Successful Enterprise Social Network (ESN) deployments are not rare, but they are not as common as they should be. With planning and a bit of forethought, successes can become commonplace. In order to experience a successful Stage 1, also known as The Experimenting Stage in the Enterprise Social Maturity Spectrum, a few things need to happen.

I’d like to share a few tips and ideas I have learned over many years of deploying enterprise software solutions. The same rules apply, and I have found them to be helpful when setting goals that lead to successful Enterprise Social Network deployments, with the goal that the ESN deployment will cycle through each of the four stages of the Enterprise Social Maturity Spectrum—Experimenting, Expanding, Embracing and Everywhere.  When done correctly, the cycle will start over for each succeeding deployment, because the reality is that social engagement is a never ending process.

Before getting to it, let’s get going with an a few thoughts about what constitutes a successful deployment. It starts with a fairly obvious question that everyone should be asking:

What is the ultimate measure of a successful Enterprise Social Networking deployment?

  • Adoption – One answer is fairly simple.  That it is used. That adoption happens.
  • Growth – Another is that it grows. That it expands beyond the initial experiment
  • Impact – Another is that it has an impact. A customer, partner or employee should be positively impacted.

Even if you have already been deploying ESN solutions for some time, these tips may be useful in considering your new ESN project in a different light.

Tips for Goal Setting for Successful Deployments

Getting Started

  • Communicate – Make sure everyone can find out what is going on.
  • Instigate – Encourage people to take action. To try things. To take risks.
  • Involve – Get people at all levels integrated into the effort, including executives.
  • Report – Make sure regular status updates are posted. People DO want to know.
  • Share Successes – This is obvious, but just in case … Tell the tale and share the victories!

Seek Adoption

One of the biggest challenges with any deployment is adoption, whether it is a new software system or just a new process for completing a task. Most people will want to stick to their tried-and-true methods. This is especially true with an ESN deployment. People need to know the ESN is designed to help them do their jobs more effectively … not to do their jobs for them. They need to know that the ESN is designed to help the company, and also HOW it will help.

Ease their Pain

Let people know WIIFT – What’s in it for them.  Give them real reasons and tangible advantages to adopting the new ESN. Saying something as simplistic as “your job depends upon it” is not good enough. Let them know the plans, goals, dreams and aspirations for your experiment. Let them know WHY you care, WHY the company cares and WHY your customers and partners will care.

“No one cares … until they know how much you care” 

Mind Map It
If you need help kicking things off, one option is to grab a few stakeholders and invite them to participate in a brief mind-mapping session. I say brief because everyone is busy, and if people know they only have a short amount of time, both from a time commitment standpoint and also from a getting-it-done perspective, they may be more likely to participate.

Tips for Mind-Mapping:
Start on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper and ask the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of our ESN?
  2. Who will the ESN service, support or empower?
  3. How will we know when we are done?

What not to do – a few no-no’s:
Like all Must-Do things, there are always a few Must Not Do things.

Here are three:

  • Implicate – no finger pointing. Unless it’s a mea culpa. Remember PIP – Praise in Public (criticize in private).
  • Under Share – If people don’t know why you care, they will not be able to help. If people don’t know what’s happening, they will disengage.
  • Take the Credit – By their nature ESNs are social. No single person should seek or take the credit

Reality Check
Things will not always work out as you planned. What happens when things go wrong?
When thing go sideways, and they will, that’s OK. Here are a few tips for dealing with the inevitable challenges that face every ESN deployment.

  • Evaluate
  • Adjust
  • Improve
  • Re-Start (see the PDCA Cycle)

Success is NOT Guaranteed
However, with planning and forethought you ESN deployments will have a much higher probability of success. I hope you use a few of these tips and that your next ESN deployment is wildly successful.