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Implementing an Enterprise Social Network – Adoption

This is the third post in a series looking at Implementing an Enterprise Social Network. Previously we have looked at the Analysis phase and Migration exercise. In this post we are going to look at the importance of Adoption activities. 

Introducing an Enterprise Social Network is a great way to improve collaboration and communication between people in an organisation. It allows users to easily get in touch with one another, find people with similar knowledge and business interests, and improve a whole range of working practices.

One of the first steps in developing such a tool is to choose the technology and platform (we can help!). However, important as this decision is, it is only part of an ongoing process. A great Enterprise Social Network requires healthy user adoption to succeed, and the secret to this is time and planning.

In this post we will look at a number of vital activities which can really help seed, and maintain, user adoption when implementing an Enterprise Social Network.

Talk to users

It might sound very obvious, but talking to users affected by projects such as these is sometimes forgotten. It’s extremely important to engage with users before the project starts to understand what they need and what they want – which aren’t always the same thing! During the project this engagement must be maintained with good communication on the status of activities. Then once the system has gone live users have a huge role to play in feedback, helping to define and implement system and content improvements.

Ensuring a good feedback loop is actually hugely important. Not only does it help to improve the actual system, but by listening to users and making them feel more part of the project, they are much more likely to engage positively with the system.

User forums and communication packs

Holding seminars or user forums is an efficient way to update your organization with the latest news around the project. Pulling people away from desks, offering a coffee or refreshments, and engaging them for a short period can reap real benefits when implementing an Enterprise Social Network. This type of dedicated forum can be carried out before a project goes live, to refine requirements, or afterwards as a way of getting great feedback. Holding a simple question and answer session (which is a really effective medium anyway) gives people a chance to air their own views and feel involved.

These sorts of events can be supported by communication packs. Much more effective than a simple email or newsletter, a pack can be as simple as a set of slides (or even a printed hand-out if budget allows) which addresses various aspects of the system. To drive adoption try sending out a ‘Training user pack’ to the head of each department or team once the system has gone live. Include ‘Quick tip’ cards, “I’m social, are you?” badges, and a visual training manual. Users will thank you.

“Meet the team” sessions

A common pitfall in IT projects is the existence of a gap between the users and the implementation team. It is quite easy to overcome this sort of thing by setting up sessions and allowing users to meet the team that is implementing the Enterprise Social Network. Just putting names to faces allows end users to better understand the complexity of these sorts of projects. As soon as they know ‘Jeff from Marketing’ is involved, or ‘The US HR team’ is involved in content creation, they will instantly feel more attached to the project.

Show and tell

‘Show and tell’ is a tool every Enterprise Social Network team should put to good use for as long as the system is running. Giving product demonstrations is often the best way to show your users what the system is capable of. It is also another great feedback menu for normal users.

Ultimately it is all about users

Adoption is absolutely key to the success of any enterprise IT system, whether your implementing an enterprise social network or something different. The activities in this post offer a number of ways of helping this process along. But ultimately adoption is about users, and talking to them. No matter the medium, the process, or the frequency – if you have good open communication with users then adoption will happen. What is especially good about ESNs is they benefit from great communications, but can also help facilitate it as well. So success is a double win! Best of luck, and we’d love to hear your comments below.

Maximo Castagno

Maximo Castagno

Chief Product Officer. I’m a sociologist designing for humans since 1998.