Solve Critical Business Problems with Social Software

dollar sign $ For most sophisticated companies, the issue of social software is not a new one. If you’ve read my reports from the Enterprise 2.0 conference, you’ll see summaries of some interesting and innovative deployments of social software within the enterprise. But for every success story, there are far too many organizations that have “tried social and don’t understand what the fuss is about.”  In other words, their internal deployment of social media tools has not moved the needle in terms of their business performance.

What’s Gone Wrong?

Here are just a few of the many examples of things gone wrong: For some, their social software experiment was initiated by a few enthusiastic individuals or teams at the grassroots level who were unable to obtain the requisite management support for their efforts. For others, there was a top-level edict that “we should do social,” but that edict was not supported by significant participation by key leaders within the organization. Another dead end is the social platform that is launched with much fanfare but does not integrate smoothly with the systems of record, with the systems in which the core of the business takes place.

As a result of these and other missteps and miscalculations, we haven’t seen the wholesale adoption that one might expect from a set of tools and capabilities that have swept the consumer web.

How To Make it Better

John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, has some excellent pragmatic advice for organizations: Use social software to solve problems that matter to your business. In a CIO Insights video interview (see below), he recommends the following steps:

  1.  The senior executives of your organization are typically measured by financial metrics, so start with the financial metrics that are the most challenging or present the greatest business opportunity.
  2. Then drill down to the operating metrics that drive those financial metrics. For example, are the financial metrics on revenue growth impaired by operating metrics that indicate a high level of customer churn?
  3. Then drill down further to the frontline metrics. In the example of customer churn, do the frontline metrics indicate poor customer service or inadequate responses to customer requests?
  4. Ask what you can do with social software to help the customer support function reduce customer churn. This is a real problem worth solving that can have a meaningful impact on business performance.
  5. Develop a social software plan that reduces customer churn and generates meaningful metrics.
  6. Collect metrics that demonstrate your success at the operating level and in terms of the positive impact on revenue.



In a similar vein Alan Lepofsky, VP & Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, recently provided a step-by-step approach to implementing social software for what he calls “purposeful collaboration” in which employees use social software hand-in-glove with the business processes and tools that help them get their work done (see video below):

  1. Investigate a key business process inside your organization that currently presents challenges (e.g., is new product development too slow?). Identify what part of the process needs improvement.
  2. Determine how you need to improve that process. What are the relevant milestones and goals you would like to set?
  3. Identify appropriate social software that can help you improve that process. Look for social software that integrates neatly with your existing key business tools; be cautious about purchasing a standalone platform. And be sure to confirm that the social software can be deployed in a manner that meets your business needs (e.g., via the cloud, mobile-friendly, etc.).



Now take a look at your organization. Is there a business challenge that really matters to your organization or its constituents? If standard approaches have failed to yield the desired results, is there an opportunity here to use social software to make a meaningful improvement in your business results? If so, is it clear what metrics you can track to actually demonstrate this impact? If your answers to these questions are positive, you may have a terrific opening to show your organization how social software is more than a trendy sop for the millenials and actually can be a useful tool for professionals of all ages within your organization.

The best way to make your social software deployment a real success is to tie it to a demonstrable improvement in business results.

That’s the path to success. The rest is up to you.

[Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds]


John Hagel Keynote: Performance & Passion [#e2conf]

John Hagel III, Deloitte.

[These are my notes from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference 2011 in Boston.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Does Social Software Matter? Yes. To prove this, choose metrics carefully to understand the impact of the business of the software. Start with an operational need. Then see how social software can address that operational need. Finally, collect and review performance metrics that demonstrate the effect of social software on that business need. This moves social software beyond a glitzy marketing tool to a key driver of better business performance at an operational level. Follow this funnel of metrics to determine where to deploy social software for maximum impact.
  • How to deploy social software? Start with a fairly narrow situation that does not require much effort to participate, but has a direct impact on the workspace. (Choose a specific transaction.) Once you get preliminary results, give recognition to participants and success stories. Then, as you build reputation, you establish expertise that lead to relationships. These relationships then provide the foundation for more sustained collaboration. Hagel gives the example of the user networks that were created around their Netweaver product. The community is so highly participatory that now the average time to obtain an answer from the developer network is 17 minutes. Further, as expertise and relationships have grown via the network, teams have come together to create new applications.
  • World of Warcraft This online game provides a good model for how we can work together via social software. As the challenges grow, participants learn tha by working together, then jointly find better ways to overcome challenges.
  • What are the Keys for High Performance? If you want sustained performance improvement, you need passionate employees with a questing disposition. However, current studies show that only 20% of employees are passionate about their work. Further, passion is inversely related to the size of the organization in which they work.
  • American Performance is Collapsing. Unlike the Red Queen, we are running faster and faster, yet falling behind. As a result the return on assets of American companies has plummeted. He believes that the only way to overcome this is to use passion as a catalysts for better performance in the workplace.