One cannot speak about companies’ digital transformation, without considering a Corporate Social Network (CSN). Indeed, implementing a CSN is one of the actions that will most impact the digital transformation of their corporate culture.
Implementing a CSN
Nobody questions the advantages of a CSN anymore:
- It facilitates the sharing of knowledge across different departments and entities,
- It helps to better appreciate the expertise of the staff and gives them more visibility within the company,
- It improves productivity of fragmented teams based on distant locations,
- It creates a greater proximity of top management with all employees,
- Corporate culture is smoothly adopted by the staff.
Unfortunately, there are many possible obstacles to the CSN adoption, some coming from the management (you may hear remarks such as “we’re here to work, not to share our holidays’ pictures”, “what will be my managerial role if my staff become autonomous?”) and some from the users (“we’ve got already too many tools, we don’t need new ones”).
Be that as it may, corporate social networks are increasingly being adopted by companies, as shown in the latest surveys on the subject. As of September 2015, 80% of CAC40 companies have deployed a CSN, and according to Arctus’ Observatoire de l’intranet et de la stratégie numérique (Survey on Intranet and Digital Strategy, in English), more than half the companies propose social features.
Whereas this market has been initially the domain of Electronic Document Management (EDM) software – such as Microsoft’s SharePoint or IBM’s Connections -, companies such as LinkedIn or Facebook are currently launching their own solutions in the market. Just recently, Royal Bank of Scotland announced the adoption of Facebook at Work (the famous social network solution for businesses) for its 100,000 employees by the end of 2016.
In 2013, I was in charge of the implementation of a CSN in my company. During this project, I have been confronted with several issues that slowed down the progress. Based on this experience, here are some advices that you may find useful:
Seek management support
This condition is obvious. With no active support from the top management, the CSN will take longer to be implemented and its adoption will eventually fail if the staff thinks it is not a key project for the company.
Middle management should not be neglected either. The success of a CSN largely lies on their commitment and willingness to facilitate and encourage its use by their staff. You may achieve it by showing them how this new tool can help them improve their teamwork through a few quick-wins.
Analyze your “customers’ needs”
Just as you would do for launching a new product in the market, you should analyze what the staff’s needs really are, and try to adapt the solution consequently.
This may sound obvious but we are not all Millennials and, in some cases, launching a CSN with plenty of new features, so appealing as they be, can be the best way for users to feel lost and finally not adopt the tool.
In order to choose the best solution for your company, conduct an internal survey, organise focus groups and one-to-one interviews. You will get a clearer picture of the use of social networks and of the internet in general by your employees, as well as of their expectations regarding this subject. It may then appear that the best approach is to start simple and add new features as users get used to the tool.
Adapt your vocabulary
Personally, when referring to CSNs, I would chose the word “collaborative” instead of “social”. And this one word can change the perception some people may have towards your project. When we started the project, I met with several managers to explain our objectives and also get their input. As I stated before, some of their reactions were “why do we need a Facebook?”, “what a waste of time, people will spend the whole day sharing recipes or talking about their last holidays”. Nevertheless, if you want key people to adhere to your project, you should pay attention to these details.
Get some feedback
Surely, you can find lots of online resources on the subject. I’d like to suggest a few ones I consider particularly interesting:
- L’Observatoire de l’intranet et de la stratégie numérique, is conducted annually by Arctus, a consulting firm, and gives you a synthetic view of the trends in corporate digital transformation based on the responses from several hundreds of companies.
- There are plenty of conferences and forums dedicated to this topic and they are an efficient way to get feedback from other companies’ experiences, such as (for those living in Paris) the International Meeting of Intranet Managers (Rencontre Internationale des Responsables Intranet – RIRI), or the Salon des Solutions Intranet-RSE & Travail Collaboratif that are held annually.
- When possible, ask for input from other entities of your own group as this is highly valuable. Their feedback will probably be more sincere (not everyone is willing to openly admit a failure) and may help you avoid some of their mistakes.
Do not neglect legal aspects
Implementing a CSN in international organisations involves legal aspects, which should not be underestimated. Actually, they should be analysed and dealt with from the very beginning of the project: exchange of the staff personal data between countries may make necessary the signature of an agreement and even the approval of the respective national agency for personal data protection.
Inform the social representatives
This is another legal aspect to take into account as soon as possible. When necessary, anticipate the consultation of social representatives in every jurisdiction. The implementation of the CSN in one country may be jeopardized if you have not obtained the agreement from the respective works council.
Also, even it is recommended that employees adhere to the CSN on a voluntary basis, this should not exclude their individual validation of a charter of good practices.
Get other departments involved
According to the Arctus’ survey, most of the CSN implementation projects are conducted by the IT, the Communication, the Human Resources or any combination of these departments. Regardless of the sponsor of the project, it is essential to involve people from other departments (Legal and Compliance, Operations, Marketing) so they feel like an active part of the project and can start spreading the word in their respective departments.
Add a bit of fun
To be sure, one of the main objectives of a CSN is to improve productivity. All the new collaborative features (such as shared agenda, instant messaging, documents workspace, video-conference, forums, wikis, blogs) will help reaching this goal.
But, although these functionalities are certainly useful, you may realise people are not easily adopting the tool. One way to get across this barrier is to allow the creation of extra-professional communities of interest (such as sports, car-sharing, etc.). Since it appeals to their personal interest, it will make it easier for reluctant people to learn how to use the tool, while at the same improving their sense of belonging to the company.
And now, engage!
Once the CSN is officially launched, you should not expect people to rush over all these marvellous features it is offering them, this is a long-term job. Regularly, you will have to provide support and training to new users (through FAQs, video-tutorials, guides, on- and off-line events), communicate about new functionalities as well as facilitate and value the animation work by community managers.
You might think the project is done, but it’s not. Indeed, now the CSN is up and running, you may believe the work is over. Well, this is not really true. There are multiple ways the CSN will have to evolve in order to adapt itself to new users’ needs (micro-blogging, social features, mobile access, to name a few).
Should you think of any other useful aspects or just give your opinion, feel free to leave a comment below.