Five ways to avoid Enterprise 2.0 failure

Accompanying analysis of failure with discussion of success helps teach great lessons. In this spirit, guest blogger, Sameer Patel, describes ways to avoid failure and achieve successful Enterprise 2.0 projects.

Great ZDNet blogger, Dion Hinchcliffe, recently wrote an excellent overview of why Enterprise 2.0 projects fail.

Accompanying analysis of failure with discussion of success helps teach lessons that arise from difficulty. In this spirit, guest blogger, Sameer Patel, describes ways to avoid failure and achieve successful Enterprise 2.0 projects.

Sameer is building an enterprise social business services firm that helps organizations accelerate business performance via the use of social computing concepts and technologies. Sameer consults to leading organizations and writes at Pretzel Logic - a blog about Enterprise 2.0 execution and social software. He can be reached at sameer.a.patel@gmail.com or on Twitter.

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Enterprise 2.0 is not a category of software. Rather it's a state that the enterprise achieves by leveraging social computing concepts and technologies, to accelerate business performance.

True performance improvements come from successfully shifting the nucleus of business process away from structured, data centric ERP systems, over to people centric platforms that break silos and artificial interaction firewalls. Carefully executed, the benefits can transform relationships between employees, customers, partners and suppliers to drive revenue, remove significant risk from marketing and product development initiatives, and significantly improve speed of execution.

Organizations can face significant execution risks that need to be carefully mitigated as they move towards creating and participating in a socially networked business ecosystem. From the temptation to ignore traditional benchmarks in favor of new metrics, to fighting basic human behavior, to relying on social software that claims to do all the magic, the promise of true business transformation will remain a pipe dream in the absence of well thought out execution components.

Some important considerations to help you avoid Enterprise 2.0 failure:

1. ‘What's in it for me'. Not just ‘What's in it for us'

The single biggest point of failure occurs during the initial planning phase: focusing primarily on organizational benefits and putting individual incentives and therefore, behaviors, a distant second. The former helps crystallize the big picture and to justify the initiative to bean counters. The latter ensures sustained engagement, which in turn delivers improved performance.

The emergence of true Enterprise 2.0 transformation is unlikely to see the light of day if it's designed to change how we as individuals or user constituencies behave. It might be called Enterprise Social Networking or Social Business, but honestly, if you haven't considered and responded to the psychological drivers for each user type, a vibrant socially networked business ecosystem won't emerge.  Consider the typical sales rep: She wants to consume as opposed to contribute. She searches, never browses. And she almost never personalizes interfaces. On the other hand, an engineer wants to collaborate, share, learn how to code better from others and contribute to a larger team success. Two very different behavioral models based on different incentive structures. Designing interaction models around the behaviors of each user type before selecting software and launching mitigates significant programmatic risk.

2. Social software plays an important but limited role towards Enterprise 2.0 design

One of the biggest impediments to creating successful socially networked business ecosystems is premature technology selection. It's critical to think though which performance objectives you're trying to affect and then decide whether a best of breed solution makes sense or if you can live with a general purpose platform. A case can be made for either. General purpose platforms focus on creating a unified social fabric across customers and employees. On the other hand, purpose built systems dive deep into a given business activity such as customer support, innovation, supply chain optimization and the like.

Many organizations still sport scars from painful integration projects of the past and opt for one general purpose platform that support all use cases. From a business execution standpoint, this may be very risky as these platforms can be light on process. The good news is that a best of breed approach can be simpler this time around. With open APIs and widgets, social software makes extensibility less painful. So think carefully about how best to meet your performance objectives before you forgo deep process transformation in favor of simplicity of deployment.

3. Fix the True Break points in Your Organization

Carefully think through the inputs and outputs of Enterprise 2.0 design before you jump in and deploy applications. Contrary to what vendors might market to you, there's no such thing as built in ROI in any application. ROI comes from effective program execution, of which social software is but one component.

Consider Sales Intelligence applications that fold in Facebook and LinkedIn intelligence about a prospect into your CRM customer record. Sounds like a winner. However, if your sales reps consider your CRM application to be nothing more than a glorified reporting tool for management and don't use it to actively manage leads, it makes little sense to throw more data into that workflow. Other Social apps promise to link campaigns in your CRM system to new prospects on Facebook. If your promotions are not relevant to this new audience, social software won't do much to engage these folks. So assess your organizations social readiness and fix the true break points, before spending resources on social software.

4. Figure out the Optimal Ownership Structure

Socially networked business ecosystems are about to add tremendous headaches to gatekeepers of traditional org charts and hierarchy. Take for instance the area of customer support that vendors are now re-casting as ‘Social CRM'. Whilst customer support programs are well understood and have an established home in the enterprise, Social CRM promises to transform product innovation, support, and marketing. Do you see a natural home for this broad functional set in the typical enterprise? Me neither. It could be owned by product management, support, or marketing.

To avoid risking failure, identify which stated benefits most closely support your performance objectives to figure out the right home in the enterprise. Enterprise 2.0 promises to eventually create a flatter organization and single ownership might be less of an issue at that time. Until then you need one throat to choke but relevant business groups need to be allowed to also draw from the well to see large scale benefit.

5. There's Metrics and then there's Performance Goals

There's lot of talk of new metrics for new media. I'd contend that old metrics are still sacrosanct. Why? Try to explain to the powers that be that we're going to measure our business based on ‘sentiment', frequency of sharing, affinity, engagement, conversations and other such data points. These mean little to those in charge of business performance goals such as number of qualified leads delivered, sales close rates, supply chain optimization, employee churn, and the like. These new metrics are undoubtedly valuable but should serve as catalysts towards achieving well-established business goals that managers and executives are themselves measured by.

Closing Note

Here's the good news: If you're planning Enterprise 2.0 transformation, you have it easier than your predecessors who had had to justify and drive large-scale, traditional enterprise software deployments. Today's Enterprise 2.0 products are faster and easier to implement than ever before. Follow these fives lessons and your chances for Enterprise 2.0 success will rise dramatically.

[Thanks to Sameer Patel for writing this guest post. Image via iStockphoto]

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