Social software is changing in ways that profoundly impact the way companies should approach adoption.
A year ago, the focus was on individual technologies (wikis, blogs, RSS, etc.). We are rapidly evolving to more comprehensive solutions that integrate multiple technologies into unified platforms for enterprise interactions. That's the insight behind Socialtext 3.0, and it's the level at which companies are implementing.
As the market has shifted from individual technologies to integrated solutions, we're also seeing a dramatic shift in the level at which companies are implementing. A year ago, companies were piloting social software for individual teams or departments. As the solutions become more comprehensive, companies are evaluating them for enterprise-wide deployment. They are looking to social software to transform their organizations--their entire organizations. They're trying to change behavior on a grand scale, not shake up a team or two.
That calls for a very different approach to adoption. Last year, everyone was asking what makes for successful social software pilots. Now it's time to answer the question at a strategic, company-wide level: How can forward-thinking managers use integrated social software suites like Socialtext 3.0 to garner adoption across their entire companies?
The answer is not "Do what you did in the pilot, only bigger." Company-wide deployments are very different from departmental ones. It's like campaigning for the U.S. presidency: you're not really running one national campaign, you're running 50 state campaigns...or 5,000 regional campaigns. Each of those campaigns has its own local leadership, demographic profile, issues, and economics.
So how should companies approach their social software implementations on a "national" scale? Here's a starting point of six pieces of advice I've gleaned from my interactions with customers who have successfully implemented social software on a grand scale:
1. Encourage a broad range of use cases. Different groups will find value in different ways: finding experts, managing projects, surfacing ideas from the field, communicating to staff, building social communities, monitoring competitors, staying in constant contact with customers, etc. Encourage the diversity, while looking for common patterns.
2. Recruit energetic champions across the organization. It's very clear from the customer studies we've done that individuals play a major role in determining who adopts these tools and how. Enlisting energetic evangelists in their respective geographies and divisions is critical. You need both generalists who touch many different parts of the organization and specialists who can deliver deep penetration in local areas.
3. Launch the tools with hands-on experiences for new users. Social software is fun...once you try it. Don't just show it to your company; create a moment that forces them to actually try it out. Use large-scale gatherings (physical and virtual) to pull in large numbers of people at once.
4. Route repeated activities through social software. Use your social software to supplant email on routine information requests. Some of those activities should be common across the entire company, while others will be group-specific.
5. Integrate with existing systems of record. Social software can be a great way to enhance CRM, document management, and other structured systems of record with more free-form context, conversation, ideation, and socialization.
6. Leverage public communities. The Enterprise 2.0 world is changing fast, and your fellow practitioners are inventing new best practices every day. Use them!
Reactions? I want to know what you have seen work at a company-wide level!