Why do good companies do bad things to social software adoption?
In my previous post, I listed 6 things that companies can do to stimulate adoption of enterprise social software. This advice ain't exactly rocket science.
- Make it your Intranet
- Make it the primary destination for must-have information
- Integrate with your company directory and, ideally, Single Sign-On (SSO)
- Integrate with enterprise search
- Integrate with existing enterprise applications
- Launch to your whole company (i.e., skip the pilot)
And yet, few companies do them--even companies that are working very, very hard to stimulate social software adoption. Why is that?
One thing I learned as a McKinsey consultant is that organizational dysfunction is most frequently what causes good companies do bad things. So in order to understand why companies aren't doing the most
basic things to stimulate social software adoption, I went looking for an organizational explanation.
I didn't have to look very far.
With a little digging, I identified three fundamental organizational failures that explain why companies are sabotaging their own efforts to roll out social software.
1) Technology under-investment. Many companies got into enterprise social software with cheap or free wikis, blogs, or other social software thingies that were thin on functionality, integration capabilities, and administrative tools. "This isn't about the technology," people told themselves, "it's about organizational behavior." That's true...but only up to a point. If you're rolling out to more than a hundred people, you need technology that can stand up to the needs of your organization. I don't mean just the "social" needs of the organization, but the business, administrative, and usability needs as well. That includes a comprehensive feature set like blogs, wikis, microblogging, corporate directories, groups, and social networking. It also includes back-end stuff like Directory and Single Sign-On integration, data security, technical scalability, and reporting metrics. Isolated point solutions without deep integration capabilities may be cool and fun to launch, but they won't take you far.
2) IT-Business Misalignment. With the trend towards Software as a Service (SaaS) and hosted solutions, many line executives think they can do this "without IT". I've even seen examples where an individual department or business unit launched a "secret" social software project that they kept hidden from IT. That may help "the business" get up and running quickly, but it's a sure path to adoption failure. You can't integrate with LDAP, make social software your Intranet, integrate with enterprise apps, or integrate with search without bringing IT to the table. Try to hide social software from IT, and you'll end up hiding it from your end users, too--no matter how hard you try to promote it on the down-low. Even if IT isn't driving the effort--even if IT isn't managing the service--they still need to be at the table, and committed to the project's success.
3) Innovation Marginalization. Because social software is innovative, companies sometimes think and talk about it in ways which marginalize it as a mere experiment. "This is a cool, crazy experiment. We're just going to put it out there and see what happens. In a few months we'll decide what to do with it." This messaging appeals to innovators and early adopters, but it turns off everyone else. Why should they invest time learning a system that might not stick around? Why should they build content and processes around something that could be gone next quarter? When you position social software as a core part of your company's technology capabilities, that's when your colleagues in the mainstream will pay attention and start to use it.
Taken as a group these organizational factors explain why companies set themselves up for social software failure. Are you having trouble achieving social software adoption? If so, take a hard look in the mirror. Which of these organizational failures apply to you and your company? And how can you fix them?