Five Factors That Influence Successful Corporate Adoption of Internal Social Media and Web 2.0 Initiatives
While tracking adoption of “web 2.0” applications such as internal blogs, wikis, and social book marking systems by large organizations, I’m seeing a couple of factors emerge that, anecdotally, appear to be associated with successful adoption.
First, social media initiatives must not be viewed as disruptive but as supportive. If they are viewed as threatening to existing management, they will be resisted. If they are viewed as supportive, they will be adopted — or at least not actively resisted. Being viewed as improving the efficiency of an existing business process will be seen as good. Being viewed as destroying that process will be seen as bad. The moral: focus on selling benefits related to improving existing processes, not on promoting radical changes to how the organization is managed.
Second, the IT department needs to be involved in the adoption process but does not necessarily have to lead the charge. In fact, a case can be made that adoption of collaborative content oriented technologies should be led by the business and not by IT, given the potential for business process change and improvement. Availability of social media technologies should be standard and universal throughout the organization. Pockets of incompatible technology should not be allowed to persist. One of the benefits of social networking and social media is making it possible to take advantage of and grow naturally occurring relationships. We would not purposely install two incompatible email systems, neither should we have incompatible blogging or bookmarking systems.
Third, technology promotion should be allowed to proceed organically through voluntary adoption by a small number of “seed” groups. Let individuals show others how things work, rather than having a massive top down corporate kickoff. Keep roll-out informal and focused on word of mouth. This does not mean that the organization should not have a comprehensive corporate strategy on how these technologies should be adopted. It does mean that this corporate strategy should neither be developed nor imposed in an authoritarian manner.
Fourth, it may not be wise to focus simultaneously on implementing internal and external social networking and social media. The processes and rules governing how internal blogs wikis, and bookmarking systems are implemented may not be the same as those that govern communications with members, customers, or vendors “outside the firewall.” At the same time, keep in mind the need to eventually manage networks and communities that cross the “firewall boundary,” a good case in point being working groups or committees managed by professional associations. Involvement of IT is critical in such situations given the importance of effective security and network administration.
Fifth, pay close attention to the relationship between social media and enterprise content management systems. This will be especially true for organizations that have existing document management or enterprise “search” technologies. Keep in mind that social media and social networking are profoundly dependent on personal networking, communication, collaboration, and sharing of experience. They are less dependent on formalism in document structure, indexing, and version control. The need for formality should be carefully controlled so that potential “second wave” adopters are not put off by structure, rules, or formalities.