With all of the fancy, expensive and new software out there, you would think that the ushering in of Enterprise 2.0 began as a call to build bigger software. You’d think it is a call to build software at all.
New software is an inevitability. Whatever your current swath of enterprise apps includes, you have probably come to terms with throwing a lot of it out in order to get to that place we call “2.0”. The question is, what direction do you go? Do you layer on more software? Do you tear away all that you have right now? Do you mash some of the new with the old?
I thought we could take a look at just how your next installation of enterprise software should look, and why.
If your software doesn’t help people connect and solve problems together then you aren’t doing anything new. If you are a better looking, cheaper, more fun Project Management Application, probably even delivered over the web as a service, then you are a great Office 2.0 solution, but you are not Enterprise Social Computing, or even Enterprise 2.0.
1. The core idea is that people share
All the peripheral conversations are just distractions. The only new idea here is that conversations between all the layers of your organization completely change how work gets done.
How can you help people do this? Install a simple message board. PHPBB being the most obvious. There are other solutions (such as what I have been working on) that are a little more involved, but are essentially just great message boards.
My favorite message board design is: Chowhound. If you could replicate that, you are doing great.
2. Advocate tools
Now that a core group is comfortable using your first piece of truly social software, you need to let them become evangelists for the tool. To do this, you need to give them the tools to invite others in to the space, to share stories about what has been accomplished in the space (through case studies, or, primarily, well formed tales).
There is a whole world of Viral Marketing handbooks out there, and no doubt they can be of great help, but you will also find that at the end of the day it will come down to conversations, in the hallways and before meetings, that convince people to check out this new thing
3. When they are good at sharing, people will want better ways to connect
As your social software grows the number of users and different interest groups will become seemingly unmanageable.
Giving people a set of personal tools to filter through the noise becomes important. The problem is that each person will see the noise in a different way. Some people thrive with noise, they skim and scan and get a large, but shallow, understanding of what is going on. A large number of people will, however, become paralyzed.
Anyone who has used Facebook will understand that the first line of filtering should be your own Social Network.
In the last 3 years, we have done a lot of work with trying to use social networks as primary filters. This is hard work and it can often result in failure. The biggest problem is building the toolset in such a way that the user understands that their network is an actual tool, not just a place to collect friends. This changes habits dramatically.
This is the most complicated level your software should reach. No more.
4. Keep the user at the center
At this point you probably have at least 300 active users, some places will be at 5000 by this point. With this kind of adoption, different levels and silos of management will start to “buy in” and you are going to get pushed in many different directions.
Before you know it, you will be asked to integrate BPM, Email and Sharepoint into your platform.
Fight this tooth and nail.
5. This is the living room
Before we move on and look at what toolsets might be appropriate as your platform gets more popular, it’s important to remind ourselves that we haven’t just created a piece of software, or a set of features, we have created a living room. A busy lounge full of all your best friends.
If you tried to turn Cheer’s into a Chili’s, it’s safe to say that the place might lose some of it’s regular visitors.
So, remember, some of the squeaks in the floors, and the slightly awkward way some things now work, those are the real features, because they remind people that they are in a place where it is OK to be themselves.
6. Don’t integrate, but link
If every organization was using OpenID, you could skip this step, but most often, with clumsy LDAP databases and old Identity Federation systems, you can’t.
Start to link out to other enterprise applications. A simple toolbar
7. You just might be the village idiot
It doesn’t take great smarts, analytical skills or an MBA to bring Social Computing to your organization. It doesn’t take great smarts, analytical skills or an MBA to participate in a community either.
You are going to have to come to terms with the fact that none of your smarts, your MBA or your 30 years of experience within your organization will make any difference. Success does not depend on you or your strategy.
Some people accept this, but others fight it. Talk of Policies, Codes of Practice, Launch Strategies and Adoption Strategies are all just mean to cloud the nervous nature of the pioneer.
Accept your fate. This is not a career maker, at least it won’t be if you try to make it so.
8. This won’t work for you
I find a little bit of humor in writing a post like this. It is pretty prescriptive and “smart”, but if you take it at face value, it is pretty open ended. The real guidance is: Start slow and build slow. Avoid convoluted strategies and bootstrap bootstrap bootstrap.