Whether you were in Las Vegas or watching the latest from the office or at home on Channel 9, odds are you’re still reeling from this month’s electric SharePoint Conference (SPC) 2014. From President Bill Clinton’s keynote, to major product announcements from the Microsoft teams, to the jam-packed expert sessions – there was simply so much great information to consume. Throughout the show, though, you saw a distinct, unified message from Microsoft: Work like a network.
 
 
As Microsoft General Manager of Enterprise Social Jared Spataro noted in his recent post on the Office Blog, “the world has become a giant network, and social media has rewired the way we connect with people and information.” Think about it: When was the last time you used email to communicate with your loved ones? In my personal life, email is pretty much an alerting mechanism for my monthly bills and where I get bargain deals from Groupon. Instead of email, how do you interact and engage with your family and friends? My wild guess is that you rely on social media tools like Facebook, correct? At the same time, you certainly wouldn’t be in the minority if you receive many of your news updates from around the world on Twitter or you found your current job on LinkedIn.
 
 
Now, thanks to enterprise social collaboration and communication technologies, we’re able to bring those same concepts into the workplace. Whether it’s Yammer, SharePoint, Lync, or Office Graph, these technologies bring tremendous value in the areas of employee engagement, team collaboration, driving business agility and facilitating a connected enterprise. But how can we ensure that we reap the benefits of these revolutionary tools? We need to fundamentally transform how we work. Engaging within the boundaries of our organizational silos has proven ineffective. We need to shift how we work into a connected enterprise model with a shared purpose.
 
Based on my own experience, I’m happy to share five steps that can help you make that shift and allow your organization to truly work like a network.
 
1.       Address business needs first and foremost
As you define your vision for the new enterprise social collaboration technologies, everything needs to tie back directly to the business’ needs. From the start of your project, you will want to secure leadership buy-in across your organization. The best way to do this, of course, is to map the technology to the tangible business value it brings.
 
Start with common business challenges to which your leadership can relate. Are there areas of the business where inefficient collaboration and communication practices are happening because the right tools aren’t being utilized? Is data accumulating in areas where it’s left untouched and taking up valuable storage space? Lay out plain and simple how the new technologies will not only impact productivity, but also the company’s bottom line. What do they mean in dollars and cents?
 
With your vision clearly defined, your leadership will see how enterprise social collaboration technologies enable your organization to learn and respond rapidly by optimizing for the open flow of information; encouraging experimentation and learning on rapid cycles; and motivating your network of employees, customers, and partners by a shared purpose.
2.       Harmonize business and IT
With your leadership on board, your next step is to ensure IT is synchronized with key business groups. Identify business initiatives that can be better accomplished with enterprise social, then assess and prioritize the order of importance and impact. Then bring the stakeholders attached to those initiatives on board with your project. Find key influencers who are open to change and can help you to advance your cause – because one lone voice is never loud enough.
 
Work with these groups to get them excited about enterprise social and what it can do for them. Determine their biggest pains and share how the new technologies can help overcome them. As an influential lot, the business stakeholders’ enthusiasm for enterprise social will act as an endorsement and encourage the rest of the organization to adopt the enterprise social technologies when the time is right. With business and IT working together hand in hand, you already have a major leg up in the battle for user adoption.
3.       Define your sustainable adoption strategy
Your adoption strategy is what will ultimately make your vision sink or swim, so its importance cannot be understated. And, of course, these major shifts in business culture won’t happen overnight, so you need a plan that takes into account the long term. Because of that, many key factors need to be taken into consideration, including:
  • Driving internal awareness: Work with your marketing and corporate communications teams on how to build excitement for the enterprise social technologies. In addition to standard intranet and newsletter announcements, pursue more engaging activities like lunch and learns, group competitions, and mentoring sessions to help get the word out.
  • Identifying champions: Find the business users who are passionate about and excited by these new ways of working and bring them into the fold. Let them know how they will benefit in their specific roles, give them responsibilities, and allow them to help evangelize the project.
  • Uniting people: Apply concepts like gamification to make adoption fun and engaging, and determine ways to reward your users who take to the new technologies in ways that can be applied to their daily business activities.
  • Establishing empowering governance standards: Develop a set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes to guide, direct, and control how enterprise social technologies are used to accomplish business goals. Use governance to help your users understand how the new technologies should be utilized based on their specific roles.
  • Facilitating contextual learning: While technical training will suffice for some, the majority of your organization needs training that is role-specific, gives the new tools real business context, and offers inspiration to help them leave behind old habits for new and better ways of working.
For more on how IT can inspire, motivate, and drive sustainable adoption, check out my presentation from SPC 2014 on Channel 9.
4.       Manage your multi-generational, multi-device workforce
Take a look across your workforce and you’re likely to see a lot of diversity. You have baby boomers who grew up spinning records collaborating with millennials who have never owned music on a tangible format. Each generation that makes up your workforce approaches new technology in an entirely different way. You may find reluctance from some and instant “What took you so long?” acceptance from others. Take this all into account as you roll out your enterprise social initiatives. Can you show your biggest skeptics how this will make their job easier? Can your “sure thing” adopters help you to evangelize? Anticipate the responses you’ll get from each type of worker and be ready to show them how the new technologies will impact their day-to-day work in a positive way.
 
You’ll no doubt find just as much diversity in the devices your workforce is using to do their jobs. With the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) revolution well underway throughout the workplace, the days of doing everything on the work-issued laptop or desktop are long gone. Your teams want to do their jobs on their tablets and smartphones of choice, and they need to do their jobs outside the confines of the office walls. In addition to ensuring your workers have access to these new technologies from their approved devices, you need to make sure that access is secure and your data is sufficiently protected.
 
To learn more about the BYOD revolution and managing your multi-device and multi-generational workforce, be sure to check out my presentation from SPC 2014 on Channel 9.
5.       Measure success
Make the success of your enterprise social adoption visible. This allows a “snowball” effect throughout your organization that encourages further adoption. By regularly gathering feedback, success stories can be promoted. An effective way to gather feedback and success stories is by letting users share how these new technologies and ways of working have improved their daily work activities. 
 
Describe the “before” and “after” scenarios to clearly show the value of the enterprise social technologies in the areas of:
  • team collaboration;
  • information centralization;
  • streamlining business processes;
  • cost savings; and
  • time savings.
Doing this enables you to demonstrably show the return on investment (ROI) of your enterprise social solution. When decision makers and team members are engaged with the implementation and then see a demonstrable ROI from an enterprise social implementation that addresses practical needs of the organization, lasting adoption will increase.    
So there you have it! As the needs of your workers, partners, and customers continue to change, these new enterprise social technologies allow you to implement new and innovative ways to keep up with the increasing demand to share and collaborate more. With the right vision and strategy in place, you can enable a shift that will truly change the way your organization works for the better. Now go forth and work like a network!​