LEARNING

Enterprise Social Network
Consulting Framework

Introduction

Since 2010, Mumba Cloud has been providing consulting advice for enterprise social networking to some of Australia's largest companies. Mumba Cloud considers Enterprise Social Networking to be a fundamental driver for achieving both operational efficiencies and ongoing employee engagement.

We advocate that the most important element for success in the knowledge-worker age is the effective transfer of information between employees across all units within an enterprise. Historically, both employee engagement and internal employee communication strategies have fallen short of implementing systems to ensure ongoing business value and return on investment is achieved.

As both an enterprise social networking vendor and consultant, Mumba Cloud's approach to Enterprise Social Networking bridges this gap. While enterprise social networking is a natural fit for employee engagement and internal employee communication, Mumba Cloud has developed a consulting framework that extends past these sometimes intangible objectives into operational efficiencies that are linked to business objectives unique to each company seeking a competitive outcome.

Mumba's experience is derived from working with many large companies comprising non-office staff, contract, sub-contract, casual, part-time and franchise workforces in retail, hospitality, support services, construction, mining, manufacturing, transport etc.

Every client we work with has a different set of requirements and objectives, company culture and way of doing business. Furthermore, each client is looking to either replace current systems, implement new systems or integrate old with new. Objectives usually start out with basic 'primal goals' and then expand into strategic or operational objectives. The path to implementation can create a complex process that is often difficult to navigate, both for the company, technology vendor and consultancy.

Case Study Overview Example

A Mumba client looked to consolidate their disparate IT systems into one single point of entry so that employees didn't need to remember or bookmark various URLs. Then they wanted employees to login to these systems via a single sign-on interface (employees were struggling to remember multiple passwords). These were considered Primal Goals because they were not necessarily related to the visionary or operational objectives usually associated with enterprise social networking.

Therefore, the first objective was for Mumba Cloud to function as a portal providing a single point of entry where employees could login securely and gain access to all systems from any computer or mobile smart phone device.

The second objective was to push and track relevant company news, information and benefits to specific business locations and employees, very much like a corporate intranet with detailed usage reporting. Mumba Cloud Enterprise accommodates intranet functionality hence this feature was implemented with our advanced access control module allowing specific groups of employees to be automatically created and assigned to view information that was allocated to their group.

The overall system scoping, stakeholder buy-in process and implementation plan took almost a year to develop. This brief example demonstrates a typical entry point into an enterprise social networking implementation. Objectives are prioritised from primal to operational to visionary. The first 6 months of this system implementation were focused on baseline activities, and as time passed we began to shift focus towards user adoption strategy and operational objectives.

The purpose of this paper is to assist social business consultants and/or companies seeking to better understand the consulting process surrounding the implementation of a large scale enterprise social network.

The issues highlighted in this article are related to large scale implementations because smaller companies usually have a much faster, more streamlined way of making business decisions and gaining management and stakeholder buy-in. Conversely, large companies spanning geographic regions with multiple levels of management between various business units require a more complex planning, buy-in and education process that can sometimes take up to a year to overcome. Experienced consultants are necessary to assist stakeholders navigate the real and perceived cultural and business issues related to enterprise social networking.

Over time, Mumba Cloud Consultants have developed a Framework to manage this difficult process.

Mumba Cloud Consulting Framework

Stage 1: Business Case including Return on Investment Study

The first stage of an Enterprise Social Networking solution requires the identification, analysis and documentation of the enterprise social network objectives. By identifying the objectives, from strategic through to operational, we can start to develop a plan for how the software is going to achieve these goals. Objectives are prioritised and described in a business case that is linked to return on investment projections alongside baseline calculations. This area of our Framework is a unique piece in itself and we are currently writing a separate whitepaper that covers this area in more detail.

Stage 2: System Scope and Design

Business objectives are then translated into the system design and scoping. This part of the process is usually broken down into 3 key sub-phases being:

Phase 1: short term - usually the first 6 to 12 months

Phase 2: medium term - from 6 to 24 months

Phase 3: long term - from 2 to 5 years

Mumba Cloud takes a long term view of enterprise social networking within large enterprises and has established a benchmark recommendation to set expectations at 2 - 5 years. This is especially true in large enterprises with non-office base workforces because there are many factors that slow both managements desire to drive change and employees willingness to adopt new systems. Management decision making and buy-in is often sluggish because there are many competing priorities as well as perceived and very real risks including the cultural implications of flattening the internal employee communications hierarchy.

Note that this System Scoping and Design Stage is closely aligned with Stage 3 below because management and stakeholder buy-in concerns are accommodated within Phase 1 and 2 of system design.

To get started with Phase 1, key consulting questions should include:

  • What functionality should be rolled out and when?
  • How do we prioritise functionality and how do we handle requests for new functionality?
  • What features should be moderated and how should they be configured regarding the management hierarchy and access?
  • Who should have access to what parts of the system and why?
  • How do we ensure employees use the system and how do we measure and drive employee adoption?
  • How do we educate employees about the system and teach them how to use the tools?

Phase 1 and 2 administrative questions should include:

  • How do we develop a Social Business Communication Policy?
  • How do we manage system abuse?
  • What admin and moderation resourcing do we need?
  • How are stakeholder groups (administrators, moderators, senior executives and employees) trained and educated in the use of the system and features?
  • System ownership - who should own this system, is it a Human Resources system, internal employee communication system, IT system etc?

Specific Tool Analysis Example

Internal employee blogging is an enterprise social networking tool used to document and disseminate news, ideas, best practice and thought leadership information. Each communication tool needs to be considered in terms of how it may impact the organization (see Stage 3 and 4 below). Customization of each tool may be required based on concerns such as:

  • What groups of employees should be able to blog (executive, management, all)?
  • When the CEO blogs, should employee commenting be allowed?
  • Should blogs/comments be moderated?
  • Who moderates the blogs/comments and to what degree should they be moderated?
  • Should blogs/comments be amended if they are inappropriate and to what degree?
  • What action should be taken for inappropriate or negative blogs/comments?
  • How should we handle backlash due to leaked, un-moderated or negative blogs/comments?

These questions may spark energized debate and it's easy to understand why management may have a reluctance for employees to blog or comment in the first place. A common solution is to disable blogging and/or commenting for particular groups of users via the access control rights module. After a few months (or sometimes years) this feature would be introduced into the employee community when management has become more comfortable with receiving and dealing with employee feedback.

Stage 3: Management and Stakeholder Buy-In

Management and stakeholder buy-in is a large part of the consulting process and is usually the most difficult. Senior executives and key managers are often dispersed amongst geographic regions or business silos that may or may not be ready to integrate enterprise social networking. During meetings with stakeholder and management groups, concerns arise such as:

  • time wasting abuse of the system
  • bullying, sexual and/or predatory abuse
  • backlash from employees not agreeing with company policies
  • opening a 'Pandora's Box' of unknown issues that the business may not have the time or inclination to deal with
  • lack of interest, vision, belief or understanding in the potential gains that can be derived from enterprise social networking
  • resistance to change from the status quo
  • resistance to transparency and accountability that could emerge through the system

It is up to the consultants to provide documentation, case studies and anecdotal evidence to alleviate these concerns. Most importantly, the enterprise social network should be configured and customized to accommodate concerns that present real stumbling blocks. Enterprise systems such as Mumba Cloud allow for deep moderation, configuration and control of access, features and information flow.

Stage 4: Cultural Impact Analysis and Strategy

The cultural impact of an enterprise social network, social intranet or any other type of social business software system should not be under estimated hence requires its own stage. The implementation of these technologies, especially in industries where they've never existed, may present radical results.

Non-office based workforces foster a unique type of cultural environment when compared to traditional white-collar sectors such as banking, accounting and the legal professions.

Many of the employees, contractors and sub-contractors within our client base have never had direct access to management and head office employees. In many cases, the only contact with management is their shift manager. The flattening of internal employee communication hierarchies uncovers many questions and concerns that need to be addressed both in the software and strategy of the system.

Below are some key questions that should be considered when working through this final stage:

  • Current employee attitudes compared to expected future attitudes
  • Generational gap between young and older workers
  • Technology acceptance and adoption between segments of the workforce
  • Style of communication and employee education may offer challenges
  • Language barriers and miss-understandings between staff
  • How and when to impose policies and control mechanisms

Conclusion

Enterprise Social Networking is still considered an emerging technology where many benchmarks and industry norms are yet to be established for large enterprises in specific sectors. From a purchasing and implementation perspective the lack of historic data and education makes the evaluation and consultation process difficult and confusing. While Mumba Cloud has separated the consulting process into 4 Key Stages they are closely aligned, intertwined and reliant on each other.

Company structure, management hierarchy, business unit autonomy and business culture will all play a role in developing a viable consulting approach.

The over-arching factor we've identified in our successful implementations is the presence of a key senior executive sponsor with cross divisional influence to maintain forward momentum and overcome the difficult obstacles.

This article is updated periodically with new information and best practice advice. Current version 1.0

 

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