Enterprise Social Governance: Who Owns What and Why

Blog post published to tibbr blog.  Slides on SlideShare.

For large companies, a well-defined governance framework is critical for scaling and sustaining social networking participation across the enterprise.  Adoption of social networking software remains an industry challenge and the general lack of leadership remains one of the largest culprits.  Social networking depends on a critical mass of participants (people) who are connected by a common purpose or interest that drives sharing behaviors.  The purpose of a social networking governance framework is to define this common purpose and set of goals to guide the entire business on how to leverage this new software for positive business outcomes.  Otherwise, people will use social networking as they see fit, mostly for their own individual or departmental gain, which will ultimately inhibit any social business initiative that provides any real, business value.

In the case of social networking, governance is less about control than it is about guidance and leadership.  A command and control approach to governance will backfire with social networking because it does not promote an environment built on trust.  A culture of trust is a critical success factor for social networking because it relies on employees taking initiative to volunteer information about themselves and their work which they will not do if they do not trust how this information will be used.  A clear understanding of rules of the game fosters trust.  That is why a governance framework that establishes a common interest for sharing information with coworkers is essential.

This presentation describes the best practice approach to enterprise social governance as well as the key roles and responsibilities to support a successful social software deployment.


It Takes Two: The Case for IT and Business Involvement in Social Software Rollout

This blog post was also published on the tibbr blog.

Social software has been around for many years, but we’re still at the beginning of social software use in business. In fact, Forrester Research reports only 12% adoption of enterprise social tools among nearly 5,000 US information workers surveyed last year. I argue this lack of adoption is due to not having the right stakeholders involved in the process of buying, planning and rolling out the software.

I am observing two dead-end scenarios with how social software is being rolled out to an organization. I see issues when business end users take the initiative to buy and use a new shiny social tool without the involvement and endorsement of IT.  In this scenario, IT does not trust the security of the software and ultimately shuts it down. I also see issues when IT is purchasing social software based on a laundry list of features without involving input from business end users.  In this situation, IT buys a software platform with so many bells and whistles that business users lose productivity in trying to figure out how to use it for work and ultimately leave it alone.

This is why it takes two – both IT and business working in tandem to plan and design a successful social software rollout.

Enterprise rollouts require IT involvement to ensure performance, data security, global access and interoperability with other legacy systems.  In this way, IT builds the foundation for social software solutions to scale across the business.  Because social software is only as good as it is used, enterprise rollouts also require input and involvement from business-end users. They paint the picture of how social software can be used to share knowledge and collaborate at work.  A critical piece of launching social software is to have a core team of people who are natural communicators and produce lots of content that will help seed conversation.  That’s why I like to engage with Corporate Communications and/or Marketing from the business side.

At tibbr, we’re big believers that social software has to fit within the natural flow of work. This requires an understanding of how business end users actually work (information best obtained by them directly) as well a method for interaction between social software and the other critical business systems workers use to get their work done.  Social software is both a business and technology decision and needs a champion from both IT and business to ensure successful implementation.

Designing for Decisions in Social Business

“What separates a good design from a bad design are the decisions that the designer made.” Jared M. Spool, Anatomy of a Design Decision.

During his SXSW Interactive presentation, Jared Spool entertained with audience with classic examples of web design fail. The audience enjoyed a good laugh in judging poor web design examples based on the final product. But after the ice breaker, Spool challenged the audience to think about all of the decisions a designer made that led to that final design style. The most insightful part of the presentation was Spool’s reference to his research at User Interface Engineering about what separates successful from unsuccessful companies as it relates to designing user experiences. Spool entered the research project with the hypothesis that successful companies would have the best design methodologies. He left the research project with vastly different findings. The results showed that the most successful companies actually lacked methodology while the ‘struggling’ companies were the ones trying to put methodologies in place.

Spool rationalized the results stating that methodology is a systematic, repeatable approach to a process based on following specific set of rules. He found that design rules did not work for designers. According to Spool, rule-based decisions prevent thinking. With rules, designers appeared to fall apart when faced with an exception. Designers of the successful companies were on the opposite side of the spectrum (shown below) in that they relied on tricks and techniques. In the case of successful companies, designers were left to their own devices to make informed decisions rather than follow hard and fast rules.

Source: Jared Spool, Anatomy of a Design Decision, SXSWi 2011 featured speaker presentation. Posted on Twitter by @kennethkunz from Yfrog.

Spool’s dissection of design decisions applies to what we refer to at Dachis Group as social business design. Successful companies trust and empower all employees to make informed decisions, not force them to follow strict, top-down methodology and dogma. Dave Gray’s The Connected Company blog post points to research supporting this concept.

“It’s not about design for control so much as design for emergence. You can’t control a complex system, but you can manage its growth, and there are a lot of things you can do that will position it for success…Design by connection is not a top-down activity so much as bottom-up. Complex systems just don’t work that way. In a complex system, you need to pay attention to small things and make little adjustments along the way.” Dave Gray, The Connected Company, 2011.

During our recent Social Business Summit, John Hagel explained how the problem businesses face in today’s information age is that current knowledge is diminishing in value at an accelerating pace. Knowledge workers need to constantly refresh knowledge stocks. Businesses can no longer rely on competing with one piece of proprietary knowledge. Businesses must participate in a larger marketplace of information exchange to maintain a competitive edge.

According to Hagel, the key to a successful business is “small moves, smartly done” that lead to a cascade of change. If we apply Spool’s teachings, we discover that each of these small moves are a result of many smaller decisions. The insight that emerges is the most seemingly unimportant decisions lead to small moves that combined over time have a huge impact (good or bad) on business. So I’ll make a leap in making the following statement:

What separates a successful business from an unsuccessful business is how it supports the millions of decisions its employees make.

There’s compelling evidence for companies to trust employees’ workarounds on established methodologies to solve business problems.  If you don’t trust your employees to make informed decisions, you need to look more closely at your hiring practices and training programs.  Trusting, supporting and empowering employees to make their own informed decisions is the most powerful way for the enterprise to scale operations and allow for the flexibility and innovation required to be competitive. Design for open business cultures, ones that are networked to support the sharing of employee expertise and learned techniques at scale.

Operational Barriers to SocialBiz Success

I hosted a webinar for Awareness, Inc. back in December 2009 about operational barriers to social business success.  Christine Major provides a great summary on her blog that includes the Twitter stream of commentary.

I began the webinar by characterizing social business.

Characteristics of Social Business

  1. People-centric (employees, customers, business partners)
  2. Transparent processes
  3. Culture of trust
  4. Egalitarian (everyone participates and has a voice)
  5. Self-organizing networks
  6. Two-way, unstructured information exchange
  7. Events are orchestrated, not controlled

What I found in my research at IDC is that many large organizations maintain a hierarchical, command and control management model that is at direct odds with social business.  Traditional corporate culture often supports business operations that act as barriers to social business transformation.  These internal barriers are what many businesses will have to overcome in order to realize the full potential of participating in social media.  (Full webinar recording below)

Ten Operational Barriers to Social Business

  1. Organizational silos
  2. Command and control management
  3. Top-down, one-way communication channels
  4. Social activities not integrated into work flow
  5. Employees measured on individual performance
  6. Competitive culture
  7. No guidelines or training for social media
  8. No methods for measuring social value
  9. No executive sponsor for social initiatives
  10. No role models for social media initiatives (peers with experience and expertise)

Here is the full webinar posted by Awareness, Inc.  Thanks @cmajor and @bostonmike.

I’d like your feedback.
Did I miss anything?
I’d also like to hear from you about the biggest challenge your business is facing today with social initiatives.

Playing A Role in Social Business Transformation

The entrance of social media into the workplace fascinates me.  The idea that people – their personality, opinions, and casual conversations – provide tremendous value to business seems foreign to the traditional, command and control corporate world.  Social media puts a spotlight on how antisocial businesses have become.  Over the past few years many businesses have neglected to nurture relationships with constituents – employees, customers, business partners, investors.  The current Social CRM rage humors me because business has always been about relationships.  It took a deep recession to remind us that we need to be listening and communicating with customers regularly in order to retain them.  I predict once the job market improves, this realization to take care of your people will shift to employees.

Today, the market remains focused on specific social destinations (e.g., Twitter, Facebook).  However, the opportunity for social software in the workplace runs deeper than destination sites where marketers run campaigns.  Social media introduces new behaviors, and with that expectations, for communication both inside and outside the firewall.  Social business transformation is applying the principles of social media – transparency, trust, empowerment – to the workplace.  Social business doesn’t stop with a Facebook page and Twitter handle (read my former colleague Mike Fauscette’s blog about Comcast for an illustration of my point).  I believe a tremendous amount of work lies ahead for companies to undergo social business transformation.  My experience as a research analyst covering social software at IDC peaked my fascination with how social business transformation would play out.  Are  companies able and willing to undergo the structural and cultural change required to engage and respond in realtime with customers on the Web?  Forecasting market trends at IDC, I developed a strong desire to work more closely with practitioners and play a more direct role in helping businesses conquer these new challenges.  Hence, I have decided to pursue an opportunity as a consultant with Dachis Group which will provide me with intense experience helping companies redesign to be social businesses.  I’ll be blogging about my observations from these experiences on the Dachis Group Collaboratory.