“It’s the journey, not the destination.”

This well known cliché holds true for enterprise social maturity. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends traveled the yellow brick road believing the wizard would fix all their problems. Turns out there was no wizard -- just a man behind the curtain. But they didn't need a wizard, because the answers and abilities to solve the problems lay within. 

When you first embark on your journey to enterprise social business, it's hard enough to define the path, have a concept of the grand vision and take the first few steps to piloting and experimenting within a new world of technology. As the journey matures, the focus turns to finding like-minded people to evangelize and support, understanding detractors and defining the boundaries of the path within your organization.

Here are some signposts to be mindful of along your enterprise social journey between the first two stages -- Experimenting and Expanding:

Identify the Other (Informal) Leaders Willing to Go the Distance

Why: During this early part of the journey, seek out others who are willing to lead and who are open to explore new experiences and possibilities. You are not the only one who faces difficulty in communications and collaboration in your organization. Look for others who are seeking a better way, too, and you will all grow from interacting together.

Metric: Core group of key people who will support journey.

The Edges Define the Middle

Why: Find use cases -- both simple and harder to achieve -- and remember, lowest common denominator often wins.

Need a better way to disseminate information to distribution lists? What about another method of communicating with colleagues over geographic boundaries? Remember posts on platforms such as Yammer automatically translate from other languages, giving enough sense to interpret what is needed and allow knowledge to be shared. Do you want input from staff who speak with customers every day but who have never had an email address issued to them to be able to tell you what they are hearing? Or do you want another way to do file sharing with external clients or collaborating on deliverables?

Metric: Number and type of use cases expressed by different parts of the organization.

Engaged Users

Why: As with leaders, the start of your power user community rests in identifying employees who are active on the platform, who interact with others. Whether it’s because they’ve created their own groups or like to share ideas and thoughts they’ve found outside the organization or because they are new in their roles and want to connect with others, you can’t establish and spread the network without them. Engagement can be measured through behavioral interactions, posts, likes, group creation, replies, etc. In social media, it’s not enough to be interesting, you also have to be interested. Enterprise social is a great leveler, new voices will be heard and some people will identify it as an opportunity to raise their profile at work.

Metric: Number of engaged users.

Learning Opportunities

Track Serendipitous Success

Why: Ask people to post their wins and use a topic or group to collect them. No matter how small, anecdotes like these are worth their weight in gold when you are asked to prove the value in your company. Did a colleague of a colleague get pulled into a conversation where resources were identified faster? Was content generated in another part of the company reused in a new way? Did the identification of someone who had done the same thing before happen faster? Were you able to get new ideas for how to run an event better or how to engage others?

Use routine activities in your company to give credibility to a new tool while creating new connections and perspectives for employees. For example, in companies where processes such asHealth, Safety and Environment are part of everything you do, ask people to share Safety Moments, suggest a better way to deal with spills on a floor or best ergonomic desk set-ups. They’ll learn to share their ideas using a new tool in the context of something familiar, and learn there’s a network of people to access when they need help in the future.

Metric: Number and type of #esnwins.

Showcase a New Form of Collaboration to Management

Why: It’s not often that managers have the ability to hear directly from employees.While not anonymous, contributing to a discussion or answering a poll or survey which addresses a specific question can be an excellent way to communicate workforce sentiment. Likewise, managers and leadership can also use enterprise social as a way to communicate their thinking, through virtual Town Halls that solicit feedback. While for some these steps will be gingerly taken, it is a way to engage and stimulate activity on your network while showcasing how people come together around an issue from across the organization. Polling is a great way to start off, answering simple questions and gathering the data from the poll answers, as well as metrics on likes and replies. This can help garner support from leadership stakeholders as well as communicate that management values opinions.

Metric: Types and numbers of engagement activities.

Finally in these early stages remember that others have pioneered this path. Learn from other company's journeys.Every industry from petrochemical to fashion has examples of how it has been successful. Enterprise social is not a fad; it’s another way of doing everyday collaboration. Enabling each employee to be more productive while raising the collective acuity of the organization as a whole is your goal. But to do so, you must follow the yellow brick road, one step at a time.

Title image by Verkhovynets Taras (Shutterstock)