“’Social’ makes us nervous. What’s in it for me?” asks Lauren Klein, a Social Business, Leadership and Communities Strategist at Hitachi Data Systems, while speaking at a recent conference. Klein was referring to a common question senior executives ask as they’re considering an enterprise social platform designed to enhance communications and collaboration among employees, partners, and clients.
Executives hear people raving about cultural change, giving employees a voice and the overall benefits of flattening the organization. However, in the end, the C-Suite wants to know the impact of these collaboration tools on the bottom line.
Last week I attended JiveWorld2014, an event hosted by software company Jive that sells an enterprise social network (ESN) platform. Other leading firms providing “social software” include IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and Tibco Software, as outlined in a recent report from Gartner.
I attended sessions, interviewed Jive customers and asked fellow attendees what their ROI and key learnings are when deploying the collaboration tool. Here are some of the stories I heard.
1. Increased Sales, Decreased Cost
For Bluegreen Vacations, a vacation ownership firm, knowledge transfer was a big challenge. Before deploying a collaboration tool, 80% of the retail staff did not have email and were unable to connect to headquarters or each other. Materials about new vacations were mailed. Sales managers taught the sales associates how to sell new offerings one-to-one. All questions were directed to Corporate.
Jessica de la Torre (@JessDLT), Marketing Manager and Internal Community Manger, relayed that the adoption of an enterprise collaboration platform resulted in “a true cultural change” where sales associates feel more valued and information is shared freely. The bottom line? A 12% increase in sales revenues year over year, 75% decrease in support calls and 75% decrease in the time to create and maintain content was facilitated by the ability to communicate and collaborate across the enterprise.
2. Leveraging Existing Intellectual Property to Create New Products
FICO, an analytics software company, needed a way to prepare employees to collaborate with clients in alignment with the new strategy of becoming a cloud company. The challenge was transforming a closed, secretive culture with a “bunker” mentality into a more collaborative environment.
“It actually worked,” said a surprised Tony McGiven, CIO, FICO (@FICO) when discussing the 90% adoption rate in the first four months. By providing a platform for collaboration, the culture changed overnight. McGiven provided an example. Each year, FICO conducts an “IP Harvesting Challenge” designed to leverage existing intellectual property to create new products. It used to receive 20-30 ideas from employees, but this year received 225 entries. To date, 5 new products have been created from existing intellectual property. McGiven concluded, “They were dying to work together”.
3. CEO Gains Visibility Into The Business
UBM is a global holding company with diverse events, marketing and public relations businesses, all being run as separate businesses. The former CEO was looking for a way to shift the highly fragmented corporate culture towards a more cohesive firm and create a brand.
Once the collaboration platform was deployed, the CEO was better able to see the day to day operations of individual businesses. This made it easier to determine which companies needed to be sold, to leverage key learnings across companies, and to create new products across various companies. As a result, UBM is a “much more cohesive company” says Tracy Maurer, Collaboration Systems Manager, UBM (@TracyMaurer).
Top-Down Senior Management Support Is Key
The fastest, most successful collaboration platform deployments occur when senior executives lead by example. To encourage senior executives to use the platform to blog, make company announcements and interact with employees, use their language. Talk about driving business goals though collaboration. “Just don’t call it ‘social,’” as a number of people at JiveWorld2014 confided, including Klein of Hitachi. Instead, talk about the bottom line.
This may require initially supporting the C-Suite with over the shoulder training (“click here”), even helping them to write their blogs. To this end, Klein suggests asking for short meetings with each executive. Ask each one “what keeps you up at night?” Reframe their statements and feed the text for the blog back to them immediately. Keep going back each month until they feel comfortable writing blogs themselves.
Regulatory Requirements For Financial Services
To date, there hasn’t been any specific guidance from financial regulators regarding these enterprise social networks. However, if social media is any indication, these new tools are viewed by regulators as just another form of electronic communications and existing recordkeeping and supervision rules will apply.
There is a wide range of approaches that firms are currently taking. Some exclude regulated persons, such as financial advisers, from the collaborative environment to avoid the costs and liability risks of capturing, archiving and supervising communications. However this dampens firm-wide adoption, as departments such as Human Resources are reluctant to use a tool where a major part of the workforce is excluded. Other firms consider these “water cooler” conversations, not business records, and therefore do not retain any of the communications. And some firms capture and retain everything, incurring additional costs and the risks of possible liability.
In the absence of regulatory guidance, a best practice is to weigh the pros and cons of deploying collaboration tools based on the risk tolerance of the firm. Work with Legal, Compliance, Risk and HR to interpret existing regulations, create recordkeeping and supervision policies and then carefully document the rationale behind each decision.
Proven Steps For A Successful Deployment
Once you have senior management on board, here are some other best practices for a successful deployment of an enterprise collaboration platform:
- Proactively identify and mitigate all the spoken (and unspoken) risks.
- Form a Senior Level Advisory Board consisting of IT, Legal, Compliance, Communications, HR and others. Collaborate to develop community rules, set goals, craft employee use policies.
- Conduct due diligence. Look at what the competition is using.
- Meet with each of the businesses to identify specific use cases.
- Make it easy for users to participate.
- Test everything, especially all browsers and various devices.
- Invest in role-based training in a variety of modalities as everyone learns differently. Be prepared to conduct “over the shoulder” training for key stakeholders.
- Dedicate a support team.
- Use gamification and share success stories to boost adoption.
Disclosure: I was an invited guest to JiveWorld2014 and my travel expenses are being reimbursed to my employer.