Friday, June 26, 2009

The secret sauce to successful Enterprise 2.0 adoption



A lot has been said and written about adoption of Enterprise 2.0 lately, much of it coming from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston that took place this week. I did not have the priviledge to attend, but thanks to all those bloggers and tweeters who attended - I give a special thanks to Bill Ives for his excellent notes - I feel that I got some insight into it without being there in person. Although a lot of focus seem to have been on tools and technologies, I am glad that the adoption issues was brought to surface. We need to do that if Enterprise 2.0 is to reach a tipping point and take off. Here are some thoughs and experiences on Enterprise 2.0 adoption:

While selecting the right tools for the job can certainly prove a barrier to adoption for some organizations, even after they select the right tools they are always faced with the more formidable barrier to adoption - one based on social, cultural and business process issues. How to let people organize themselves in those environments? How to integrate the use of the tools with various business processes and in some cases allow those business processes to transform themselves? How to let go of control and allow some form of self-organization? How to reconcile existing workplace policies with those new virtual environments?

I attended the Mike Gotta session on Enterprise Social Networking at the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference. I have been following Mike’s Collaborative Thinking blog for some time as I was pleased to be able to see him in person for the first time to hear him talk about adoption issues.

Mike made a good point up front. It is all abut adoption not deployment. Major findings include the fact that everyone thought they were behind, even if they were not. Everyone is at the starting point. Few organizations have made a organization-wide decision on social networking. They are still trying to figure it out. Even organizations that have a strategic vision are in the proof-of concept stage. It is not about the tools that is the critical factors. It is overcoming the cultural issues. Social networks do enable more adaptive organizations. This make intuitive sense so it is nice to see some validation.

Shifting generations play several roles in adoption. Need to be able to appeal to all generations and allow for greater integration across generations. Older workers can be social networking leaders to share their expertise and provide status to them for retention. Also look for emerging experience that is developing in the younger workers. A culture of participation will identify good skills in ways that might not come out otherwise.

There is no clear answer as to whether you must change culture first before implementing social networks or you can use social networks to change culture. Regardless you must address the cultural issues in the implementation. Culture can trump almost everything. Trust is important here.
The three keys to adopting of community sites? Simplicity – Ease of use – Engagement.

Reach out to existing communities of interest to drive adoption – Harvard has a large number of craftspeople so reached out to them to seed the community. Who would have thought a Harvard University knitting group would replace physical meetups with virtual ones?

Pre determine community champions to answer the initial questions until critical mass is reached and the community self-perpetuates. Find the “cool people” and get their buy-in – that then creates the evangelists going forwards. Give away the ownership so that the community doesn’t hinge on only one person – avoid the “Steve Jobs Factor”.
At this week's Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, Lee Bryant of Headshift looked at the adoption challenges for 2.0 technologies in companies that have grown up around a centralized model of IT, particularly for the second wave adopters required to move Enterprise 2.0 into the mainstream within an organization. He points out that we can't afford the high-friction, high-cost model of deploying technology and processes, but need to rebalance the role of people within the enterprise.

...there's the issue of bringing these tools, techniques and methods to the people who don't normally use social networking for either business or pleasure.

Bryant showed some of the ways that they drive out behavioral use cases within organizations, match that to available social tools, then develop behavioral transition strategies that effectively "tricks" people into using these new tools in order to bridge the old methods and tools into the new. This is all about focusing on the tasks that people do and the things that they know, and providing some tweaks that get them doing things differently. For example:
  • For people who are addicted to email on their Blackberry, transition them to reading RSS feeds on the same platform (also within Outlook 2007): it looks similar, it provides a similar broadcast functionality, and lets them get away from filing and deleting the information.
  • Replace the phone book with a social network that provides the same information, and allows people to "friend" people who they contact frequently.
  • Get rid of the intranet, and create something that looks like your old intranet, but has edit buttons everywhere. In other words, turn your intranet into a wiki where anyone can update information if they have it. The information is more up-to-date and accurate, and gets people in the mode of being authors. It doesn't mean that you have to allow every page to be editable by everyone, as Razorfish did, but can provide a more controlled environment that allows people to edit their team's areas.
  • Create a place for employees to share and rate ideas, sort of like a suggestion box with voting.
  • Organize information in new and interesting ways, such as providing a social bookmarking tool to allow people to add tags to documents within their enterprise content management system in order to improve findability and indicate interest in documents. This can be used just to allow people to "organize their stuff", or can be used in the case of an upcoming platform migration, where people can tag documents that should be migrated to a new ECM platform.
The thing to note about all of these ideas is that they are focused on things that people were already doing, and just tweaking the methods that they use to do them. That makes it a lot less threatening, and therefore much more likely to be adopted.

Dion then switched to best practices. Successful adoption strategies include: gain and enlist top down support, overcome turf issues in advance, align applications to key business processes, align enterprise 2.0 strategy to business strategy, develop a clear simple business case, provide strong leadership, design measure aligned to business processes. I could not agree more. These were also all the key adoption strategies for knowledge management in the early 90s. This does not take away from them. I think it just reinforces them. Dion said these factors came from actual case studies.

He added more adoption strategies: listen to users, simplify the access and production of knowledge, develop a clear communication plan to promote the effort, involve all key stakeholers (but go slow on this), integrate all forms of communication, develop a clear motivation plan. Again these are all best practices from knowledge management in the early 90 but I see this as a further validation. I found that legal often got overlooked and this can come back to bite you so do not leave them out.
"Adoption: The Yellow Brick Road of Enterprise 2.0" by Yuri Alkin:
Until now internal adoption of enterprise software followed one of the two simple models:
  1. Users have no choice (desktop OS, e-mail, payroll, etc)
  2. Users benefit from software regardless of its adoption by others (file sharing, internal portals, etc)
In the first case you get a speedy (though not always cheerful) 100% adoption, in the second case as long as the tool provides value, a simple awareness campaign leads to steady adoption growth. In contrast, adoption of social software happens in a dramatically different environment: typically users do have a choice, and the value they get out of the software depends on how many other people use it. While different social tools require different levels of adoption to become useful (Hutch Carpenter has a great post on this), they all need some critical mass of users – and for some tools that mass is rather significant.

Here are some core principles that in my opinion seriously help with adoption of majority of social software.
  • Know who your users are, what they need, and which of their pain points you can address with your solution.
  • Plan and execute on your adoption strategy – broad adoption very rarely happens on its own
  • Run pilots and early adopter programs, targeting people who really care about the problem space. They may be harsh in their criticism, but their feedback is invaluable, and once you get them on board they become your most active promoters.
  • Build and nurture an active community around the system you introduce.
  • Define a clear set of metrics and track them meticulously all the time.
  • Expose your new solution in the contexts where your users currently operate. New shiny destinations can be tempting, but users don’t have time to go too often out of the tools they live in.
  • Identify the most successful customers and give them stage to tell their story to others.
  • Show the way for your users. The benefits of a new system are much better understood when someone articulates them for you.
  • Walk the talk, i.e. use your solution every day to do some (better yet, a lot of) real work – you’d be surprised how much you learn when your own deliverables depend on the system you thought was perfect for others.
  • Be flexible and adjust as you go, based on the trends you observe and user feedback you receive.