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    « Can Compliance be Strategic? | Main | A Spirited Carnival of HR »

    Social Software in the Workplace

    This week analyst firm Gartner published its 'Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace',  a review and categorization of 35 different solutions that in one form or another support internal employee 'teaming, communities, and networking'. Flickr - dsevilla

    It is an expensive piece of research, but if vendor Jive Software is making copies available via its site here, (registration with Jive required).

    I don't want to get into the never-ending debate on whether these analyst reports are biased or not, or even if the Magic Quadrant model is all that helpful, but I point out this research to illustrate for the HR community (the primary readers of this blog), how diverse and crowded the market for internal social software has become.

    If you believe that organizations can achieve significant competitive advantage by more effective internal communication, collaboration, and teamwork, then you as an HR pro and leader will almost certainly be called upon to either participate in either a software selection project, lead an internal deployment of collaboration technology, or devise ways to design and implement performance, recognition, and compensation programs that reflect the impact of collaborative tools in the organization.

    There are really several keys for the HR leader in approaching social software:

    One - Identification of the business issues that can be solved by more frequent, effective, and sustainable collaboration and expertise and information discovery.

    Issues centered on Research and Development and Marketing collaboration may require a different set of tools than ones between Account Management and Customer Support.  A large company in numerous countries and locations typically faces much different challenges than a smaller, single location enterprise. The point is that your organization's challenges are unique, and blanket approaches, 'Let's get everyone on Yammer', may not really solve any specific business problem.

    Two - Assessment and selection of the best technologies that will support the solutions identified in step one.

    The 35 solutions listed in the Gartner report, while all broadly defined in the 'social software' category, have unique feature sets, characteristics, capabilities, costs, and in some cases deployment options.  HR leaders will have to invest the time to develop a better understanding of market segment that they likely may not have much familiarity with.  Fortunately many of the solutions have free trials, or other low-cost options for targeted pilot projects.

    Three - Design and implementation of the technology solution accompanied by change management, communication, training, etc.

    Definitely part of this step is the development of new performance management metrics and possibly compensation plans to support the project's goals. 

    Four - Evaluation of the solution and the implementation.

    Are employees adopting the new collaborative technology and the associated changes in process? Do metrics like content creation, participation, activity, etc where you want? And most importantly, is the solution meeting the desired business outcomes?  Many organization are absolutely littered with rarely updated wikis, or internal blogs with only sporadic posts and comments. The causes of failure vary from the wrong technology being chosen, a company culture that does not embrace the new collaborative process, or perhaps a lack of adequate change management and communication to the employees as to the benefits of the new technology and process. 

    Five - Refinement of the technology itself, or the process based on the evaluation in step four.

    Does the organization need some additional or enhanced system capabilities? Have the employees taken the system to places you had not considered, but they find valuable? Unlike traditional enterprise software, where business processes are usually clearly defined and employees simply follow user instructions, with these collaboration tools employees will almost always adopt ways of working and using the tools that you as the HR leader and implementer had not considered.  Hopefully, your initial projects were successful, and now you can plan ways to expand the footprint of the solution to more employees in the organization.


    For HR, the opportunity to help drive superior business performance by designing and implementing strategies to increase and reward effective collaboration has never been more apparent. Understanding the related technologies that support these initiatives is a critical component of the process.

    In the next few weeks I will highlight some of the specific solutions reviewed in the Gartner report, particularly some of the newer ones, to try and provide some assistance in your learning process.

    What do you think, do you feel as an HR leader prepared to drive internal social software adoption?



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    Reader Comments (2)

    Great post, Steve, and glad to see you emphasized *Purpose* as #1. I would call out separately and perhaps earlier something you touch on throughout: your employees' capabilities, readiness, needs, and preferences. This is something Li and Bernoff touch on in "Groundswell" as an important facet. Since it's "all about the people" ask what they hope to get out of it, what do they use, how would they use it, etc. True, when "Groundswell" was written, social software had not made as many inroads into the workplace as today (remember, that was waaaay back in '06/'07!) but the adoption distribution in the workplace is still pretty wide and short; there are huge numbers of companies with very little adoption, so it would be a good idea to use active inquiry to not only find out what the employee social software profile is like, but to also send a positive signal about how your company wants to introduce it and why.


    October 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bennett

    Mark - thanks very much for the comments and excellent observations. I totally understand what you mean, even great source material like 'Groundswell' gets out of date so quickly. I love the idea of using active inquiry to help shape social software selection and strategy. It is such an interesting area and opportunity, and it is my hope that more HR leaders come to embrace the potential.

    November 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

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