How to make your enterprise social network a success

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How to make your enterprise social network a success

How do enterprise social networks work in reality? Taking a step back from looking at what technology is around to choose from and who is using what, I’m proud to introduce a guest writer to my blog to approach them from a different angle.

Kostas Kastrisios, @kostas_ks on Twitter, (pictured) recently completed his Masters in Information Systems Management at Warwick Business School in the UK. I encouraged him to share the results of his disseration because I think it will be of interest to readers of my blog. Over to you Kostas….

kostasAt Warwick I was fortunate to study under Professor Ola Henfridsson, a leading authority on digital innovation, digital infrastructure, platforms and technology management.

For my dissertation I chose to focus on: the role of enterprise community management in getting success from enterprise social software.

I would like to share some of the insights and findings from my research with you, as I believe they are valuable to every business that has either implemented, or is considering the implementation of an enterprise social network (ESN).

The focus on ESNs and the role of enterprise community managers
The area of enterprise social networking captured my interest right from the start. Unlike traditional technology deployments that come with a predefined set of instructions, these platforms allow individuals to use them in ways that best serve their needs in the workplace, thus offering endless possibilities for businesses.

At the same time, however, there is no instruction manual that organisations can follow step by step in order to succeed in driving business value from the use of these tools, and to me their successful adoption seems like a very challenging task.

For that reason, I chose to focus on enterprise community managers (ECM), an emergent role which often evolves as part of the job description for internal comms staff, and involves fostering the active use of an ESN aligned to business value.

(Is this your experience? – Feel free to share your thoughts on Kostas’ dissertation – Rachel). 

My goal was to explore what ECM is all about and find out whether businesses need community managers to succeed in their efforts to get social.

I conducted a series of interviews with representatives from different industry sectors in organisations that use ESN platforms from major software vendors Yammer and Jive, and I was greatly assisted in this by Steve Crompton and Emma Stephen from the Yammer team in London, and by Nick Crawford and Chris Copland at Betterworking.

A leadership role vital to the success of these large-scale social initiatives
Through my research, I discovered that the successful adoption of ESNs requires organisations to:

  • focus on selecting the right technology
  • understand how people actually communicate and work
  • then figure out ways in which technology can be used to address their needs in the workplace.

I found out that to overcome the inherent obstacles, organisations need trusted leaders who will take on the challenging role of inspiring everyone to become an active part of a larger community, and then guide them step by step in making these tools part of their daily workflows and using them to drive business value – and that is what community management is all about.

The role of community managers
yammerCommunity managers have unique skills and characteristics that allow them to figure out how they can take advantage of these powerful tools to help people connect with others and face real problems at work.

More importantly, they are able to communicate that to everyone in the business, from the most junior to the most senior person. They are suitable for leading the collective efforts of an organisation trying to get the most out of an ESN, and the outcomes from their actions bring great benefits to both individuals participating, and to the business as a whole.

Releasing employees from the old fashioned ways of working

With the help of community managers, employees are able to get out of their “boxes” and reach out to the rest of the organisation. They learn how to make these tools part of their daily workflows and use them to connect with others, share knowledge and quickly recover  useful information.

They also discover how to use them to crowdsource ideas and identify best practices, which prevents them from “reinventing the wheel” and makes them a whole lot more productive and efficient. Learning how to share their work with others, also enables employees to unlock their hidden value and build brands for themselves in the organisation.

It allows them to connect with others who share the same interests and passions and gradually build an audience that follows their activities, and that gives them great exposure to the rest of the organisation.

Reducing the distance between the top management and the rest of the organisation
Covering the population in all the different levels, community managers are able to bring executives and senior managers on board and help them become active parts of the online community.

mindsetThat effectively reduces their distance from the rest of the organisation and brings them a lot closer to their employees. At the same time, it presents the top management with a great opportunity to take advantage of these platforms to receive feedback from the rest of the organisation, and then use it to make better decisions and ultimately, improve their leadership skills.

Bringing a lot more to an organisation than just getting people to “join in”

The efforts of community managers to join everyone in a larger community promote the creation of an open and honest culture, where people are willing to communicate with others and exchange ideas about work, which is necessary for breaking down communication silos and improving collaboration across the enterprise.

On top of that, by helping every individual make the best out of these platforms, community managers drive organisational performance, increase cost savings, and foster innovation through the generation of ideas that bring added value to a business.

Last but not least, community managers take advantage of ESNs to better support activities and hobbies that employees pursue outside work, which promotes the ‘human side’ of the organisation and makes work a better place.

ECM is worth the investment

I embarked on this research thinking that Enterprise Community Managers would be a critical factor to the successful adoption of ESNs. Now that my research is complete, I am convinced that the challenge of getting these powerful tools off the ground is so great, that organisations need to properly invest in community management to succeed.

They need to deploy dedicated community managers and provide them with all the resources necessary for them to bring people together, regardless of their title or position, and empower them to achieve great things.

Further reading 
Want to find out more? See Kostas’ management report which summarises the key findings from his dissertation: ‘Community Management: A new form of leadership emerges in organizations implementing enterprise social networks’.

It includes information such as the table below:

Kostas

Post author: Kostas Kastrisios @kostas_ks

Thank you Kostas. What do you think of what he has written? Does it tally with your experience? Are you studying something similar? What has your studies revealed? As ever, you’re welcome to comment below, tweet me @AllthingsIC or get in touch.

P.s. Like the illustrations on this page? They are by the talented Virpi Oinonen of www.businessillustrator.com.

Rachel

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2  responses on How to make your enterprise social network a success

Nice blog post Kostas.

The role of an enterprise community manager is of extreme importance in the success of an ESN. Without a good community manager to facilitate the flow of knowledge and enhance the communication of a company, any ESN project will be doomed.

There are other significant requirements to ensure the success of an ESN, amongst them are: the development of valuable business use cases, getting C level execs to actively participate in the ESN, developing ESN champions within the organization and accurately measuring the ROI of the ESN.

I recently wrote a blog post on some tips to ensure the success of an ESN. You may find it useful for your work: http://good2bsocial.com/2013/04/24/tips-launch-enterprise-social-network-esn/

Hi Guy, thank you for your comment and for the link to further reading, Rachel.

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