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Implementing Enterprise Social Collaboration

Social collaboration has become the underlying fabric of the modern digital workplace. Not surprising that every enterprise application has some sort of social capability – or integrates with third-party capabilities in some way, incorporating conversation into line-of-business applications and knowledge platform at every size and scope. The rise of social marks a shift in corporate culture around how we communicate. Enterprise social collaboration has the ability to bring people together to talk, share, and innovate. It’s the kind of end user engagement that organizations have been trying to encourage within their knowledge management and collaboration platforms for years. And as more end users become engaged, organizations are (finally) recognizing the value of their knowledge and collaboration management investments.

3 phases enterprise social collaboration
3 phases for implementing an enterprise social network

Deploying technology this powerful and far-reaching is never as simple as a weekend deployment. Enterprise social collaboration can require a fundamental change in organizational culture, and therefore it needs to be approached thoughtfully. The team here at Beezy has put together an eBook that outlines the three essential phases of implementing an enterprise social network within your organization, which should be essential reading for anyone embarking on their own social collaboration adventure.

You can download our guide here: 3 Phases of Implementing an Enterprise Social Network

Requirements Analysis

Requirements are the bane of every technology implementation. Organization rush through them, wanting to get started on using the technology, but often failing to adequately and accurately identify the scope of their business needs. As a result, they fail to deliver what users want AND what the business needs. Some companies are able to course-correct, but this often happens too late. Once you lose the trust of your end users, it can be difficult to get them back.

Rather than starting with pen-to-paper to attempt to document requirements, a good place to begin is by reviewing existing systems. Understand what is done today – through tools as well as manual processes – and what end users need to get their work done. Talk to your end users frequently (and repeatedly throughout the implementation), and record their input on what is working, and what is not working. Conduct one-on-one sessions, offer workshops with larger groups, and capture feedback through anonymous surveys to identify best practices – as well as functional gaps.

At the center of all of this dialog, be sure to constantly tie back what your end users want with the company objectives. Requirements analysis can be a fairly complex phase, but your successful alignment of business goals, measurable use cases, and key performance indicators are an important step to ensuring long-term success of your enterprise social network.

Connecting with Content

Social collaboration without context is just chat – and much of the context within enterprise social collaboration is centered around content. That means any new social implementation must take into consideration existing document repositories and collaboration tools.

Migrating from other systems, moving documents and critical metadata from file shares, and updating all of their user details can take time and budget. Because a successful ESN relies on its connections to your content, your plans must include careful consideration of how you move your content and whether that all-important context is maintained during and after the move.

Assessing the landscape – what tools you have, how people work today, end user expectations – is just another layer of your requirements analysis. Whether extending and enhancing existing platforms, such as SharePoint, or rolling out an entirely new solution, consider the technology, process, and cultural elements that exist today. You may be introducing new capabilities, but in all likelihood there are tools (approved or not) and processes which provide similar capability.

You may also need to integrate with sources of user data, such as Active Directory. New technology integrations and data migration can be a good time to clean up a lot of these areas, as well.

Adoption Strategy

No matter how intuitive you think the technology will be, you will need a formal adoption strategy. Beyond the initial training, your strategy can be a great way to improve collaboration and communication across the board – helping to instill healthy habits into the corporate culture.

Enterprise social collaboration provides an easy way for people to connect and share content and ideas, but like any enterprise technology, it requires an end user adoption strategy at the start – and an educational “nurturing” plan to ensure long-term success.

Continue the conversation with your end users to understand the best ways to keep them engaged. Provide multiple ways for them to provide input to the entire process, such as user forums, “Meet the Team” sessions with the people behind the scenes who build and support the platform, and provide regular “brown bag” and “show and tell” sessions to update everyone on new features, solutions to reported bugs, or to showcase specific user requests.

Enterprise social is all about the users – because if your end users are not onboard, your system will fail.

Enterprise social collaboration is all about the users
Enterprise social collaboration is all about the users

Going Forward

We truly have moved from the era of “systems of record” to the era of “systems of engagement” where our social interactions and conversation have become the backbone of our corporate knowledge. Social capabilities provide an interactive web between our disparate systems and tools, filling in the gaps between our many different workloads.

Of course, your implementation doesn’t stop with requirements, content migration, and adoption strategies. Every successful enterprise technology requires ongoing care and feeding. Successful organizations are those that provide strong, transparent change management processes, so that employees know where to go to provide feedback (online and offline) and to check the status and priority of feature requests. The more you involve people in the process, the more likely they will support the outcome of that process – whether or not they agree with your priorities.

Enterprise social collaboration is about flattening the organizational structure, democratizing business intelligence, and empowering people by giving them a voice beyond their daily responsibilities and job descriptions. Additionally, social collaboration – if properly deployed and administered — can drive greater business dexterity and responsiveness, resulting in greater productivity within your organization, improved business growth, and increased innovation. In short, the benefits are well worth the extra time it takes to properly plan for your enterprise social collaboration implementation.

For more information on how you can ensure the successful implementation of your own enterprise social network, be sure to download a copy of our eBook: 3 Phases of Implementing an Enterprise Social Network

Christian Buckley

Christian Buckley

Chief Marketing Officer for Beezy. Passionate about all things collaboration & social. Office365 MVP.