Social business takes work. It is an evolution in the way we get our jobs done, communicate and engage with our colleagues. Why is this evolution important? Just like former evolutions in the workplace, email and the telephone, social business improves upon our current ways of working by speeding up our access to information and experts, helping us become more innovative, and making us more efficient than ever. The one thing I don’t get though is when some companies deploy social business solutions and put little effort into the people side of things. They only focus on the technology and figure that will be enough. Social business takes work if you are going to achieve business impact.

That work isn’t just focusing on organizational change management techniques like communication and education. Even earlier than that, the value-driving user scenarios must be developed. The early work done discovering and developing these scenarios will not only drive value for your users and the business, but will also help inform your messaging when you start developing your communication and education plans.

Understand Overall Goals for Becoming a Social Business

To start, work with your project sponsors to make sure you understand the overall goals for bringing a social business solution to your organization. Don’t stop at “we need to collaborate better.” Really dive into where social business can address your corporate goals. Is one corporate goal to improve customer satisfaction? Social can help there, and not just through the use of social media externally. You can use internal social tools to address customer satisfaction. Look at the business groups that work with customers: the call center, sales and marketing. Do you have a retail presence? Add tellers, cashiers, security and greeters to your list.

Meet with Key Stakeholders

Once you have identified which groups can have the biggest impact on your business goals, start meeting with key stakeholders and maybe one or two “regular” workers in each group who are familiar with the everyday processes. Talk with them about how they currently communicate and collaborate, what their pain points are, and in a perfect world how they would like to be able to work. Then talk about what the business impact would be if you could affect the pain points with social. What does it mean if customer service reps can get answers more quickly? What if fewer meetings are necessary?

Lastly, perhaps do a quick ad hoc demo of how you see that group using social business technology to solve the problems that were discussed. You want to make sure that everyone is on the right track and that the stakeholders can see the vision of how social tools can help them with their specific needs.

Develop a Benefit Story for Your Users

Based on user scenarios developed for key business areas, you can then configure each online social community. I like to do the extra hand-holding for these key business units to make sure that they are using these new tools in a way that drives real value for both the business but also for the individual users. If you don’t have a benefit story for your users about what’s in it for them, why should they want to change their habits?

So this is where I take the user scenarios and weave the stories into the launch communications and education. If I simply tell people how to use the new solution, they may not understand why; without understanding why, the majority of the organization will never change. Of course you will have users who intrinsically understand the value of social tools at work (usually those who use the same types of tools in their personal lives), but it won’t be everyone, and to derive value from your social business initiative, you need the majority of your organization participating.

Be on High Alert for Other Groups

And, your work isn’t done after you have developed the value-driven user scenarios and have on-boarded those initial high-impact groups. Granted you will have viral growth wherein other communities will naturally form and start taking advantage of the new tools you have given them. However, remember to keep your senses on high alert for other groups that help drive those corporate goals for which you are aiming. Listen for people saying “I sit in too many unproductive meetings,” “I get too much email,” or “I have a hard time finding people to answer my questions.” I’m always listening for those types of phrases so I can usher new groups into the social business evolution.

Keep Track of Progress

Lastly, stay in touch with the community managers to see how they are doing on affecting those measures identified during the user-scenario discovery sessions. Give your users a way to share individual success stories: “I’ve heard customer service reps getting answers more quickly and are able to resolve customer issues more quickly,” or “I’ve heard sales reps say they can do account reviews in a matter of hours instead of days.” Just these two items point to improved customer satisfaction in the first case and an increased sales cycle (which should equate to quicker revenue recognition) in the second case.

The anecdotal evidence is useful as you continue to communicate to users to expand on the “What’s in it for me” story. On the corporate level you need to track the overall progress toward the corporate goals you targeted with social tools in the beginning. In my earlier example, the goal was improving customer satisfaction. How are you doing on that metric six months post-deployment? 12 months?

Final Thought

Spending the time up front on building the value based on your corporate goals will end up helping you in a number of ways. Don’t stop at “we need to collaborate better.” Instead, dig a little deeper and spend the time to determine what that means for you as a company and what that means for your individual users. You will have a much straighter evolutionary path to follow and a more meaningful, worthwhile social business effort.

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