A great deal of attention in enterprise social networking has gone into ‘driving adoption’. A focus on adoption can distract organisations from the real challenge of any business activity, creating value in fulfilment of the organisation’s strategy.
Adoption is an intermediate goal
Adoption is a means to an end. Adoption is a tool of value creation. It is not the result. The desired outcome is the value created by an engaged community that allows for the fulfilment of a strategic goal through outcomes like better alignment, innovation, adaptation, better customer & community focus, greater agility or improved efficiency.
The desire to move beyond adoption is growing. Luis Suarez recently argued that the language of driving adoption is missing the mark. Joachim Stroh has also highlighted ways in which we need to move beyond traditional adoption.
The logical next step from adoption is the end goal of work. Business and people work to create value in line with a strategy. We need our use of enterprise social networking to create value for each users and for the business as a whole.
Adoption as a goal alone can lead us astray
Our focus on adoption is often reflected with concerns from our traditional hierarchical ways of working. For example I have been asked the following questions about adoption that indicate something is going astray:
- If we don’t have universal adoption, how will people get our messages?: If you are focused on one-way communication, there’s a good chance they don’t listen to your messages already.
- Can’t we just mandate adoption? You can, but it rarely works to create an engaged & valuable community. Incentives may be a transitional tool to help people engage with the solution but take care that they don’t make participation an end in itself.
- Won’t our people resist adopting this new solution? If the solution offers no value or is seen as a distraction from real work, they should resist. If it creates value for users and they see its value to the organisational strategy then this is an issue that we will overcome.
- What’s the right number of users to adopt a social network? There is no magic number. The right answer is enough of the organisation to create enough valuable conversations for users and the organisation. That can be a surprisingly small percentage of the organisation, provided they are well connected into the larger organisation.
- We have lots of users. Nobody knows what to use it for. What do we do now? You have users but it is likely you don’t have a community that understands how to do things together to create value for your strategy.
Most importantly of all, enterprise social networks are infrastructure, not tools. Employees need to make sense of a new enterprise social network and integrate it into their work. There is no pre-ordained usage that people can adopt like many other technology systems. Adopting a network as another conversation tool may be interesting but rapidly loses relevance in a busy workplace with many high volume channels for communication. The best guide to employees is to direct their sense-making into how it will create value for their work and strategic value for the organisation.
Often adoption drives demand a lot of overhead and effort. They are pushing something into a community. Where this effort goes to creating niche use cases with easy adoption, selling a uniqueness event in an enterprise social network or investing all the time in unusual campaign activities it can backfire. Employees who come to think of the enterprise social network as being used only for a special activities may not consider the opportunities for every day value creation. In these networks, there is a dramatic difference in utilisation between when adoption is being driven and every day use limiting the potential of the platform. Use caution that your efforts to drive use reinforce the connection to value in daily work and strategy.
Importantly adoption is rarely a goal that makes sense to the managers and leaders whose support is needed to foster a collaborative culture and role model usage. Conversations advocating adoption of social collaboration and other future of work practices can seem abstract and a side issue to the work of the organisation to many managers. Managers are looking for how enterprise social networks contribute to value creation.
Personal and Strategic Value
Value is different for every organisation as organisation’s purpose, strategies and goals differ. Value need not be a hard dollar return on investment. ROI can rarely be calculated in the abstract for infrastructure. From an organisation’s perspective defining a contribution to a strategic goal is often more effective.
Value is different for each individual depending on their goals, their role, their work preferences and their needs. Individuals will need to change their work practices in ways that make sense to them. Role modelling and storytelling will assist this journey but they will make their own sense of value.
There are 5 key elements of the work to moving the focus of enterprise social networking to value creation:
- Create Strategic Alignment: Make explicit the connection between social collaboration and the strategic goals of the organisation. At a minimum, these conversations will educate your employees on the purpose, strategy and goals.
- Guide Personal Value Creation: Guide employees to understand how the enterprise social network creates value in their work. In my work with organisations, I use a Value Maturity Methodology based on users maturity through 4 stages Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate.
- Experiment & Learn: Create an environment for employees and the organisation where the enterprise social network fosters experimentation to create new forms of value in work. Encourage sharing and solving challenges.
- Foster A Learning Community: An engaged and aligned community of employees working together for business goals is the greatest opportunity for value creation in organisations. Focus on how community accelerates value creation and the key roles required in any community. Understanding the roles of champions and leaders is critical.
- Discuss Value Creation: Social networking accelerates double loop learning. Discuss value creation in the network as the work conversations occur. Celebrate lessons and successes. Back innovations with corporate muscle. Use these new learning conversation to foster alignment with strategic goals and encourage people to find new personal value.
If you would like to create greater value in your enterprise social network or discuss how the Value Maturity Model applies to assist your organisation to create strategic value, please get in contact. I am available through @simongterry or Linkedin or www.simonterry.com