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Belinda Gannaway

Enterprise Social – Sorting the Hype from the Practicalities

Last month I was lucky enough to facilitate a fascinating NixonMcInnes roundtable on the topic of enterprise social networks.

As with all of these events, we were joined by an inspiring group of leaders from large private, charity and government organisations.

We are working on a practical white paper to help organisations whatever stage they are at in their enterprise social journey. But, in the meantime, I wanted to share some of the topics we covered in the morning debate. These highlight the key challenges internal comms professionals are grappling with when it comes to internal social networks.

Proving the business value

There’s been loads written about the soft benefits of enterprise social network (ESNs). Much less on the hard metrics professionals are being asked for to justify investing in a tool or proper community management.

That absence of hard metrics is making it difficult for some to tackle the reticence around internal social that persists at the top of many large organisations.

But instead of accepting the status quo, lots of comms people are going for the stealth approach. Introducing pilots or subtly supporting colleagues’ from across the organisation who are taking the initiative and introducing guerrilla platforms.

The under-the-radar approach is paying dividends, helping to create powerful use cases that demonstrate the value of collaborating, sharing information and starting new conversations. And for many organisations, those use cases are proving more convincing than supposedly ‘hard’ data with dubious relevance.

If you build it they won’t necessarily come

Adoption remains a key issue for organisations investing in ESNs. With so much initiative fatigue, the last thing anyone wants is a platform that sparks a limited amount of interest at launch but shortly withers and dies. Even a platform that is vibrant but only among only a small group of core users is not delivering against its potential.

What was interesting about the discussion was the common understanding that integrating a new platform into people’s habits and processes was about a lot more than just educating them about the tool.

Any behaviour change needs robust change programme thinking. But even then there are no guarantees. Unless the change reflects the cultural norms of the organisation it is always going to fail. As one delegate put it: “Encouraging collaboration in a non-collaborative culture is one of the hardest change goals you’re likely to face.”

So if you are a closed organisations where communication is top down – or you have offices with partitions and little interaction – you will need a lot more than a social platform to get people talking, sharing and collaborating. Yes a social tool can support a cultural evolution, but it cannot secure a revolution singlehandedly.

More next week on the role of leaders, community managers and champions, engaging with frontline employees, and the future for ESNs.




This post was filed under Digital transformation, Internal comms, Working culture Comments are currently closed.


  1. It was a great event – tons of practical approaches to enterprise social networks and best practice shared. thanks guys for hosting!

    Posted 2nd April 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  2. Thanks Tony. It was great wasn’t it? My head is still buzzing with it all. So glad you could join us.

    Posted 2nd April 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  3. David Orford

    Thanks for hosting us. On the subject of getting people to use networks, I came across something last week that chimed for me – the concept of “working out loud”. It’s all about talking about and sharing both work in progress and finished projects, so others can discover what you know/what you’re good at and contribute to your work.

    So we should all encourage working out loud!

    Posted 2nd April 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  4. James

    On the LinkedIn Web Managers group someone launching a ‘ESN’ to all 10,000 employees just asked about dropping ‘social’ with its sometimes ephemeral connotations and just using the business term ‘networking’, I commented suggesting he comes to the next roundtable.

    Posted 2nd April 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  5. Interesting. I have to confess I’m the worst at this. Shall endeavour to remember your new mantra

    Posted 2nd April 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  6. Hi, heard about this event on LinkedIn just now and am sorry to have missed it. We’ve just completed a successful pilot of a new enterprise social network at our company and are now planning the roll out to all 10,000 employees worldwide. Would be interested in the white paper and any future events on this topic.

    Posted 3rd April 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

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