Enterprise Social: Technology is not the answer. This is the answer.

– “We need an internal Facebook”

This is a very common statement in any organization today. They want to replicate the success of social collaboration giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is massive. Having people in an organization engaged in communication as they are on those services is very compelling from a business perspective.

The next question after that is usually:

– “Can technology X give me Facebook”?

“Technology X” is commonly SharePoint 2013, Yammer, NewsGator or Lotus Connections. There are several organizations interested in investing into these applications to get “Facebook”, “Twitter” or “YouTube” to their organizations.

But why? Are they asking the right questions?

Social collaboration is after all not a technology. It is soft values such as communication, engagement and people. To realize those values, technology is not the answer – it is just one of the tools. As such, there are others that are much more important to get right.

Communication Strategy
All features of a social collaboration platform or product is there to enable communication in some form. From micro blogging to video archives, they are built to let people engage in communication with each other. So ensure that these communications are engaging and valuable for you as a business, the features you enable and create need to have a strategy behind them. A strategy to align them. A strategy to ensure you invest in the right communication tool for your organization.

Useful, Usable, Beautiful
The above title is the catch line for the Avanade design studios. It is the catch line because these three together makes up the best user experience for any application. For social collaboration projects is is one of the key components. If you want to engage your people to communicate, the tool need to be bring them immediate value, be easy to use and be visual appealing. Anything less and the threshold of using the tool will be to high and you will fail to engage your people.

Changing behavior
It does not matter if you have the most useful, most useable, most beautiful tool to enable your communication strategy if nobody is using it. Change does not come easy. Change is not automatic. Change will be initiated from a “what’s in it for me” perspective. So you need to plan for change; What training will you have (videos), what incentives will there be (gamification), what activities will you drive to ensure adoption (collaboration champions)?

When Facebook and YouTube first started up, they did not have any of these in place. But yet they succeeded in building the largest social collaboration sites in the world. There are several reasons they did. The “what’s in it for me”-incentives are very compelling, the early adopters where already champions of internets various services and the value where apparent for them. To replicate the same success, you need to replicate the same setting.

Social collaboration is really valuable for any organization. But value is not objective, it is subjective. Any tool you want people to use need to be valuable for them and should under no circumstances create pain or frustration. To successfully instigate change in your organization, you really need to plan for it. Ensure you get all three right in your social collaboration project, and it will be as successful as Facebook has been.

Microsoft buying Yammer – A smart move or a move away from being smart?

In the wake of Facebook’s plummeting stock introduction Microsoft just announced that they are buying the Enterprise equaliant to Facebook, Yammer, for $1.2 Billion. Putting social networks still in the billion dollar industry segments. Is it relevant though? Is this a smart move by Microsoft?

I have yet to meet a communication strategist or HR representative at a large enterprise that isn’t talking about getting an “internal Facebook” for their employees. The reasoning behind this is a long discussion of its own and one could argue if they really need an “internal Facebook” or if it something else.

But the key point is that influential decision makers see strengths in social media for internal communications. There is a strong market and Microsoft just grew stronger in the possibility to meet that market.

Combining the Enterprise products already from Microsoft, Lync and SharePoint, with Yammer (that already integrate with SharePoint) is a very compelling combination. Think of the possibility to have a really good network and with the ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with your peers at your fingertips (Literally using smartphone clients). I know that my workdays are much easier with those tools.

Social collaboration is having a lot of traction with Twitter starting to have the prospect of big earnings from advertisement, new services like Pinterest and smartphones really extending the social networks to everywhere, anytime; all this makes social networking a commodity. Social is getting in everywhere, even into enterprise processes. Yammer is strong here. It is very strong even.

Social Media could be a hype, Facebook’s introduction to the stock market hasn’t been flawless. And yet there are several big projects running that show real Return of Investement. So even if social networking for consumers seems to struggle, social networking for the enterprise isn’t.

Is this a smart move for Microsoft? I believe so. I know that combining Yammer and SharePoint already today gives my clients some of the functionality they are asking for. Buying Yammer and bring it closer to their other products, can only make Microsoft stronger on the Enterprise market.

The annoncement

Yammer Inc

Swedish Commentary