Tuesday’s Tip: Dealing With The Real Problem In Social Business Adoption – The People!

Published on June 12, 2012 by R "Ray" Wang

Social Business Adoption Dependent On Employee Adoption

Social business is more than a technology decision.  Many eager early adopters face challenges in adoption past the initial core team.  As we move from eager early adopters to ubiquitous usage, an examination of some organizations who have failed at internal social business reveals five common barriers to adoption:

  1. Poorly defined incentives. In the rush to convince everyone to work with each other, most organizations fail to design meaningful incentives for adoption.  The reality – most folks collaborate only when they need to, not when they are told to.
  2. Increase in actual effort. For many in the workforce, collaboration often means more work, not less work.  Connectedness results in more interactions, some less meaningful than others.  Increase in effort often shifts the status quo resulting in internal resistance.
  3. Lack of choice in user experience. Time and time, people want to use the tool they are most comfortable with.  For example, activity streams make sense for some folks who are used to high frequency, always on, information flows.  However, those accustomed to using email as a task list and structured approach to filing information will find discomfort with activity streams.
  4. Indifference to change. Inertia to do nothing often outweighs the calls for change.  The workforce often prefers to do things the way they always have been.  The workforce has seen many changes and at this point face change fatigue.
  5. Failure to communicate the urgency.  Business model shifts are not easy to communicate to the workforce.  Veteran employees often develop coping mechanisms that define the new change as a reincarnation of the old change without understanding the nuance or urgency.

Overcoming Barriers Of Adoption Require A Mix of New and Classical Change Management Techniques

Despite compelling benefits to achieve better collaboration among teams, improved engagement among the workforce, and faster speed of internal communication, adoption efforts require careful design.  As with any organizational change, it’s the people, stupid!  The five barriers can be countered with the following five strategies (see Figure 1.):

  1. Adopt gamification strategies. Listen for both the monetary and non-monetary incentives. Design a hierarchy and weighting of incentives to effort.  Use gamification techniques to improve adoption and internal engagement.
  2. Apply design thinking to transform. Use design thinking scenarios to ideate future state processes.  Remove friction points and redundant processes so that interaction is natural.  Stamp areas where extra effort emerges.
  3. Deliver options based on use case. Identify cohorts and preferences in communication and cultural styles.  Apply the 9Cs of engagement to deliver the right user experience strategy.  Provide multiple interface choices as well as educate on new user experience metaphors.
  4. Align to self –interest. Show the workforce where and how the benefits apply to the individual.  Highlight the overall group advantages.  Providing the connection between individual and group benefits often plays a powerful lever in effecting change.
  5. Define the business model shift. For quant jocks, apply a financial business model.  For poets, highlight the narrative in the shift and communicate the overall transformation at hand.

Figure 1. Overcoming the Barriers of Social Business Adoption

The Bottom Line: Apply Change Management And Design Thinking To Improve Social Business Adoption

While technology plays a key role in improving social business, core change management principles still must be applied to ensure organizational transformation.  Technology alone will not solve the issue.  A combination of design thinking techniques applied to change management will ensure more successful adoption rates.   Planning for change management will require as much time as the technical implementation.  Consequently, successful social business efforts incorporate both technology and change management work streams in concert with each other.

Your POV.

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  • Bruno

    Will send you something on enterprise gamification that may or may not give you another Point of view. If we didn’t call it gamification but behavior or influence management, it may be more acceptable =)

    Let me know what you think


  • Daniel

    Glad you added your thoughts here. Integration w/ existing business processes is a key factor in cases where we have the appropriate process. IN newer areas, we’ll have to redesign as business models change. What do you think?


  • Hi Ray
    Thank you Ray for another well thought and researched article! I’m a bit reluctant to embrace the gamification trend! It is not an area that would make many people smile at since BYOD is already changing the way we work! I’m not quite sure gamification is one of the appropriate playful ways to introduce social business best practices! One step being of course a solid intranet rollout but incentives are probably the best bet companies should implement in order to reward content and participation!!

  • Ray,

    A good article, I would just the following;

    To drive successful change the adoption needs to integrate current business processes & where required re-desing them.

    People inherrently do not like change & if a Social Business model is introduced alongside current processes then the driver required for change is significantly reduced.

    The challenge with this is that it makes it harder to dip your toe in…

  • Michael

    Thanks for your comments. In agreement. Enterprise gamification, if successful should be long-term. Those who see it as a short term tactic will also fail.


  • I believe this article is spot on, and Marie W. I have to disagree with your comment. Here is the def of Gamification http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification which in short ‘Gamification works by making technology more engaging.’The title of the blog post is, ‘dealing with real problems in SOCIAL BUSINESS, which def falls under the tech category for job placement,etc.

    This is hands down one of the best and well illustrated articles I have read today! Michael @biztag

    Tech is tough, if you can Gamify the work flow,day,long hours etc.., and make a game out of it, employees will master the game, become more efficient, feel empowered to self achieve and overall be excited each day. No specific toy or reward is neccessary, the pure feeling of strength and contributing to the bigger picture spikes innovation and exhilaration in the work place! Cheers, love a good blog post and well thought out comment(s).

  • Marie

    Thanks for you comments and discussion on Gamification. If you look at enterprise gamification you’ll see this is more than a short term fix to influence behavior. I’ll send you a copy of our latest report and see what you think. Agreed on the need for each social interaction to tie back to business value and some level of self -interest. Curious as to the what other folks think!


  • Ray, I couldn’t agree more on the barriers for adoption, and the approaches to addressing these isssues. Great analysis!

    Although I do disagree on one point 🙂 Gamification as the solution for addressing the incentives challenge. While gamification may play a role, I am not convinced that its much more than cosmetic in the long-term. People don’t come to work to play, they come to work. They want to get business results and generate quantifiable value. Get in and get out as quickly as possible (at least speaking as a European).

    Your point that “most folks collaborate only when they need to, not when they are told to” is spot on! Therefore, until social directly generates value for employees, such as saving them time, increasing their productivity, helping them close more sales, fix more bugs, do more for less… we won’t see real widespread “natural” adoption of social.

    Gamification just feels uncomfortable to me and somewhat artificial, playing tricks to cajole a child to do as they are told.

    If we could make each social interaction tie to some business value — in exchange for social contribution give services (analytics / recommendations / …) that directly benefits the employee — I believe that could have a bigger more sustainable impact. It’s like with business process reengeering, where you continually try to bring gratification closer to the end user.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion and I am sticking to it 🙂

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