16 Replies Latest reply: Apr 13, 2012 6:28 AM by Ed Dodds RSS

    How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?

    f.edgar

      Myself and a colleague have been tasked with recommending a solution for a 'collaborative knowledge centre' i.e. a way of connecting all 1100 of our employees with information, knowledge, best practice, communication etc from across our group of 9 business units.

       

      We are currently in discussions with a number of vendors including Jive but every time we mention 'social business' all they here is Facebook and they begin to imagine their staff wasting time posting pointless content and not actually working! Clearly we realise that this would not be the case and we have all the facts and figures to back our argument up. However, we need to get to the point where we can have the debate to demonstrate the benefits and not just get cut off even before we have started.

       

      I'm sure this must be a fairly common question - therefore I'm looking for some feedback (hopefully) from other users who have experienced the same type of resistance.

       

      Any help/comments gratefully received.

       

      Thanks

      Fraser

        • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
          john ridings

          I would start with terminology. If "social business" has a negative impact, reframe the discussion to "business or organizational collaboration". Perception is reality so change the perception. Illustrate the conversation with examples on how collaboration software solves current organizational issues.

           

          Second, sounds like you have a sponsor, but is this sponsor at the executive level? My experience is a "grass roots" campaign will not work. "Business collaboration" must have an excutive sponsor. If you do have an executive sponsor, ensure this person(s) firmly grasps what problem(s) Jive can solve.

           

          Third, if at all possible, get a "sandbox" to demonstrate how the tool solves the business problem. I assume "collaboration knowledge centre" is the surface problem. If terminology is an issue, then the "picture is worth a thousand words" approach can be useful.

           

          Lastly, this community is populated with experts who have been down your road. I have no doubt you will receive better responses than mine. Hopefully, mine is a decent starting point.

          • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
            Jill Butler

            I agree with John's advice on making sure you have an executive sponsor who has a track record of gaining approval on new initiatives. I also agree that "social business" isn't necessarily the term you want to use up front -- especially since it's not yet a well-defined term as Ryan Rutan stated in The Evolution of a "Social Business".

             

            For my company, when it came down to the final "pitch" to exec staff who would approve budget allocation for Jive, we had to translate the benefits of using social business software like Jive into real business results they would respond to. For us, those high level results were increased revenue, reduced attrition, and cost savings. We then drilled down to solving specific problems or improving current processes using Jive that would eventually lead us to those high-level business outcomes. You just have to connect the dots. If a "collaborative knowledge centre" is the need, explain why having it would help the company in a financial sense.

             

            I found the customer survey results posted in The business value of social business to be quite helpful in translating social business software benefits into real business outcomes. Ultimately, for a lot of executives out there, it comes down to what financial impact social business software will deliver.

            • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
              Jennifer Thorimbert

              If I could go back in time, I would never have used any "just like Facebook" analogies at my company. These were being used before I was hired, and I stuck with them when I started - I was told that it would make people excited to use Jive, but instead it made managers distrustful, and employees scared to use it because they were worried what their manager might think.

               

              I found the following terms and analogies to be effective:

              • Document collaboration.
              • Group discussions and brainstorms that don't require people to be in the same room or time zone.
              • Rather than one-way or top-down "communication," we can have conversation, which increases a sense of community within the company.
              • All employees, no matter their position, department, or location, have access to the same information. Consistency and timeliness are key here.
              • For your best practices, policies, etc. - point out that these are live documents, and instead of them being on an intranet or portal, hoping that they work well, readers can ask questions or for clarification, and anyone can respond or update these docs. You can then be confident that these documents are effective.
              • For anyone who asks specifically about the Facebook analogy, I will say: "Think about the tools you use at home and in your personal life: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr. No one needs to come to your house to show you how to use these: they are easy.  At work, we use (insert the bug-tracking, knowledge management, wiki, office programs you use here), and training courses are made available, etc. Wouldn't it be nice if you could do your work using tools that are similar to what you use at home, and can learn intuitively and actually like to use?"
              • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                mamiepeers

                Just want to add a few more thoughts to support Jennifer Thorimbert's third bullet....

                 

                • Chris McGrath & Ephraim Freed published an article that they will give you for free if you engage with Thought Farmer. It's titled, "Social Intranets & Employee Engagement: An HR Solution for Meaningful Moral Building."  The authors quoted a Harvard Business Review article by Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath who stated happiness (at work) "is not about contentment, which connotes a degree of complacency" but instead it is about thriving. Thriving means the workforce is not just satisfied and productive, but "also engaged in creating the future--the company's and their own." To contribute, employees must feel empowered to give. To give, employees must trust leaders, coworkers, have some level of "social comfort."  The article articulates how a social intranet helps to build social comfort and sense of empowerment required to create a great future.
                • I am also a firm believer in Marshall McLuhan's phrase (from 1964!), "The medium is the message"--which references the symbiotic relationship between a message and its medium. When you make it EASY for your employees to comment on and collaborate on messages and communications, you say a lot. You say you not only believe in a culture of innovation and community, you're investing in a platform for it. A top-down medium like a PDF memo emailed to the whole company is restrictive and sends the message that it's a done-deal. Eat it. Here are a few unsolicited quotes that our users posted once we launched Jive that reiterate our intent, and the culture of our company:
                  • "I like all the information made available to be by Clive. I feel more knowledgeable and included!"
                  • "Clive is a very important and powerful business tool, we are lucky to have it.  We do indeed work for a progressive and forward thinking establishment."

                 

                If only McLuhan could see our mediums now!

                • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                  f.edgar

                  Guys - thank you all for what has been contributed so far.

                   

                  Excellent suggestions - that I will look into and take forward as appropriate.

                    • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                      Debbie Sacks

                      Hi Fraser:
                      We had a challenging time convincing our senior leaders as well. We ended up holding a two-hour Learning Session on Enterprise 2.0 specifically for them. We hired a Forrester analyst to give a presentation on where the social market is today, how companies are using social software with their employees, and the value and benefits they are achieving. He also talked about how important it is to have sponsorship, support and participation by leadership in order to guide the direction and gain value from the community. It was a great presentation.

                       

                      For the second hour, I got three panelists from companies that have been successful in deploying social software with their employees (and externally as well). Note: they weren't all Jive users. The panelists talked a lot about the value social software brought to their organizations and gave specific examples of how each of them have achieved greater productivity, efficiency, innovation, and employee engagement. We had a list of pre-written questions for them which addressed rollout, adoption, training, and all the concerns of our senior leaders. However, the Q&A turned into an open forum where our executives were asking most of the questions themselves.

                       

                      For us, it was literally the turning point, or the big AHA moment, for many of our executives. Now, they are on board.

                        • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                          john ridings

                          Wow! Love that approach! Impressive you were able to corral them for two hours. Can you confirm that one of the senior leaders was an advocate for this meeting? It reaffirms the need for an advocate at the highest leadership echelon. Thanks.

                            • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                              Debbie Sacks

                              Hi John:

                               

                              YES, we had/have three executive-level sponsors for this project. We utilized the time that our executive team regularly meets and just extended the meeting by 1/2 hour.

                               

                              The reason we held this "educational session" was because after our first meeting with them, just like Fraser, the term "social" got in our way and it was very clear we needed to start from the beginning and educate them on where the market is today and how other companies are using the software to gain business value. We felt that rather than us saying ... "We can see benefits here...", it would be more effective for others who have already seen benefits to come in and share their stories. I was extremely lucky to get a great analyst from Forrester and fabulous panelists, who were (mostly) local. And, they had fun sharing their knowledge too!

                               

                              Overall, it was a huge success!

                            • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                              f.edgar

                              Hey Debbie

                               

                              This is great - thanks for your insight. I like the idea of the panelists demonstrating how it worked in their businesses. That is something I will investigate. Unfortunately we don't have access to Forrester analysts but the 'education session' makes a lot of sense.

                               

                              Thanks for your valuable input.

                               

                              Fraser

                          • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                            eveeaton

                            Really great discussion!  My manager has been evangelizing about this very topic for a while.  His blog, Don't retweet the revolution seems especially appropriate for this discussion thread.  Over the past 6 months working on our Jive implementation at my firm, I've seen that making a clear connection to problems people are trying to solve is key.  What's the organizational priorities and how will implementing a social business platform help solve them.  

                            • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                              Ed Dodds

                              Fraser: A bit of a cart before the horse situation with this question. The first question you ask on behalf of the individual employee is: what percentage of my compensation (X) is tied to what percentage of Y (where Y is firm's annual profit) due to my completion of activity Z? Until this is settled agreeing to aggregate knowledge is irrelevant. That said, the language metaphor you might want to search under is "open innovation". Warning: once your firm starts "opening" it can be difficult to continue to hide those nasty little secrets many C-Suite are fond of keeping in tiny footnotes in the Annual Report. I blog about this stuff a lot at blog.conmergence.com Thanks.

                              • Re: How do I convince my board that social business is the answer?
                                Ed Dodds

                                Fraser:

                                 

                                I don't if your org is subject to the SEC mandate for extensible business reporting language (read the first coupla most recent posts here Hitachi XBRL | XBRL News and Commentary from the Hitachi XBRL Business Unit ) but, if so, start googling the intersection of iXBRL (the flavor most likely to be adopted by social networks praising and shaming firms in the near future). There has been a technological leap in transparency technologies most C-Suites are clueless concerning (see my last reply to you). In the future XBRL will be added into the data chain to provide interoperability amongst disparate machines/processes which all have proprietary vocabularies and so can only talk to one another when properly "mapped" manually by some technologist. The kinds of fraud which can only exist in paper based systems (think healthcare) is on its way out... or not.