With the introduction of Enterprise Social into the workplace; it is a commitment by organisations to a new way of working. The introduction of an Enterprise Social tool can act as the catalyst for change, but in isolation, it will not unlock the business benefits that organisations will expect to see.

The deployment of any Enterprise Social tool in business has to be considered alongside a robust adoption strategy; where consideration is given to the culture and behaviours you need in your business to get the most out of your investment in technology.

It is that strategic view of adoption that should drive a business change approach; consultancies such as Content & Code provide end to end expertise in development of strategy and deployment of tools. Steve Crompton, who is an Enterprise Social & O365 specialist at Content & Code is developing a maturity model for Enterprise Social with Warwick Business School, and is a huge advocate of taking that strategic view:

Steve says “If organisations want to see the true value of investment in new digital workspaces with Enterprise Social functionality, they need to consider adoption. Creating an adoption model that lines up against a cultural change programme is the key to successful deployment and unlocking the true value of investment”.

It is important that you don’t burden your adoption model with success and failure metrics at an early stage; user adoption is a long term cultural change project, and you can’t expect the world to change overnight.

Why do I need an adoption model?

An adoption model is a really important tool to manage expectations of senior stakeholders in your business. There is a danger with Enterprise Social that people will look to apply success or failure metrics on a tool before you have shifted your culture.

By building an adoption model – or a picture of your journey – you can influence people across your business that the real impact of Enterprise Social will not be fully realised in the short term, and that patience is a key ally in the journey.

If you are looking to create an adoption model for your business it is useful to create ‘swim lanes’ of activity that will help your business drive adoption. Some of those ‘swim lines’ might include:

Digital Transformation

If you are introducing Enterprise Social into your business, you need to consider if it is to be as a standalone tool. To unlock the full capability of an Enterprise Social tool it is at its most powerful when it is integrated into your Intranet – as part of a Digital Workspace.

In an adoption model, this is often a key part of your journey. Without integration into your digital channels Enterprise Social becomes something that employees have to navigate to if they want to interact with content. That makes the experience less intuitive than if you can interact with content in the same environment.

The Digital Workspace should be an employee entry point into the content, conversations, information and tools they need to perform at their best. If you have multiple entry points into these things, it makes adoption far more difficult as employees will naturally look to one or two tools to help them work effectively, as without that integrated experience; it isn’t always intuitive what the different tools can offer.

As a base level of your adoption model, you need to consider how you navigate employees through your digital toolkit – if you want to reach a high level of adoption, integration into a Digital Workspace should be a key consideration.

Leadership Engagement

One of the key benefits of Enterprise Social is breaking down hierarchical boundaries, and a critical part of adoption is to bring leaders to the party. Leadership engagement is probably one of the biggest hurdles you might face in your adoption strategy, depending on your culture and individual preference some leaders can be reluctant to engage in Enterprise Social.

The two things that need to be considered with Leadership engagement are as follows:

i) Try and work with 1-2 leaders who are real advocates of Social rather than trying to bring all of your Leaders to the party at once. What you will likely find is that there will be a domino effect as other Leaders across the business begin to recognise the value being added to other areas.

ii) Don’t assume that Leaders are naturally comfortable diving into Enterprise Social. There will probably be a fear factor across leadership populations of ‘saying the wrong thing’ or not knowing what to say. Make sure you work with them and offer training on coaching on how to be get started.

In your adoption model you need to allow time for your leadership population to buy into Enterprise Social, it will not happen overnight.

Digital Champions

With any adoption model, you are not going to be able to influence the entire business through vertical engagement. One of the key considerations for adoption should be a network of Digital Champions across your business that can act as influencers at a horizontal level in teams, departments and functions.

Every organisation will have a different persona of a Digital Champion, there isn’t a one size fits all idea of what being a Digital Champion entails. But at a high level, they should play a key role in helping your organisation adopt Enterprise Social.

They will play a key role on your network by creating and sharing content, driving conversations and interactions, and connecting people. They will also be able to help the network be self-moderating by driving best practice.

There doesn’t have to be a limit on the amount of employees you recruit as Digital Champions – the more advocates you have in your business, the easier it will be to drive adoption across your different populations.

Think long term. Think social.

The key message when rolling out an Enterprise Social tool is to think long term. Help your organisation look beyond short term assumptions and build an adoption model that will help leaders understand the different steps you need to take along the way.

What most organisations will find when introducing Enterprise Social is that there will be peaks of virality – and that the tool is sometimes used for non-business related content.

That is absolutely fine though – the key is to build critical mass and for employees to start building networks and relationships, even if the value isn’t tangible at an early stage.

Enterprise Social is about a completely new way of working, and although it has been around now for a while, it is still in its infancy when trying to assign value metrics.

The final thing to consider in your adoption strategy is aligning your internal communication strategy to Enterprise Social. Look at how social works in the outside world (e.g. hashtag marketing) and how you can apply some of those same concepts to your employees to drive engagement campaigns, conversations and collaboration.

The work Steve Crompton is doing on a maturity model will help improve understanding on the impact of Enterprise Social v’s business productivity factors – if you want more information check out Steve’s blog at www.changingsocial.co.uk >>

I have been involved in deploying Enterprise Social (Yammer) into two large organisations and have had some great learnings along the way – drop me a line if you would like to discuss anything on the topic in more detail.

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