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.

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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.

Finding Your Social Center

Finding balance is one of the first lessons for a dancer.  As someone who is compelled to move, I remember resisting the commands of my ballet teacher to stand still in one place and focus on core muscles that I was told would improve my balance.  The instructor would remind us to locate and engage our core muscles to maintain a strong center (related to center of gravity concept).  As I matured (and completed a high school physics class), I appreciated this lesson so much more. With a strong center, I realized that I could push my movements outside of my comfort zone.  I could move my arms and legs wildly without falling flat on my face as long as my extremities were connected to a solid center.

The concept of a strong center has interesting applications outside of dance.  A strong center maintains connectedness across disparate parts.  Dachis Group has observed one of the major frustrations of large companies is the fragmented state of social – each department going out on its own, developing different social tactics, using different social technologies – all guided by different principles and no common strategy.  Each department is like arms and legs moving wildly out of sync in different directions.  This decentralized structure lacks the important connections between systems that leads to an intelligent network.  At some point, the stress and strain of uncoordinated social systems will cause the organization to flail – like a dancer attempting multiple turns without ensuring arms and legs are aligned and coordinated with the central body.

At first it may seem to go against everything social represents to centralize social.  The power of social is in the ability to scale the sharing of information without anyone owning or controlling it.  What I have learned in my work with clients is that centralizing corporate social strategy, policy and training does not mean social is owned or controlled.  Instead, centralizing governance means creating a solid command center to lead the organization and help connect the dots.  The edge of the organization can therefore operate with autonomy but still maintain connection and coordination with other parts.  Otherwise, the brand is at-risk for social chaos:

  • social intelligence is siloed which prevents a centralized view of the customer (internal)
  • fragmented experiences and mixed messaging confuses and frustrates customers (external)

While the goal of social business is to distribute social responsibility for scale, the organization starts to flail if it doesn’t operate from a strong center.  This social center, also known as the social business center of excellence (SBCE), is a cross-functional team that guides innovation, strategy, policy and training for the organization.   The SBCE consists of representatives from each department who come together to collaborate on corporate vision, strategy, policy and training so that ownership is shared and distributed across the organization, not owned or controlled by a particular department.

Below is a visual of how a social center governs while empowering the edge of the organization to take accountability and responsibility for executing.


So many of us are eager to dive into social tactics.  The forward motion of execution feels good.  Conducting an audit of properties and initiatives, answering the ‘why,’ establishing charters and policies feels like we’re standing still.  We resist standing still under the pressures from executives to move the needle and report the results.  But taking time to establish a strong center is what’s going to allow large companies to manage multiple moving parts in a way that provides more momentum and power to support the desired results.

Take a look at how your organization is structured for social business.  Do you have a social center guiding and coordinating the edge?

Connectedness and Customer Service

Earlier this month I took Gallup’s StrengthFinder 2.0 online assessment.  Connectedness emerged as one of my top five strengths.  Connectedness is the ability to see how people, things and ideas are linked to something larger.  Connectedness implies certain responsibilities – if we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves.

During the same week of learning this strength about myself, I discovered this strength in a total stranger.  She works as a shift supervisor at Starbucks in Austin, Texas (where Dachis Group headquarters is based).  Chances were greater that we would meet in-person during one of my 4pm coffee runs, but we met via Facebook first.

The notification arrived before I even realized my wallet was missing.  I had made a Starbucks run with a colleague earlier that afternoon and in the chaos of sugar, cream and conversation, I left my wallet at the store.  My wallet did not include any identification with a telephone number.  The Starbucks shift supervisor noticing the credit cards and cash (I had just recently visited the ATM), decided to immediately look me up and contact me via Facebook.  When I met her at the counter to retrieve my wallet she explained how she too had recently experienced the nightmare of losing her wallet.  We connected.

I doubt that Starbucks trains employees to service in-store customers this way on Facebook, but it is evident that making a commitment to increase points of connections with customers is a big part of the company’s culture.  Facebook enabled the shift supervisor to contact me when she had no other means than the mailing address on my license.  The shift supervisor could have kept the wallet until I connected the dots about what happened (which I could have, as it is a strength) and returned to the store.  Of course, that would most likely be proceeded by the anxious discovery that the wallet was missing at the moment I needed it and a frantic retracing of steps in my head of where I could I have left it.  The shift supervisor saved me this emotional energy by making the extra effort to search for me on Facebook and send me a message immediately.

So what does this really have to do with customer service?  It has everything to do with me – the customer.  I feel more connected to that particular Starbucks location and safe shopping there.  Although Starbucks coffee is available at the hotel where I typically stay in Austin, I made a mental note of wanting to give the shift supervisor at the other location where I left my wallet my business even if it means walking an extra street block. Someone there cared about me and I will reciprocate the service.

While this story has nothing to do with innovative social CRM strategy, it has everything to do with how a social savvy shift supervisor connected the dots and leveraged Facebook to send a high impact signal to a customer.  Of course, what the shift supervisor did was a no-brainer to her.  While social technology can automate and innovate many processes, I still believe it is the human behind the technology that makes best-in-class customer service. To that end, connectedness is a quality I would recommend Starbucks preserving and nurturing at the front lines.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe connectedness is an important quality for customer service?

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.