Organizations face four major challenges concerning enterprise social network

A new challenge for this blog, a weekly english post (failed twice in the past but as Confucius said : « The greatest glory isn’t in never falling but  to rise up in every fall »). Why, cause now I am  EMEA Social Business Director at MSLGROUP, and to evangelize my international peers, english fits better than french. Most of the time, I’ll translate post I’ve already written in french for this blog. If they are a little bit old, no worries I’m going to update them.

Here is the first one of a long series I hope ;-)

Many organizations are struggling to justify investments in an enterprise social network (ESN), to identify where to start and determine which business lines are concerned. In the same time, the trend shows that  ESN are becoming crucial in supporting and strengthening the business in companies. Enterprise have to prevent the rejection of them, because they could be considered as a temporal fashion or a threat to overall productivity. Demand from employees is increasing and organizations must develop a strategy for ESN, with a realistic understanding of the challenges, risks and benefits to exploit at best this growing interest. To answer to this challenge, there is four major challenges that organizations will have to face:

First challenge: Finding business value

Many organizations are willing to use ESN in their businesses, but are confused by the hype surrounding collaboration/social. However, all organizations should at least learn about social software, even if it leads to a « small steps strategy ». This small steps strategy should not be a strategy to « wait it out » and should include the monitoring of changes that will trigger the next step to transform the organization on a collaborative one. Cause conversation is not an end, just a mean to better reach  business goals, so align conversation on them. ESN and collaborative work should not be out of your business process but merge with them and understand what business metrics do you want to impact.

Second challenge: Overcoming cultural barriers

Almost all organizations will face cultural barriers regarding the use of ESN (with more challenges when it’s an international corporate). They must motivate a large enough proportion of community members to get involved more (means finding how to apply social principles to the employee’s work). Companies must invest the time and resources needed to understand, design, the development and implementation of social software, rather than simply install a traditionnal software company, and hope that communities will form by themselves and flourish. Now, most of the time enterprise are aware of the needed of change management, but they underestimate the investment and resources needed. In this specific case, the middle management is a corner stone of your challenge

Third challenge: Legal constrain

Data security, privacy policies and working time are topics many companies have often considered that this was a problem in using ESN. What’s happened if my employees are connected during the Week End, what about the data of an employee when he/she leaves the firm… A lot of question without a real jurisprudence so without real answer for the moment. But those questions aren’t new and are /were the same for email or intranet. You won’t cut the email inside your enterprise or switch off your intranet. So don’t use this plea not to deploy an ESN

Fourth Challenge: Managing behavior

Ways of working are changing very rapidly. Many organizations are not yet really prepared to use a digital working environment and practices associated with it, but instead focus on the management of productivity, but in a work environment less structured. Organizations must constantly challenge the way they evaluate employee productivity and take into consideration the time/way of work, especially because of the penetration of increasingly strong social software in the enterprise. Infrastructure and market access is now being commoditized through new business models and social software. Explicit structured tasks are increasingly being done by machines. We now need people to use what is unique to humans, creativity.

The importance of these four challenges vary greatly from one organization to another, as well as their impact on decisions about opportunities, the right time and the use which will be made of an ESN. There is no universal rules, the organization must consider the commercial benefits to the risks posed by these challenges but not forget that commercial benefits are not the only elements of the equation and there is other purpose,so find the business model(s) that support that purpose.