Social Business, Not Just the Platform

By | Nov 13, 2013

Social networking tools for large businesses have arrived, and more are in the works. The implementation of internal social business tools by Fortune 500 businesses has already reached the predicted 90 percent by the end of 2013 based on vendor reports alone, as Joel Oleson reports in an article on Wired. The question of adoption is an entirely different matter, with reports of only 10 percent success based on the prevailing implementation strategy that ends with the build.

The "provide and pray" or "build it and they will come" methodology continues to fail at delivering project success. Simply having an internal social network does not transform the business into a social business. Social business as a cultural transformation requires change management partnership to succeed. Key change management tasks required for success include policy development, effective management communications, department and line of business integration, cultivation of champions and influences and technical integration with existing systems.

Needs First, Build Second

In an article on, Rich Blank outlined an ideal intranet that enables social work within a business without invoking social as a buzzword. The system is distilled to a simple set of functionality needed for employees to work collaboratively, to stay informed and to focus on the immediate work. Technology that enables the quick and easy connection of people to people and people to relevant, necessary information on a single platform is the basis. When the technology aligns with the work culture and invokes a personalized context, the utility of the technology is more obvious to end users, and adoption is encouraged.

One to Rule Them All

Social platforms support the social transformation of work for businesses, but applications simply tacked onto an integrated technology suite do not. Individual systems that represent all the parts of a social platform fail to provide the single-user portal and consequently create a significant barrier to adoption. Small and midsize businesses can learn from the results of social business implementations by large organizations. Simply having all the components does not aid in the creation of a whole social business.

Implementation of social intranet solutions also includes planning for data migration from legacy systems and their resultant elimination. Legacy portals encourage employees to resist change because adoption is optional. The maintenance of two systems is an unnecessary burden for IT operational staff and budgets. The early adoption of social toolsets by IT business units paves the way for widespread adoption within the business and shows change management leadership on the part of IT.

When implementing a social strategy, IT leaders find success through stepping back from the technological details to better identify what the current business culture is and how social tools best support a transformation vision.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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