Investing in new enterprise projects usually requires a detailed business case, needs analysis and implementation strategy. Enterprise Social Networking applications have historically skipped this process as they had been sanctioned, paid for and implemented by departmental managers on a 'need to have' basis. Over the past year however, we've seen a defined shift in decision making to senior c-level executives and boards.
The shift up the decision making chain isn't unexpected. Companies are now seeking to connect and engage with their entire workforces. As the investigation process moves along, the conceptual, philosophical, operational and cultural aspects emphasize the complexities inherent in enterprise social networking investments.
The most common dilemma facing executives revolves around the social business network ownership.
The tangle arises because enterprise social networks are broad in their scope and span various departments and business units. Therefore it's unclear who will own the system, pay for it, drive it and derive benefit.
There is unfortunately no clear answer to this conundrum. Very often it's more a political debate whereby leaders may be nervous or eager to take on responsibility for an emerging technology that is touted to revolutionize business communication, productivity and access to information.
The most likely candidates vying for the esteem (or, for that matter, to avoid the liability) are IT, Human Resources, Internal Communications and Marketing.
These departments often share a great deal in common, therefore its natural that ownership could be confused. One department may be funding the network while another is seeking to drive its focus and usage. For example, we have a common thread amongst some of our larger clients, whereby Human Resources is paying for the network however Internal Communications and Marketing, both separate departments, are endeavouring to drive the vision.
One may see this attention as a good problem, a positive outcome that so many departments are looking to leverage the value of business social networking.
The reality is that unresolved questions of ownership, funding and benefit unfortunately impede progress. Background politics stall decision making, feature rollout, system integration, employee adoption strategies, training, operational utilization and the overall employee community momentum.
As a political debate amongst business leaders, there is no clear answer. At Mumba Cloud we have introduced a periodic review as one solution to overcome immediate conflicts. However there is still a concern that internal political posturing may well ensue in the lead up to the review process thereby causing further tension with undesirable outcomes.
The first step is for executives to acknowledge, work through and overcome these obstacles as early as possible.
As an enterprise social networking vendor, we have been designing our Mumba Cloud platform to accommodate various departmental requirements. We differentiate ourselves by promoting the flexibility in our software from a functionality and operational point of view. Interestingly enough, this flexibility has enabled us to better facilitate stakeholder cohesion within our clients.
The complexities and nuances within the social business software industry continue to reveal themselves. Please feel free to discuss further thoughts and insights below.