Is Social Collaboration in the Enterprise doomed to fail?

How can your business ensure success when it comes to social collaboration in the enterprise?

Analyst firm Gartner recently claimed that while 70 per cent of organisations are implementing some kind of social collaboration initiative, a staggering 90 per cent of them fail to deliver any business value.

The research suggests that those with a 'clear and compelling purpose' are most likely to succeed, yet mostly social media is treated as a 'which platform' decision instead of addressing specific business problems or as a driver to a specific outcome for the organisation.

Provide and pray', as coined by Gartner, is a neat generic term, but in order to understand precisely why so many social collaboration initiatives in the enterprise fail we need to dig deeper and discover exactly what is going wrong. Perhaps even more importantly, we need to consider why those mistakes are being made.

It's not enough to jump on the social business' bandwagon just because it's the latest trend. Otherwise, it will be hard to deliver business value and the enterprise social network becomes just another source of noise and distraction and quickly loses its appeal.

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Speaking to Phil Freegard, head of the digital transformation practice at Infosys, it becomes apparent that there's all too often something of a disconnect between a project that is viewed as being stand-alone and the mid to long-term plans built by the company leadership.

"It is imperative that social collaboration initiatives have a clear strategic foundation which is directly tied to an organisation's business goals," he says. "These initiatives can become too focused on the tools and technologies needed to implement them, and not focused enough on the cultural impact that may result of the implementation."

For example, in many companies, you will find that senior managers are the most reticent to adopt social collaboration as they have typically reached their positions without using them themselves and therefore don't understand their value. "Getting these users on board can be key to the success of a project," Freegard warns. "So organisations need to ensure they also invest in gaining user buy-in across all levels and departments."

Johan Zetterstrm, CEO at Projectplace, certainly agrees that having strong leaders on board is pivotal to the success of any new way of working. "Leaders play a critical role in promoting a new company culture, which will benefit everyone involved. Leaders need to become open, social and transparent to encourage this new way of working," he told IT Pro."If they don't adapt, the successful integration of social collaboration strategies will be difficult to accomplish."

Leadership alone does not a shoe-in social collaboration initiative make. Robust adoption strategies and well designed tools are also required. If the enterprise wants to escape from the provide and pray fail cycle, then a clearly defined strategy is a must and that means clearly defined objectives and clearly defined desirable outcomes in order to reap the benefits of doing social business.

"It's not enough to jump on the social business' bandwagon just because it's the latest trend," James Fabricant, vice president of business development and strategy at Workshare points out. "Otherwise, it will be hard to deliver business value and the enterprise social network becomes just another source of noise and distraction and quickly loses its appeal."

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