This week at Third Tuesday, Niall Cook, Worldwide Director of Marketing Technology at Hill & Knowlton Inc. and author of the recently released Enterprise 2.0, shared his thoughts on social software and how companies are adopting it around the globe.
The discussion started with an interesting exploration of the “why now” factor for conducting this type of research and the obvious demand for it worldwide. He gave some theoretical background about how technologies required appropriate business climates in order to become fully adopted.
Alluding to the Gartner Hype Cycle that describes the time it takes for technologies to be integrated and adopted, Niall talked about the tools that have been available for some time and the global business environment that has only recently become an ideal climate for convergence and adoption.
Today’s most successful companies have been developed as pure platforms completely content-free for others to fill. Some obvious examples include eBay, Google and Amazon. All of these companies have based their success on providing channels for others to communicate, share, sell or review content.
There has been a fundamental shift in power from:
- Producers of goods to the consumers
- West to East
- Employer to Employee
Niall made a specific point about the employer-employee shift in power that I think resonated with the audience. He said that where it used to be that CEOs could refer to teams as “my people”, today employees have full control over their “ownership” and feel that they are renting out their skills (on their terms) to the employers for a time that they feel is appropriate. In this shift, the CEO becomes a Chief Engagement Officer whose responsibilities are more focused on relationships and collaboration vs. hands-off leadership and control.
Here are some other interesting points discussed at the presentation:
The four main uses for social software within organizations are:
- Communication – encouragement of communication between employees
- Cooperation – informal cooperation with no specific tasks or mandates
- Formal Collaboration – teams, committees and groups with specific tasks
- Connectivity – forming a deepened bond between employees and
creating an environment to heighten retention and peer guidance
Some Examples of Social Software
- Discussion forums
- Video platforms allowing employee uploads
- Phone to Podcast lines for mobile employee uploads
- Innovation Forums
- Proprietary bookmarking tools like del.icio.us
Barriers to Adoption
- Internal IT departments will start to experience diminished
power as they become shadowed through outsourcing. When employees
request solutions, rather than contend with the classic lines like
“yeah, in 8 months” or other push back, they will look to outsource
their requirements. This might turn their role into more of a
- People organize themselves around clients,
groups and then the company. It is challenging for corporations to pull
employees out of these silos to generate real conversation and internal
A New Breed of Expectations
- 2009 marks the first year of graduates that will have had no
experiences without the Internet. It will be interesting to see how
this demographic will change the business landscape by cutting through
bureaucracy associated with traditional IT push back. This generation
will not be interested in policies, as it will always gravitate towards
lanes of least resistance and heightened productivity.
- In order to get social software adoption, it’s important to
have senior management champion the cause alongside the grassroots
- Social software should not replace existing
intranets. Organizations need to deploy tools that manage specific
tasks. Social software does not replace the administration of health
benefits or submission of vacation time (although we chuckled at the
thought of open voting for whether employees deserved to take holidays).
- Implement RSS feeds to help organize the flow of information
While Niall shared some top line cases studies from companies like
BBC and Oracle, there were many at the gathering that offered up case
studies of their own. Representatives from RBC , McKinsey, Apple and
Google shared some valuable insight into what types of tools are being
integrated at their companies and the positive effect they have had on
growth and collaboration.
Finally, Sean Moffitt from Agent Wildfire brought up an interesting
point about the measurement of success within organizations. He
mentioned that one of his clients had implemented a social software
program and after a set period of time, they decided the program had
failed. He went on to explain that roughly 20% of the organization had
adopted the system and those employees (roughly 3,000) loved the
software. But management focused on the 80% that had not adopted it and
deemed the program as a failure.
At some point there will need to be a layer of measurement that
tracks the heightened levels of networking, productivity and innovation
regardless of the number of users.
Each of the above areas could become stand-alone subjects. As
companies build their social strategies, we’ll see more case studies
and best practices surfacing. Stay tuned.