute what seems to have been Bill Gates’s Shargri La; to guarantee a revenue stream by making their customers rent their software instead of actually owning it. While I have many issues with this model (and enough for a separate blog post), they’re mostly quelled providing that I can easily quantify the value on a continuous basis, I still don’t have tools to do that. Even worse, These 2.0 vendors want me to pay extra for these features that help their value proposition.

Is it all bad? No, analytics are getting better, but not at the rate that I would hope. Help us all by telling our vendors just how valuable it is to have these complete and robust capabilities as a core feature in their tools to show our management why these Enterprise 2.0 tools deserve a place in our organization.