Chasing Success, is it Really Out There?

By September 27, 2013Blog posts

Last week while searching forenterprise social’ case studies it struck me that there are still remarkably few really strong ones out there, particularly if you are after heavyweight stories to help build your business case.

I then chatted with Rachel Miller at the excellent SMILE London event on Monday just as I was about to tweet “where are all the success stories..?” Rachel kindly then shared a link to her amazing list of 220 case studies. Wow, that’s certainly quite a list, thanks Rachel! Having a look through these it’s good to see the increasing number of published successes, but I was also quickly aware that many of these stories are still of course on the technology vendors’ websites and lack some of the ‘evidence’ the doubters (often those with the purse strings) require to sign off on initiatives…

Once we look beyond vendor claims and slightly rose tinted stories, there are still relatively few really strong stories. It was great to hear the speakers at SMILE, I really loved the case studies there and would recommend going to their next event. So clearly great progress is being made, and I think it’s pretty clear that the web ain’t going anywhere, but its successful adoption inside organisations is taking a lot longer than many expected. This is why we need to be a bit patient waiting for (and creating!) truly transformational case studies.

Understand why this is all taking so long

So if you’re trying to move things forwards in your business what can you do when evidence is still relatively sparse? Well as well as Rachel’s list there is lots of other information out there to help with your business case, an obvious starting point being the very heavily referenced 2012 McKinsey & Co report.  Also get all the great books by the likes of Don Tapscott and of course Euan Semple. And we’ve pulled together some of the bigger case studies such as these which we hope will help you.

But at the same time you need to manage expectations by helping others to understand that while the social web goes from strength to strength outside our organisations, adoption inside our firewalls is considerably slower. To do that you need to understand why, and accelerate your success by avoiding the classic pitfalls and corporate treacle.

“Too tech driven” is possibly the number one reason cited for failed initiatives – i.e. IT trying to roll out social platforms using traditional change methodologies. The more switched on IT leaders now know that this technology is different, that “people are the platform”, that better collaboration and shared ownership with ‘the business’ is critical to success.

Another massive blocker is that described so well by Morten T Hansen in his book Collaboration. Essentially he states that modern management is the biggest blocker to collaborative activity across organisations. CEO’s sit back looking at their beautifully structured, hierarchical organisations, marveling at how everyone is clearly accountable for their piece of the puzzle. And then they wonder why no one is helping others across business lines, in different functions, operating companies and the like.

Ownership is a big challenge. It’s not just about tech, and it’s not just about another ‘comms channel’. In fact it encompasses so many things it surely requires a new form of ownership? There is a risk that whatever traditional function ends up owning it will stifle and limit the possibilities of new ways of working for everyone. There must be a future where ‘Chief Collaboration Officers’ are able to look at the whole picture, free from the chains of traditional structure, and shaping a truly cross-organisational approach to delivering strategic, collaborative outcomes.

Even once business owners are assigned, there is often a tendency to fall back into old ways of working. The number of times I see senior IC people emailing each other their adoption plans. Or discussing ideas and pain points behind closed doors that they could simply crowdsource on their platform. Getting the business working in new ways requires new ways of working. Those tasked with driving the change literally need to get on the platforms and show what it means to do things differently.

Seize the day and embrace the change

This is opportunity-time for IC professionals and other natural leaders of social technology driven change. Yes it means doing things differently, moving from pushing messages to getting involved in dialogue, from control to facilitation of communication. But isn’t that what IC leaders have always wanted? Making managers better communicators; creating ‘2-way channels; making things ‘more interactive’…? For years IC teams have been frustrated at not being seen as a strategic function; at having more and more tactical requests piled onto already packed to-do lists. Well here it is: massive, transformational business opportunity being dropped at your doorstep. Pick it up and embrace it!

Be patient, but seek out those organisations who do ‘get it’

There are more and more successes, and failures, all the time. It’s hard to know where to look, but there are big success stories out there. And together we must create more. As I say we’ve pulled together some examples for you of some leading large organisations who are getting it right and a summary of what they’ve been up to. Hopefully you’ll find this useful to building momentum and subsequent success in your organisation.

Got any other great resources? Please share!

Author: Nick Crawford

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