How to Plan a Social Business Software Pilot

February 25th, 2011 by Gia Lyons Leave a reply »

Six steps before you launch your socbiz pilot

You’ve already gained executive sponsorship for your social business software pilot. You’ve selected groups that, if successful, will create buzz in your organization. Now it’s time to plan it.

1.  Interview key participants from business units and IT

It’s kind of like requirements gathering, but different. Many are new to social business software, and simply don’t know what it’s capable of delivering. Here are some questions to ask your business users. Consider turning these into a questionnaire to send to folks who want to participate in your pilot. We use this at Jive, and use the answers – along with other information – when planning design, launch and governance strategies.

Questions for Business Users

  1. What is your group’s name and general contribution to our business?
  2. How many people will use Jive?
  3. Where are they physically located?
  4. What is their general attitude towards social business software? What concerns do they have?
  5. What cultural or language differences within your group should be considered?
  6. How does your group want to use Jive? Complete this sentence from their perspective: “I want to… “
  7. How are they getting what they want today, without Jive?
  8. What would they do in Jive to get what they want?
  9. How will you know if your group is using Jive successfully? What will the indicators of success look like?
  10. Who will facilitate your group’s use of Jive, and help others incorporate its use into their work routine?

IT needs to know that the solution fits within the existing technology landscape. Here are some questions to ask IT:

Questions for IT

  1. What are your overall objectives for proving Jive in your technology environment?
  2. What other public web properties, or intranet, networking, collaboration, or knowledge management solutions, do you hope Jive complements, reduces, or replaces?
  3. How do you want to implement user authentication and provisioning?
  4. What other business systems must Jive integrate with to meet technical pilot objectives? Are they truly critical to pilot success?
  5. What governance processes must Jive work within during the pilot?
  6. Who will administer Jive during the pilot? Do you plan to acquire administration training?

2.  Prioritize objectives and define scope

Now that you’ve gathered the data, start prioritizing. Is this a pilot of technology, or is it a pilot of usability, usefulness to the business? It’s difficult to do both. And there’s no point in proving technology if it’s not useful to the business, right? My advice: prove whether it’s useful to business users first before diving into deeper technology needs, such as integration with other business systems or web properties.

3.  Define success criteria

You gathered success indicators from your business users in Step 1. Guess what? Those make great success criteria. For example, if your Sales organization wants to replace all the emails they send to Lars and Nguyen, asking where presentations are, who owns the relationship with Customer X, have we ever done Y before with a retail customer, etc., then one good success indicator would be reports from Lars and Nguyen that they’re getting significantly fewer emails. Couple that with significant increases in micro blog posts, discussions, documents, bookmarks, Likes, ratings, blogs, etc. about where presentations are, who owns the relationship with Customer X, and so forth, and you’ve got the beginnings of success.

TIP: A pilot is NOT the time to try to prove greater business impact. Remember, you’re proving usefulness to business users first. You cannot, for example, correlate 1-2 months of use by your Sales organization with faster win rates, increase in deal sizes, etc. But, you can get anecdotal evidence that they’re finding people and information faster, sharing tribal knowledge in greater quantities with more folks across Sales (and potentially across the organization), and collaborating with their customers more effectively, in the case of an external Jive community.

Figure out your data collection approach. Put “give feedback” buttons all over the place – in the banner, on the landing page, on the overview page for main places. When people click it, make it open a discussion in edit mode, within a place called “Feedback.” Encourage people to click the button in your communications. Have some early adopters create feedback so that others have an example of what you’re looking for. And, do a user survey. “As a result of using Jive, I am better able to: ” then list all the I-want-to’s you collected in Step 1.

4.  Determine pilot project timeline

Nothing happens if it’s not on the calendar. My favorite motto.

Pre-launch planning and development

What you’re doing right now is pre-launch planning and development. Figure out how much time it’ll take to interview participants, determine success criteria and the ways to collect that data. And, figure out how much time you need to write introductory emails or other communications. Whether you want to personalize the out-of-box look and feel to better reflect your company’s identity. Where to put the “Give Feedback” button. What calls to action to highlight on the landing page. And so forth.

Active pilot

How long do you want your pilot to run? How much use will it take to collect enough data before you can analyze whether it was successful or not? It all depends on your company’s culture, the efforts from facilitators and the community manager, the clarity of your communications (particularly around tool confusion for employee pilots), and so on. I’ve seen pilots generate success indicators in one month, and I’ve seen them take 10 months. Generally, the more effort you put into pre-launch planning and development, the faster you get to success. Just like anything else in life.

Post-pilot analysis

How long will it take to collect and analyze the data? If you’re doing end-user surveys, give people at least a couple of weeks to respond. In the meantime, comb through all that glorious feedback you received. Be sure to plan enough time to create your simple and articulate report for your executive sponsors and your users.

5.  Define roles and responsibilities

The top two roles to define are community manager and system administrator. See Community Managers Part 1: Definitions for details on the former.

Additional roles include:

  • Facilitators that come from each business group that is participating
  • Topical SMEs in those groups who are, for example, required to answer questions from the Sales team in Jive versus in one-off emails, phone calls and instant messages
  • Advocates who encourage others to use Jive to enact purpose-driven use cases that map to those I-want-to’s

6.  Define Go/No-Go decision date and next steps

Once you’ve seen indicators of success or failure, what’s next? Do you on-board more groups? Does the pilot shut down? God, I hope not, if it was successful. There’s no better way to kill momentum than to take away a successful pilot. If your pilot is successful, BE PREPARED TO EXPAND. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Alright. Get to it.

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4 comments

  1. steve says:

    This is an excellent article. I have used your article to pilot both Jive, socialtext and Akeni Social business software pilot projects.

    Thank you for this great article.

    Steve

  2. Kevin says:

    Great post. Interesing information about How to Plan a Social