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Is Social Collaboration in the Enterprise doomed to fail?

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

"It's critical to define how the new tools will help each group of employees do their jobs better."

So, for example, telling a salesperson that they can use social tools to find the right product expert or be alerted when an invoice is paid, straight to their mobile device, is far more likely to get them to use the new tools than a nebulous statement like better collaboration.

Gartner suggests that when it comes to the actually planning and implementation of a social media strategy within the enterprise, this is something best left to an enterprise architect with the necessary cross-disciplinary experience to oversee.

Richard Edwards, a principal analyst at fellow analyst firm Ovum, couldn't disagree more. "Social change programs should not be led by architects, IT managers, or any other technical profile," Edwards told IT Pro.

"The internal communications team is a good place to start, but any team put together for such an initiative must be comprised of Gladwell's Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen in order to start a social epidemic."

In his book 'The Tipping Point' Malcolm Gladwell describes the three agents of change, or the law of the few which determine the success of any kind of social epidemic, as being: Connectors - the people who know large numbers of other people, and are best placed to make introductions; the social equivalent of a computer network hub. Mavens - the information specialists whom we all rely upon to connect us with new information, who accumulate knowledge and understand how to share it. Salesmen - the charismatic persuaders that couple powerful negotiating skills with an inherent and indefinable trait that makes others want to agree with them.

Bluewolf's managing director Vera Loftis has plenty of experience in consulting on these issues with thousands of companies large and small. She reveals that responsibility for planning and implementing social media strategies generally lies with the marketing or IT functions, although in some cases (such as Vodafone in Australia) customer service can take a leading role.

"Regardless of designated ownership, a social media strategy must be a shared responsibility across the enterprise," Loftis warns. "Every employee must be enabled to interact with customers using social, and to identify and capture opportunities for improved customer engagement based on these interactions."

All of this leads us to think that Freegard has got it about right when he talks of a social media strategy in terms of it being a series of business processes enabling engagement with stakeholders inside and outside the organisation.

"As the potential impact of social media is so widespread throughout a company" Freegard told IT Pro. "You need to think beyond the traditional organisational hierarchies and create a 'Digital Office' to oversee the business-centric elements that social media provide. While marketing, IT, HR and corporate communications clearly all have a role to play when it comes to the strategy and execution, you need a single owner, such as a Chief Digital Officer, who has visibility across the whole organisational to drive the initiative."

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