2014-16-June-Hurdles.jpgOrganizations looking to implement social solutions face common barriers to success: lack of defined purpose, absence of executive support, unsupportive work culture, poor implementation planning. And while the numbers may seem daunting -- with Gartner estimating that 80 percent of social initiatives will fall short of expected goals through 2015 -- the following guidelines can help set a social initiative on a path to maturity.

What Can You Do?

Taking a measured approach to implementing your social collaboration effort is the key to success. If your social implementation has started as a viral, grassroots effort then you need to shift to an enterprise deployment strategy. Don’t be afraid to “restart” your social project and add the implementation rigor that is needed to deploy it corporate wide.

If you’re starting scratch then you have a clean slate to define the implementation process. Be sure to include the various enterprise groups that will be involved in deploying and maintaining the solution over time like IT, HR and especially the Executive Management Team. Make sure you plan accordingly for the specific goals you want to achieve for your organization and then adapt those goals to the specific business areas that will benefit from using the solution.

By focusing on the following key implementation guidelines your success probability should improve significantly.

Engage Executives

This is an important step and one I cannot overstress as overall usage and adoption will not take root without executive approval and buy-in. Executives will push the approval down through their teams and are key in getting middle managers to buy into the solution. They also provide tacit approval to the employees across the organization through their excitement and engagement, which will spur adoption and engagement from the user community.

Oppenheimer Funds implemented Sitrion (then called NewsGator) in 2010 and initially deployed the social collaboration solution to the executive management team (EMT) as a pilot project. This gave the EMT a chance to work the solution into their day to day operations to see the power and capability that social collaboration could bring to the organization.Sitrion is now a fully integrated social platform within their enterprise SharePoint deployment and is used by most groups and departments across the company. This is a great example of how to get executive engagement and provide top-down engagement.

Start Small

If you’re starting your social collaboration effort from scratch, you should start small. Look for a good candidate group to implement a pilot solution (like the EMT described above). This will give you a good starting point to see what obstacles might hinder your enterprise wide deployment. The pilot group can become your staunch ally in getting corporate wide buy-in from other groups.

Map the Use Cases

Mapping use cases is key to ensuring you are implementing the social solution with business purpose. Adoption and usage will increase significantly if there is a business use that makes the end user’s life easier or allows them to do more with their time. The use cases can be used to document and train users on what the social collaboration solution will provide and how to use it.

Find the Champions

Seek out people in your organization that understand social and the benefits it brings. These resources could be at any level in your organization and will provide you with the ability to scale your deployment across the enterprise. Champions will act as vocal supporters and will be power-users themselves.

Champions can emerge based on their own passion or are handpicked because they have an affinity for social collaboration and are capable of leading or influencing others. Effective champions can help with awareness and lead people to the platform. Persuading certain workers who are prominent community leaders or offline community groups to use the site can help influence employees to join and participate as well.

Plan For and Execute User Training

Your user community is swamped with work so they will initially be reluctant to learn a new tool or process. Be creative about your training plans and ensure that you define training for all types of users from Admins, Champions, Users and Community Managers. Short three to five minute training videos are an effective way to keep users engaged without a significant commitment of time. Ensure you have a training plan that includes specific training for introducing new groups to the solution to ongoing training for experienced users. Provide access to Champions for one on one sessions and hold brown bag lunches to cover social collaboration topics.