Guest Innocentive Blog Post – 7 Key Features of Good Social Business Software

On December 18 2013 I submitted a guest post to the Innocentive blog.  This is my first guest blog post and I am proud to be published on such a great company like Innocentive.

 

InnoCentive is the global leader in crowd sourcing innovation problems to the world’s smartest people who compete to provide ideas and solutions to important business, social, policy, scientific, and technical challenges.  Solvers compete for reward money to solve some of the most difficult problems for companies who use the Innocentive crowd sourcing platform.

 

I am a solver and have already submitted one solution to a challenge and hope to solve others. Check out Innocentive here and consider becoming a solver with Innocentive, some of the challenges have rewards in the tens of thousands of dollars range.

 

Since I began podcasting I’ve not had the time to write blog posts, here is the text of this blog post:

Social enterprise software is exploding right now and expected to continue to increase.  Companies are starting to understand the power and potential impact that a social network can have on employee productivity.  From accelerating day-to-day operations to driving great ideas into a profitable business, social entrepreneurs are creating amazing software products.  While studying dozens of this social networking software I think that there are at least 7 features of good social-business software:

  1. It is secure, unlike Facebook and twitter the content that will be discussed in most companies must remain private to the company, from IP to business strategies a corporate social network must have the strictest security or employees simply will not use it.  This brings up the debate of ‘in the cloud’ vs. on company servers security. Some say that cloud security is now more secure than company servers; we will see how this plays out but unlike other social media security for content is uniquely important for social enterprise networks.
  2. It has a company-wide news feed, this is the location for every post is streamed for all to see.  Anews feed is important because it will bring many employees back to the network to read what their colleagues are discussing.
  3. It gives the user the ability to post private messages, some communication should be kept private and a social network should not eliminate that feature of email.
  4. It should provide users with a profile page such as a mini-LinkedIn to show case skills, back-ground and/ or brag about expertise
  5. It should give the users the ability to create communities and groups.
    1. Each company can decide to manage communities or allow employees to create communities spontaneously.
  6. It should provide users with project management features such as the ability to:
    1. Create a private community for project team members
    2. Assign tasks to team members
    3. Share files with team members
    4. Create a team calendar
    5. Enable private, team/ invite only conversations
  7. It has the ability to track analytics and insights, network managers need insight into the conversations happening on the network…analytics can tell you:
    1. what are people talking about
    2. how people are using the network
    3. how are problems getting resolved
    4. who is influential

BONUS feature: A great social business network is customizable for specific organizations.  Large organizations in particular can benefit from the ability to customize a platform; a company may need to hire a programmer to customize.  Some software products have customizable features as a up-sell option.  For example, a technology innovation or R&D focused company may choose a customizable innovation-centered social network that not only increases connections between employees but it also helps employees to innovate more effectively and at a faster pace.

Finding a great social enterprise network with all the features that you need is one thing but there will likely be road blocks to implementation that we must be aware of.  The largest roadblock I think is employee detractors, some employees will be opposed to going social within a company and the truth is we should understand their reasons and motives rather than just overruling them.  I think there are at least four types of employee reactions to the prospect of adding social enterprise network at work. These reactions are advocates, users, agnostics and detractors.

Understanding the motivations of your detractors is an important key for successfully rolling out a social network. The extent of detractors and their motivations may be better understood by analyzing your company’s culture.  Culture can have a huge impact on the efficiency of any organization.  A company may have very intelligent employees but if the culture is toxic and unhealthy that intelligence will sit dormant.  I think that there are cultural prerequisites that must be in place before during the installation of a social enterprise network. It is shocking how many leaders ignore the cultural factors when trying to grow their company.  I view culture an equally important factor in implementing a social enterprise platform as it is to general company growth.

Three cultural requirements for enjoying an impactful social enterprise network within a company:

  1. We must have collaborative and confident employees; insecure and un-trusting team members can increase destructive knowledge silos throughout an organization.
  2. Freedom from hyper-political competitiveness, only strong healthy leadership can bring this about. Unfortunately some leaders purposely pit employees against one another in hopes that competition will improve overall performance, there may be some merit to this strategy but a line must be drawn beyond which the leader pulls everyone back. Competitiveness can easily be taken too far by employees.
  3. There are minimal detractors/ resistors to a social network.

To counter the detractors we should first understand the reasons that people detract, there are legitimate and understandable reasons that some people detract from a social network.  Some are just anti-social and the openness feels like a threat, others “throw the baby (social collaboration) out with bath water” (Facebook narcissism they’ve seen at home).

Others detract because of a general lack of trust in the culture amongst employees. Patrick Lencioni has a lot to say about trust: “there is predictive based trust (this is seen when our friends know and can predict how we will react to us) and there is vulnerability based trust, this is where we can say freely to colleagues, ‘I don’t know the answer’, ‘I think I made a mistake’, ‘I am sorry I was out of line’) this vulnerability creates a powerful bond of trust within teams.

Lay a strong foundation for your social enterprise network by working on your culture before or during implementation of your network, this will improve your company’s performance and enable your social network to impact your company to a much greater degree.