Corporate Social Network

enterprise-social-networkI have been solicited lately by a company which wanted to deploy a Corporate Social Network. It wasn’t their first try. Let’s see what they did wrong and how to ensure that you CSN will be a success.

The Initial Project

Deploying Yammer!, the company had taken an approach that led to the failure of the deployment and very low acceptance ratio within the teamsYammer

  1. A limited deployment
    The first approach was planned to be deployed on a limited number of people. As the company did want to take too much risks with its employees, it has been decided to deploy the CSN on a limited number of places and people. Those people were chosen according to their specialities, knowledges, expertise etc…
  2. A community or group approach
    As most of the people who had early access to the CSN were selected according to their knowledge and expertise, it is natural that the project team organized the CSN with communities and groups. Those communities and groups were decided by the CSN manager and the company management.
  3. A lack of EXEC support
    No EXEC were planed to be on the CSN in its early time. If the EXEC were supporting the project they were not users and did not really understand all its possibilities and capabilities.

 

Diagnostic

Why this initial project failed?

A limited deployment impeaches your community to reach its break even point. If you don’t have enough members, then your members cannot produce enough contents to reach a point where the interest is high enough to attract the reluctant and put your CSN into a great dynamic. A social network is before everything, social.
My first tip if you are planing to deploy a CSN: Open it widely and don’t limit the access to your tool.
The adopted community/group approach is also a major factor which can affect the success of your project. The Essence of a Social Network is to be more or less self organized. If you put too much constraints then the community will react and reject your organisation (which happens in our case). To maximize your chance to have a successful CSN, let your users organize themselves the groups and communities. What is important to understand is that the users will self leverage the interest of communities and groups according to their true interests and needs. It is very interesting for your  CSN because it will help you to determine the true center of interests of your employees.
My second tip if you are planing to deploy a CSN: Trust your employees and let them organize by themselves groups and communities. (You can still gently create other communities and groups later on)

The last point is the EXEC involvement. Not only funding and promoting but also particpating to the CSN. As no EXEC were on the CN, employees took it as granted that the CSN was not something EXEC took really care to. If my EXEC don’t care about it, why shouldn’t?
My second tip if you are planing to deploy a CSN: Involve your EXEC as early users

Our new project

  1. A strong EXEC support with clear objectives.. and lots of change Management
    All EXEC had their own profile, posted news and even realized some PR on the Yammer! The CEO wrote the first message on the new platform.
    As the EXEC, all employees had to have their profile filled (part of their annual objective).In addition, early users were used as « evangelist » to train their colleagues and explain them how to use the platform. On line and off line training sessions were deployed.
  2. A company wide deployment
    As a limited deployment cannot allow your CSN to reach its breaking point it is important to open it widely. In our project, the new platform has been promoted to everyone, included in their annual objectives. Profile filled is also of a great tool for the company has the Search allow you to find competencies within your team. It is a new way to gather and access knowledge and competencies with your company.
  3. A self organized network
    We did not organize the CSN in anyway. After a while, the self organisation worked and groups and communities were created by the users. Interesting was the comparison among the initial project communities and the actual projects: none were common. However users defined the groups and communities they really needed. No management induces communities are planned because it also helps the company to determine what kind of interest and concerns their employees have.

 

Did you have such a project? Do you have access to a CSN within your company?

You can find an interesting article by Charlene Li on HBR here

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