Interesting experiment, or critical to success?

March 23rd, 2009 by Gia Lyons Leave a reply »’s the difference between an interesting experiment, and realizing a critical business goal?

So many approach an internal social business software (SBS) initiative with an “under the radar,” word-of-mouth, organic, viral attitude only. I totally understand this, because the thought is that, if we can get folks using it, we can eventually prove business value de facto, and the stratosphere executives and mid-level managers won’t be able to deny the obvious results.

Well, that doesn’t work in every organization.

Kathryn and I start our workshops with one of the most important things you can do to make success more probable: align your SBS objectives to your company’s strategic initiatives.

It must be obvious to all involved how your SBS objectives align to your organization’s overall business strategy. Don’t assume people will just “get it” – many won’t.

A common approach to creating your business objectives message includes the following steps:

1. Identify corporate business initiatives

Many organizations ensure that everyone knows what their key business initiatives are, and why they are important. Some are very high level, while others are quite specific.

Here are some examples:
•    Become a global thought leader in our industry
•    Become the premiere place to work in our industry
•    Significantly differentiate our products and services in the marketplace
•    Increase global sales by 5% within one year
•    Double our company’s revenue within five years

2. Define the problem and risk

Describe how your organization’s prevailing individual and collaborative work behaviors fall short of supporting one or more initiatives. Include how these “broken” work behaviors can lead to unnecessary costs or missed business opportunities. Include descriptions of how existing individual productivity and collaborative software tools are used today, if your goal is to displace one or more existing tools.

Let’s take the business initiative, “Significantly differentiate our products and services in the marketplace” as an example. Asking some of the following questions might help you arrive at a definitive problem statement:

  1. How do today’s collaborative work behaviors prevent organization-wide innovative thinking from happening? Are there silos of stale thinking?
  2. How are successful product development and service refinement practices discovered and shared across your organization?
  3. How is competitive product and service information surfaced and shared throughout your company?
  4. How are emergent market opportunities surfaced and shared? Are customer-facing employees invited into product and service development discussions?
  5. How do people discover and learn from one another’s different points of view and experiences when developing new products and services?

Here’s an example problem statement:

Locating experts and assets is difficult and a barrier to innovation and everyday problem solving. It is difficult to determine who has the skills or knowledge I can leverage, or where we have already done something before. There is too much “reinventing the wheel” happening across our organization. These pose a significant obstacle to delivering world-class consulting services to our clients.

Consider including a real anecdote that demonstrates the problem, especially if it highlights any incurred unnecessary costs or missed market opportunities.

3. Identify the possibilities

Next, explain how to positively change those work behaviors by making SBS available to your organization. This is your chance to write what one Jive customer calls a “future history.”

Here’s an example:

With a social business online environment, which is a single, easy-to-use collaboration, expertise discovery, and organizational awareness and networking environment, employees will be empowered to discover and collaborate with each other and with external partners securely and efficiently. Employees will find individuals based on their expertise, location, or content contributions, thereby increasing their organizational awareness – who exists, and who does what for our company. This will lead to more people discovering, learning from, and sharing with more people, which will result in better collaboration with more rightly-skilled teams, and provide a greater chance for more innovative thinking across the globe.

4. Identify the benefits

Now that the vision has been created, re-write the anecdote used to demonstrate the problem to show how the use of a social business environment could reduce unnecessary costs or identify and leverage market opportunities.

This re-written anecdote should become the model for capturing the eventual anecdotes participants will experience when using your social business environment. Real-world stories about cost savings and leveraged opportunities will provide the repeatable sound bites that executives can internalize and share across their own networks, inside and outside your organization.

Need more? Check out some of our case studies.



  1. Gia Lyons says:

    Ok, I just re-read this, and I fell asleep halfway through. This has got to be the most boring blog post I’ve ever written. Yeesh. But, maybe it’ll help someone. In a boring way.

  2. Ric says:

    … boring or not, sometimes you just have to do the yards. The point you make is a good one – “grassroots” is not going to cut it on its own, there has to be buy-in from the folks cutting the cheques as well.

  3. Gia Lyons says:

    Well said, Ric. And really, this “step” is only the beginning. The grassroots approach is sometimes used to simply answer the question, “will people use it?” before bothering with, “how does it make or save us money?” I think one can do both in parallel, if there’s enough faith that people will, in fact, use it. 😉

  4. Chris says:

    Not a boring post – and an important topic. …ok – maybe not as spicy as usual :-)

    I think the parallel approach is key.
    (1) a top-down design/strategy is needed to get buy in, establish initial goals and set the scope/tone
    (2) a bottom-up design evolution strategy driven by emergent high value usage patterns is also needed to ensure long term success (you can’t script the way people connect, interact, and share like you can for a supply chain ERP workflow)

    I think the most successful e2.0 initiatives will be the ones that have (2) as the driving strategy in the long term. Maybe you just need to cloak (2) a bit at first, depending on who is writing the check 😉

  5. Gia Lyons says:

    Chris, word. Ok, I need to create an awesome graphic of this communication strategy thingy I talk about in my workshop. Gah. Right. I charge people for it. How do people blog about their proprietary work??? I hate that it has to be proprietary now. And it has to be right now because I work for a for-profit company and what I do is a differentiator. Damn you, capitalism! 😉