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Three things you need to consider before implementing an internal social network for your organisation
TopLineFounder | August 23, 2012
By Matt Rebeiro, Innovation Manager for social media agency RMM London
With Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Yammer, and Salesforce’s continued successes with Chatter, more organisations are beginning to consider whether they move from a legacy intranet to something a little more social.
Whilst some think that an internal social network is simply a technology play, those who are enjoying the most success are taking a more business benefit-led approach. This more strategic approach can ensure that the business is getting the maximum value from its internal social network.
To gain the most value, organisations should consider the following:
- The opportunity
- The use cases
- How it is embedded in the organisation
Taking each in turn…
1. The opportunity
The first and most important thing any organisation must consider when implementing an internal social network is what the opportunity is for the business. The organisation needs to consider what business objectives or challenges an internal social network could help it meet, so that it can begin to build a robust business case for internal social networking.
For example an internal social network might help to:
- Improve or increase innovation within the organisation (e.g. IBM’s use of social media to empower employees to connect and innovate across 170 countries)
- Better connect a mobile workforce (e.g. PWC’s use of social networking to connect a mobile workforce where 75% of employees are working from client-sites)
- Promote training and development amongst the workforce (e.g. Google’s use of informal chat-show style webinars to help sales teams understand new products and service offerings).
By identifying clear business objectives or challenges that an internal social network could help meet, organisations have a much higher likelihood of realising value. Moreover, with a clear business case, it is much more likely to get senior management buy-in.
2. The use cases
The organisation must also consider use cases – i.e. working out specifically how an internal social network could be used by the workforce to realise specific business benefits.
Examples of use cases might include:
- Enabling the organisation’s innovation team to solicit feedback from groups of employees across other departments (e.g. getting input from marketing or supply chain)
- Enabling teams working across multiple locations to manage projects remotely with less reliance on conference calls and email
- Enabling teams to share and update a wiki that collects key information in one place – and which can be updated quickly and easily in real-time
Building use cases allows one to move from what sounds like a good idea, in theory, to an opportunity that is both tangible and practical.
Moreover, by developing use cases, one has created – in effect – hypotheses that can be used to create pilot projects, to ascertain whether wider implementation of an internal network would deliver the desired outcomes. (This is especially important for larger organisations where implementing an internal social network would be a significant cost)
3. How it is embedded in the organisation
To ensure an internal social network is successfully adopted, an organisation must:
- Clearly communicate the uses and benefits to employees by demonstrating how it can help them deliver against their own objectives and targets
- Embed the social network in the culture of the organisation by obtaining buy-in, leadership and participation from senior managers
From an early stage the project team should consult with employees and senior managers, working with them to understand their needs from an internal social network. For example:
- In the planning stages: perform stakeholder research, either via interviews (for senior managers) or surveys (for general workforce)
- In the implementation stages: invite people from across the business to take part in usability tests or pilots
- At the launch stage: run workshops, seminars (or even webinars) to educate the workforce. This might include holding briefing sessions with senior managers to ensure their understanding and buy-in.
These are social networks, they rely on people; failure to get employees on side will likely result in the failure of any internal social network. We’d love to hear what other considerations you think are key to effectively planning, launching and managing an internal social network.
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