In almost every company, Social Business or Social Collaboration was brought into the enterprise through the IT department. Since IT is seen as an operating function or worse a utility, all new technologies must undergo financial scrutiny to ensure there is a Return on Investment for the efforts. For early Social practitioner such as myself, we were forced to tell a story how Social could provide productivity gains or some other cost cutting effort in order to get business case approvals and have a chance to sell the organizational strategy CxO and various leadership teams.
Thankfully, that has now changed to some degree. With all the press coverage and analysts coverage on the anticipated and recognized value of Social Media inside and outside the enterprise, perceptions for financial ROI as the sole benefit for deploying Social Business programs have slowly evolved. The leadership in many companies are more willing to invest in Social Software and Social Programs without that explicit ROI. However Social Software and Social programs have still not penetrated enterprises like many thought would happen by this time.
I think part of that is due to the IT organization leading the charge, and thus Social is thought of as another tool in the arsenal of which too many tools already exists. IT is infamous for solving problems with tools, and not solutions. That argument however is for another post.
In my opinion Social Software Vendors have NOT introduced holistic solution to the enterprise which makes it SIMPLE to collaborate across the entire organization or within smaller groups. Nor have they focused the efforts of the “Me”.
The “Me” is to tailor the Social Platform solution to really make it easy and simple to reach out to “You”, to then expand that to the “We”, and maybe to all of “Us” in terms of providing an easy way to collaborate from the one to the many inside and outside the enterprise.
For a Social Business it all starts with the “Me”
As I have built Social Business Programs, the repeatable observation is that the individual begins the process:
of working out loud..
I look at this as the “ME”-“YOU”-“WE”-“US” effect Social has in the human process of building and cultivating relationships.
As the individual cannot accomplish much on their own, the “Me” expands to include “You”, helping to build those connections, those emotional ties to the co-worker. As I build the relationship with another individual, I start to share ideas, opinions are formed, reformed, and if the relationship flourishes, trust begins to grow. This can be multiplied over and over throughout many areas of the organization as I build out my network.
The next level expands to include “We”, those of us in the team, or department, or business unit or function. Our building of trust is the key in establishing relationships which become the foundation of a Social Business. Expanding my network to include new persons to which I must build relationships to get work done. I look to form close working ties in order to accomplish tasks, but still want to build trusting bonds to be able to share my ideas, to inform, teach, learn, and hopefully improve myself and my stature in the organization.
In the “We” stage, leadership is absolutely critical to set the tone for how employees can work together, and how a positive culture is cultivated that rewards sharing, learning, teaching, mentoring and overall acceptance of new ideas.
The co-creation for the “Us” can occur across the enterprise when individual stakeholders feel a level of comfort in espousing their opinions, facts, and points-of-view to internal and external stakeholders. The “Us” looks to build a culture that exhibits rapid and accurate decision-making processes, while leveraging the collective energy and efforts of the organization. Be creating these feedback channels can then be inserted into the co-creation process, this reinforces the “Me” to continually look to improve my value to the company knowing my efforts to improve myself, my peers, and my organization are not going to result in negative reactions and pressures from peers and leadership.
Social is not SIMPLE
In the early days we had several niche vendors selling the concepts of Social Software. Emergent software and technologies that paved the way to building the more well-known vendors we have today; Yammer, Salesforce, Jive, SocialCast, IBM, etc. These vendors have taken the software model to an introductory level and have all done a good job of promoting the ideas that Social Software could provide. We now see the consolidation of social platform vendors being gobbled up by bigger fish to empower their own offerings as the Social Software space matures. These vendors as I said did a good job, but something is still missing. Vendors have been building software, but what they need to build are “Solutions” that provide a simple method to co-create !
Recall how we heard all this talk on how email was going away. How a few companies banned email, how social was better than email (it is!), or how email really depressed the collaboration energies inside companies (it can)… But no one addressed the obvious…email is easy. Email is a tool that you know exactly what you can do and expect from its use. The fact is Email just works!
So why have the masses not moved on from using email?
Because being Social is NOT SIMPLE!
The sheer amount of social software from vendors is pretty extensive, but the overall ease of which a single employee can simply extract value from socially collaborating with others is still challenging. This can attributed to the lack of standards in how Social Software works, and NOT enough focus on the Social Program’s Solutionin terms of impacting the set of processes necessary to produce collaborative relationships.
Where is the concept of integrating the elements of social into the day-in-the-life processes for the sole worker to solve a problem, aka Social Program Solution? Really focusing on how workers completed tasks, collaborated, shared information in a very simple descriptive way will be the way to bring wide scale adoption and profound use of these Social Programs.
I think there is a lack of focus on solving the physical and mental efforts required by individuals to change the way they work. Social Software vendors have missed out on this, but hopefully, vendors are going to be quick to catch-up. They need to make things SIMPLE.
“Social platforms need to be fully integrated into the employees processes to provide less effort in being collaborative.”
How Social is not SIMPLE today
So this has employees asking…
”What is the deal?” …..”I thought Social technology/platforms was to solve all this finding stuff, being able to reach out to people stuff and make my life easier…?”
“This Is So Frustrating…Better to just send the email in the first place, or maybe just call them on the phone, assuming they answer…Why does IT keep sticking tools out there that don’t work like I need them to?”
So again I have to ask in looking at the above real world scenarios, where is having and using Social Software making anything really that much easier?
From my point of view, email is still the best, fastest, and most secure method to collaborate, even if it has many limitations.
Now don’t just think putting some email plugin is the answer. I think the ability to be “Social”, sharing information, content, whatever you want to share, comment, post needs to be available from any application, any browser session, anyplace, on any device. For Social to become part of the DNA of the corporate worker, Social needs to be easy, needs to be simple, have almost no boundaries. Long term changes in behaviors are often accelerated from the path of least resistence…although reward and recognition are just as important.
Making it SIMPLE for “Me”
The time has come for Social Software Vendors to rethink their strategy to make the Social platforms SIMPLE and easy to use, and focusing that simplification for “Me”. Speaking to employees, they continually are frustrated as the communication on how this new way to collaborate would improve their work lives, increase their ability to participate with new ideas, and help the company. After a short time however, the shine is replaced with tarnish as the reality sinks in that this new way to work increases their efforts, can be confusing, and in the end really changes little across the organization.