Ignite Adoption of Social Collaboration: Practical Advice From A Practitioner

June 18, 2012 - 5 Comments

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to spend time in the trenches with a number of customers embarking on efforts to deploy social collaboration platforms.   While the individual challenges differ, the one constant that I have seen is that the “if you build it, they will come” cliché may work well in the movies, but it certainly does not apply to persuading employees to adopt this emerging way of sharing information and collaborating with co-workers.

The concepts of enterprise social collaboration and enterprise 2.0 have been around for over half a decade, but there is still a challenge when it comes to adoption.  I believe enterprise social software will change the collaboration dynamics of the enterprise in a similar way that Facebook and other commercial social tools have already changed the way we interact and collaborate with one another in our private lives.  However, the additional organizational and cultural dynamics presented by an enterprise setting (strong hierarchies, security and privacy concerns, “hoarding” of knowledge, familiarity with existing processes, resistance to change, etc.) have shown to make this adoption more of a challenge.

While some of  these challenges might seem daunting at first glance, as I have seen over the years, they can be addressed and mitigated.  For example:  A key challenge a government customer faced was having an employee base with a lack of understanding of what social collaboration was and how it could help them.  This was complicated by the fact that very few collaboration tools (instant messaging, presence, online meetings, wiki’s, etc.) were even previously in use.  By establishing a “champion” program, we were able to seed the platform with initial users who were provided specialized training to not only help them better understand the key functionality, but more importantly, how to help educate and enlighten their coworkers on the benefits.  Over time, the “champions” helped bridge that gap from a technical, functional, and cultural perspective, filling a need that would not have been otherwise addressed.

Many benefits can be gained learning from past successes and failures.  I wanted to share the lessons I learned “from the trenches” so I recently wrote a white paper – really more of a practitioner’s guide – that presents a model with 12 different approaches to address the challenges of adoption.  I provide explicit examples of how each of the approaches can be applied with callouts for potential benefits and pitfalls.

Model for Social Collaboration Adoption Approaches

Here is a link to the white paper:  Approaches to Help Ignite Adoption of Social Collaboration.  I encourage you to read it and share your feedback.  Also, I encourage you to share any adoption challenges you may have faced with your own social collaboration initiatives and the approaches you took to address those challenges that have either worked well or failed miserably!  We are all in this journey together and until social collaboration becomes as second nature as using the telephone or sending an email, there will be an ongoing need to understand and evaluate the best approaches to avoid these adoption hurdles.


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  1. Chris, great whitepaper. I will be sharing this with my team as we develop and begin to execute our own social media strategy.

  2. Very well-written! Adopting Social Collaboration has proved to be very challenging. I once worked on a State Govt. Project and the biggest challenge was to get people to share their knowledge. Thanks for the white paper, I will forward it to my friends who are struggling with the same issues.

    • Neha – thank you for the comment. An interesting way to think about social collaboration is that it serves two primary masters. One is the individual worker and the other is the overall organization. Both need to be served. A working sharing their knowledge is primarily going to help the organization as a whole. So if you have individuals who are reluctant to share, they will need a push to become engaged. And one way is to put a bigger focus on what their individual benefit will be to start them there.

  3. Hi there

    I have recently completed my masters thesis and the topic was:

    The delay of social business software adoption in the enterprise and it’s effects

    I followed a thorough grounded theory process over an 8 month period and discovered similar restrainers to the ones you have listed in this article

    I would be very keen to engage with you

    From a sunny cape town

    Gys Kappers

    • Gys – Great topic for a thesis. While it is validating on both ends that we are seeing similar barriers, it also means that it is that much more important that we continue working on ways to mitigate them. And the answer will be somewhat different for everyone which makes it challenging. The fact that there is no prescriptive approach that will work for everyone means that this is going to be an important space over the next few years. Did your research focus on identifying the barriers only or also go into mitigation?