Social business has the potential to overwhelm for one main reason – people are too quick to want to do everything at once. We want blogs, tweets, profiles, RSS feeds, wikis all live next week. The problem with that strategy is that a) you’re not solving anyone’s problem, and b) you’re not going to win over anyone who isn’t already a believer. This brings us to the two key points in this article: start small to solve problems and build trust.
Solve small and real problems
This may seem like an obvious point, but I’ve been through two “implementations” where that’s not the case. While my organization’s IT team tried to roll out an all-encompassing “intranet”, there were 3-4 different units running rogue with a mix of Google Apps, Box.net, Yammer, and more. The Intranet initiative failed and the IT team went back to the drawing board, this time enlisting the help of Human Resources as a business partner. This is a common problem, emphasized by the staggering fact that 80% of workers across all industries rely on a unsanctioned software or cloud service to complete their work. Whenever you hear “roll out”, it’s likely too late.
Here are some guideline for starting small:
- Ask what your team is having difficulty with. In other words, listen first – you’re going to identify some trends, and can pick out a project that you see has a real need and value-add in terms of core business outcomes like time-to-delivery (e.g. efficiency) and data accuracy and accountability.
- Ask questions to pin-point the precise problem and related expected outcomes. Without an outcome you have no proof of concept, no matter how pretty your tool looks. It’s much easier to have an outcome when you have a precise problem. For example, at my organization, we had a case where our public affairs team had to update one metric in four different places three times a year. Senior leaders were consistently using the wrong data points. It wasn’t their fault – they were set up for failure. The outcome was clear: consistent data needing less work.
- Look for win-win solutions. We came up with a solution based on a shared spreadsheet and a wiki where all those leaders and their staff could turn to get the most up-to-date data. It required a little more work up front, but greatly reduced redundant work later and met the desired outcomes while opening the door for further collaboration. No more version control. Win-win.
- Seek conversions, not evangelists. Said another way, focus your efforts on winning people over by solving their problems and letting them speak on your behalf. You should never need to preach to the choir, and when you do, you’re wasting your time.