This post was updated 08.11.16

Most organisations now have some form of ESN in place and a scattering appears to progress the 8 components of successful ESN user adoption that I discussed in another article. 

Having worked with organisations on social intranet, social platform and ESN projects at every level of maturity since 2002, I’ve been able to spot patterns and trends that have a measurable impact on the success of adoption efforts.

Based on our Headshift and Post*Shift experience this article will go through three key themes and explore these more mature characteristics of more advanced ‘post-adoption’  in each one. 

Beyond the initial excitement

Recently, Stowe Boyd wrote an article for CMSWire about enterprise social networks, or ‘work media’ as he calls it, in response to Charlene Li’s recent article examining why no one is using internal social networks.

In contrast to Li’s conclusions that a lack of leadership participation is to blame for poor take up, Boyd argues “perhaps [these platforms] simply don’t help people get their work done, and instead, slow everything down”.

For me, this points to a key problem in much of the work companies have done around user adoption, which is a failure to integrate the work content, data and objects into the ESN platform that people need to make it ‘where work happens’.

We have documented many case studies over the years – some recent ones can be found here and here – and we see that most organisations are still in an early stage of adoption maturity, just starting to explore use cases that go beyond simple communication. Partly as a result, once the initial excitement wears off, some hit a plateau of usage as people don’t see enough task-relevance in the platform.

The absence of meaningful task and process support in ESNs is one clear sign of a lack of maturity and points to a practical way forward for adoption, but there are other factors to take into account as well.

Organisations often look to publicly available maturity models to see how they are doing, which can be helpful; but what these maturity models cannot tell you, is how to push your implementation to the next level based on the organisation’s vision, strategy and business goals. Maturity models, like adoption KPIs, are often too focused on getting people using the platform rather than what they achieve by doing so.

The following maturity characteristics are divided into four of the key theme areas that we use at Post*Shift when working with clients in more mature stages of ESN adoption and across all of our broader transformation projects

Key Characteristics of Mature Social Platforms

Theme 1. Strategy & Leadership

We all agree having leadership on board to give support to platform adoption is a very good thing, but just getting the CEO sharing an occasional blog post is not enough. These characteristics are some of the most important for sustainable maturity: 

  • Vision & strategy align organisational goals with E2.0 / Social approach to accelerate business transformation;

  • Business targets are linked to value generated due to time saved through the social enhancement of processes, e.g.
    •  on a strategic level: reduction of throughput time / ideation & innovation
    •  on a process level: process lead times reduced e.g. customer issue resolution
    •  on a use case level: administrative efficiencies / project management efficiencies / time saved on document management / time saved on expertise location

  • Measurement activities should act as accurate and actionable feedback mechanisms to enable leaders to react, adapt and support the needs of an agile organisation. Read more about this with our Quantified Organisation methodology

  • Operations (e.g. HR, Marketing, Finance etc.) are geared towards becoming a supporting and connecting platform to service teams and business units on demand, and therefore play an important role in business transformation by enhancing cross-organisational strategic initiatives like customer centricity or partner relations, and creating connected workflows.

Theme 2. Processes

Some processes can be re-factored altogether using social tools; others should not be changed, but rather supported and surrounded by social interaction. Either way, integrating and embedding social behaviours in the key processes of the organisation is one of the best ways to give your platform a key role in the firm.

  • Internal communication channels: employees primarily communicate using wikis, social networks and blogs, which make information findable and accessible for colleagues;

  • External communication channels: insights from customer communications on any channel, including social media, are socialised within the organisation and made accessible to all relevant stakeholders to provide unified service to the customer;

  • Integration: social technology is integrated into workflows and existing processes, making them more efficient and effective by virtue of being more social, transparent and linked to data generation, e.g. customer information gathered / logged in acquisition processes are automatically input into CRM system;

  • Collaboration is embedded in processes and workflows where collective, cross-departmental knowledge can add value, e.g. when putting together a proposal for a new customer, stakeholders are brought together in the Sales community, enabling co-creation and alignment of the pitching process;

  • Network: a social network is in place to surface employees’ expertise and enable employees to easily find and connect with each other;

  • Data-sharing: relevant data are automatically shared between processes and workflows by being connected through integrated systems;

  • Transparency: employees carry out their work in spaces that are accessible to other colleagues;

  • Agility: processes can be responsive to market dynamics and internal changes through having access to the right information and experts.

Theme 3. Culture & Organisation

Coupling culture with organisational design helps define an operational view of a connected company:

  • Decision-making leverages organisational knowledge and culture, e.g. sense-checking through community discussions and polls is made easier;
  • Resources for supporting social business transformation are available to employees, e.g. they have access to materials and support, such as community managers and internal social business consultants, that can be drawn upon when needed;
  • Training programmes are available across the organisation for social technology usage and new ways of working;
  • Customer-centricity is exercised at an organisational level, i.e.:
    • the customer is represented in the strategy formation process and customer satisfaction is reflected in targets and measurements
    • there is coordination between customer touch points, from pre-sales through to customer service, enabling a ‘one face to the customer’ approach
    • technology can be used to gather and analyse customer data, looking for sentiment indicators
    • employees closest to the customer communicate their insights to the rest of the organisation
    • customer service is integrated into the main body of the organisation
  • New ways of working and ‘working out loud’ is encouraged in a cultural sense, e.g. through the dominance of openness, transparency and enablement

Theme 4. Technology

It is easy to get caught up in technology-first thinking and valuing features over outcomes. A clear hallmark of a more mature approach is that discussions around technology focus squarely on the enablement of business actions, rather than the ‘features and benefits’ of the technology itself. They can be limited to areas such as:

  • Purpose: employees need to use the available technology for business-critical purposes, e.g. are new solutions created by collaborating in specific communities?
  • Frequency: employees use available technology in a frequency that ensures them to be informed at all times, e.g. depending on function, employees will find some communities relevant to stay on top of, whereas others are only necessary on a need-to-know basis

Further reading