Leveraging social software for operating performances

February 28, 2011


Social Software for business performance. The Missing link in social software : measurable business performance improvements.

This is the name of the Deloitte report. Agree it’s a long title but the report also is : this is the price to pay for comprehensiveness. Case studies (Alcoa, OSISoft …), numbers, insights and strategic advises combine to make this study extremely useful.

The bottom line of the report : if you want a successful implementation of social software solution inside the enterprise, you need to clearly identify the problems (the pain points) and then use social software unique capabilities to fix them.

According to Deloitte, a solution that fixes day-to-day clearly identified problems of employees is much more likely to overcome skepticism and to be massively adopted.

Social Software unique capabilities

Deloitte identifies the 5 unique capabilities of social software, i.e the ones that other types of software does not have :

  1. identify expertise
  2. facilitate cross-boundary communication and conversation
  3. preserve institutional memory : puts knowledge management into the context of daily activities
  4. harness distributed intelligence
  5. discover emerging opportunities

The study then describes how these capabilities are addressed by each of the different type of social software tools (Microblogging, Wiki, Blog, Prediction Markets, Profiles etc …). Thus, depending on the type of capability you target, you can choose the most appropriate tool to implement.

Beyond these capabilities, social software tools have the aptitude to handle business process exceptions in a very efficient way.

In a dynamic world of relentless change (…) employees encounter non-routine issues which break the standard. These “exceptions” impede operating processes and drag down business performance across all parts of the organization (…) Social software’s unique capabilities can be used to improve exception handling by allowing employees to communicate across boundaries and benefit from relationships amplified by the digital infrastructure.

Holistic values Vs operating performances

While inviting companies to focus first on short term operating performances, Deloitte also stresses the point that a strategy oriented on adoption only is likely to fail. The reason: it is not because some tools are used that they are beneficial. They only are if the solve existing operating problems.

Focusing on adoption as a success metric will likely fail lead to failure because it engenders resistance (64% companies from management and 72% from users).

The report puts the blame on social software evangelists for the lack of traction observed in the industry. Unfortunately we have to agree on that :

Software evangelists are their own worst enemies as they have failed to effectively communicate how social software can drive real operating benefits

Implementation strategy

According to Deloitte, there are different types of implementation strategy :

  • Intra-team : small teams adopts software tool to address a specific issue. Problem : Corporate IT is not involved and the solution may not be appropriate for the whole company
  • Scaling Team initiative : intra-team solution that gains momentum. The problem is the one of context : the tool may fix the problem of the first team but may not be relevant in the context of others.
  • IT Sponsored Knowledge Management. Generic solution with little focus on how it can improve operating performance. Most of the time this solution fails as it does not really help and is not thought of as a in the flow solution.
  • Senior Executive sponsored : Usually this type of implementation also lacks clear strategy and fails to gain traction from the employees

The implementation strategy recommended here is an opportunity driven approach.

It involves only the employees and groups specifically related to address the identified opportunity of performance improvement. It offers a much higher potential of driving business performance improvement. Exception focused approach has the greatest likelihood of driving significant business performance.

A differentiator opportunity

This report sees Social Software as a 2 step opportunity : first to improve business performance in the short term and transform it in the long term.

The conclusion remains unequivocal :

Companies must act now. Companies that move quickly can reap significant financial rewards and develop skills and experience that has the potential to help them build a stronger competitive position over time.

A strongly recommended read for anyone implementing or planning to implement social software in the organisation. A great guide to transform your organisation into a networked one.

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