Building a Business Case for Social Business Software via @JiveSoftware #socbiz

Back in a previous life I was asked to take on two projects, an “intranet” upgrade and an “customer portal” – the requirements for both were lose and the intranet upgrade seemed fairly obvious, just upgrade from SharePoint MOSS 2007 to 2010 (or 2013 depending on timing).  For the customer portal project I partnered with the Director of Marketing to define the scope of the project and determine what our constraints might be – budget and executive buy in where the two biggest concerns which was odd to me since the CEO asked for the customer portal in the first place.  As we started down this path I quickly realized what people wanted in an intranet, and what we wanted to provide to our customers had almost the exact same requirements – the projects converged and the rest, well we got acquired so the project never launched but I met a great company called Jive Software and the rest of this article was information provided at their Jive Road Show from the spring of 2012 to help build a business case for Social Business (or Social Enterprise) software.

  1. Okay so I didn’t agree with their number 1 – the first order of business is to learn what “social” means to different people in your company.  Once you have this understanding, develop training – one on one, department or for the entire company about what being “social” means in today’s digital world.  Everyone needs to be on the same page or your project won’t get off the ground.  “We are already a social business” said one executive who sat in his office all day behind closed doors – made my skin crawl, he wasn’t even social in the sense of talking to people never mind how to be social in a digital format.
  2. (This is where Jive started) Align the social business initiative to your companies critical business initiatives – this is an important step so you can align the cost of the project to actual initiatives for the business, in our case it was creating a customer portal, increasing sales and improving the customer experience.
  3. Gain strong executive (and Finance) sponsorship – obvious but critical for any project.  Get as much money in the bank as possible – I had CEO and CFO approval, and a free 6 month pilot lined up and it still got denied (but we were also in the process of getting acquired)
  4. Select the right initial groups and engage key people early – This is why I added my own number 1 requirement – it may be difficult to know WHO the right/key people are with, well, being social!  I opted to ask the entire company for volunteers and created a team of 20 people to tell me what they wanted, what would help them in their day to day job and with their customers (be it internal or external).  If you know of someone who is completely opposed, thinks that “social is for kids” get them in on the project early – your biggest opponent can quickly become your biggest proponent (proponent…is that a word?  meh)
  5. Mindfully model and mentor through content and interaction seeding – social enterprise is all about engagement.  If your not using the software, not having conversations, sharing information it will just become a document management system, or that system you wasted the companies money on!  Help people start conversations and discussions, maybe start with how it can be leveraged within just groups or departments and then show how it can span the entire company.
  6. Design and build for engagement – provide guidance and examples for people to model their usage after until they are comfortable with the platform, at which point it will start to be natural and the growth/engagement organic.
  7. Communicate bottom up and top down – short version – everyone needs to be engaged on the platform.  If the CEO is not listening, its not working.  A platform like this can generate so much great information for the business leaders to act on.
  8. Measure – take baselines, before and after the project launches.  Know what you business initiatives were (item 2) and know how those performed both before and after you go live.  Is employee satisfaction up?  Customer retention up?  Having these metrics will continue to provide proof that transforming your business into a social business matters.
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