Enterprise Social Network

07 Sep Discovering and Developing Use Cases: How to Start Your Enterprise Social Network

As we continue our blog series this week, we’ll focus on finding and developing use cases to effectively initiate an enterprise social network. A large number of organizations have already invested in an enterprise collaboration tool and need help getting past the notion of an awareness or education campaign as ‘the’ strategy for adoption. It’s time to get teams to move and groove as easily online as they do offline.

Humans are creatures of pattern and culture. If a team does most of its collaboration offline, despite frustrating inefficiencies or pain, it will continue to work offline without a clear and simple solution that everyone buys into. Under the everyday stress of professional demand, few make time for efforts that don’t bring instant value to their day. Creating a culture of online collaboration takes time and patience. So, let’s focus on creating instant value.

First, Find out Who’s Collaborating.

Time to get away from your desk and go for a walk. Observe the behaviors and rhythm of your office offline to identify those who can help you build a collaboration network online. The trick here is focusing on relevance to work. Not just who’s talking or who has content, but who’s working together:

  • Strike up conversations across teams and functions. Learn their needs, projects, and priorities. Do teams usually meet in person or remotely? How are they capturing ideas? What do they do with those ideas? Who attends the meetings– what teams and roles are involved? Who feels like they need more information and who feels like no one reads their reports?
  • Look for stories in broadcast emails or newsletters. This will help you identify projects around your company that you may not be aware of—and may be ideal for bringing online.
  • Connect with event or training groups who have a regular need to promote, and engage; offer resources and support an audience in the long-term.
  • Learn your organization’s business goals for the year and what initiatives are supporting these goals. Demonstrating a meaningful alignment with the business can show deep value if executed well.

This up front research helps the right groups bubble to the top quickly. Taking this time to understand your network upfront makes all the difference. Remember, they are the network. The tools simply support them. Here are some additional tips: http://www.slideshare.net/rhappe/community-a-strategic-imperative

Next, Focus on Goals to Create First-wave Momentum

This is where it’s time for a sanity check. Not every business initiative or group will be ripe for first adopter collaboration. Remember that these folks will be demonstrating great use for others. Revisit the goals laid out for collaboration. These goals will help hone in on the right groups to help build early adoption, tailored to support your organization’s specific needs. For example, if the goal is to connect disparate groups, creating use cases that keep groups separated while in the environment would be unsuccessful. Here are some ideas that tie goals and action together:

  • Need to connect people and increase the involvement of experts? A focused profile drive followed by use cases for specific expertise groups can be an efficient way to kickstart the right environment.
  • Need to reduce email, disjointed reply-all threads and improve discovery? Select key initiatives with specific teams who suffer most from this —such as cross team initiatives working on planning, editorial or deliberation cycles. See more details: http://community-roundtable.com/2012/07/start_with_email
  • Need to pull together existing work and cultures? Work with HR to support their need for messaging & feedback, support, Q&A, and perhaps events.
  • How about supporting the day-to-day collaboration of business? Help teams establish use cases where they transform their reporting, messaging, editing or approval work from email to online.
  • Need to increase awareness and build a more common vision across the organization? Consider a use case around blogging with a supporting editorial calendar to highlight big news, resources, quality use, education, and more.

Last, but not Least: Begin with the End in Mind to Develop a Healthy Stream of Activity

Online collaboration is a shift in mindset inside most organizations. In the recent past, the intranet was a place for broadcasting and libraries. The new healthy collaboration environment is a place for people to be active. Activity is the primary goal.

Enable your teams to do more than just broadcast and consume. Think about other ways your organization interacts with each other as well as information:

  • Creation (and co-creation) of products
  • Deliberation of ideas
  • Decision-making around future initiatives
  • Dialogue within and among teams

The bottom line is that a participatory shift is essential for the health of the environment. Designing diverse use cases and relevance to your organization’s goals will point your efforts toward success.

We’ll go a little deeper next week and talk about how to design these use cases to be as relevant and sticky as possible. Stay tuned!