Does social software adoption have you singing the blues? If so, you're not alone.
In the enterprise social software world, everyone's talking about adoption. There are breakouts on it at Enterprise 2.0. Lots of smart people are blogging about it. There's LinkedIn forum. There's even a whole Council dedicated to social software adoption.
Why is adoption such an issue?
The standard response is to blame organizational culture. Eavesdrop on adoption conversations and you'll hear things like this
- "Corporations incentivize for knowledge-hoarding."
- "People over 30 just don't get social networking."
- "Workers aren't comfortable with transparency."
- "We have a culture of email that's hard to change."
To borrow a phrase from always-quotable Dennis Howlett: What a crock.
To borrow another phrase from the also-quotable Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us.
Social software adoption becomes an issue when companies impose their own barriers to adoption. Not cultural barriers, but operational barriers. They sabotage their own social software aspirations by making the tools available in ways that are guaranteed to frustrated all but the most determined users.
As I'm fond of saying: enterprise social software gets adopted when it's placed in the flow of work, rather than above the flow of work.
Most enterprise social software tools live very much outside the flow of work. It's almost as though the company is trying to keep them as far away from the flow of work as possible. I'm not talking about complex workflows or business process engineering. I'm talking about dead-simple, nuts-and-bolts usability barriers that stand between a typical employee and enterprise social software adoption. Take a clear-eyed look at most social software implementations and you will likely find that:
- It's yet another place to go for information
- It's not required to get any job done
- It requires an additional login and password
- It's positioned as a pilot, so everyone sees it as temporary
Given these barriers, it's no wonder companies are disappointed with enterprise social software adoption. It's almost as though they're going out of their way to prevent their employees from using social software as a real work tool. It's like they've invited their company to a fantastic party with great food, fantastic drinks, and a killer band. But they're throwing the party miles away from the office in a place no one has heard of. They're not providing transportation, and nobody has a map. No wonder people aren't coming.
If your social software implementation isn't getting widespread adoption, ask yourself which of these applies. You'll probably find that at least half of them do. Don't be surprised if they all do.
The good news is that these things are pretty easy to change. They're not big, abstruse, concepts like culture, psychology, generational mindsets. They are straightforward implementation decisions, many of which may be under your control.
Let's get specific. When I compare Socialtext customers who struggle for adoption to those who achieve mind-blowing success, the difference comes down to a few simple, actionable best practices:
- Make it your Intranet. This is the single biggest thing you can do to drive adoption.
- Make it the primary destination for must-have information: HR Forms, the company directory, new hire information, IT support requests, C level blogs. That's honey which attracts people to your site--even people who don't care about social software per se.
- Integrate with your company directory and, ideally, Single Sign-On (SSO). People are busy; if you require an extra login prompt or worse yet an extra password to manage, you'll lose a lot of them--upwards of 50%, according to some Socialtext customers
- Integrate with enterprise search. This one's pretty clear, but it's remarkable how few companies actually do it
- Integrate with existing enterprise applications. When social software provides a window into other enterprise applications, it moves to the center of your company's flow of work.
- Launch to your whole company, not a small subset. Take a look at my earlier post on why you should Skip the Pilot.
Companies that follow these steps are doing everything they can to drive their employees to social software, rather than away from it. The results are striking. I predict--and this is probably conservative--that you'll see a 2x - 5x increase in adoption when you implement these changes.
So which category are you in? Are you driving employees to social software, or are you driving them away?