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For the early adopters, social and collaborative functionality is now an expected element of any modern intranet. As technology platforms improve, these capabilities are steadily incorporated into intranets of all sizes and shapes.
This still leaves many intranet teams, particularly when they sit within internal communications, uncertain about whether to proceed with enterprise social media.
The risks from such tools are seemingly large, such as inappropriate comments potentially causing a storm at senior management levels. In comparison, the role, purpose and benefits of these new features are often unclear.
The good news is this: there is very little to fear from enterprise social media tools. When done well, the benefits far outweigh the costs and risks.
It hasn’t broken for most people
The starting point for any intranet team should be to reach out to other organisations who have implemented social and collaborative tools. This can be via conferences, informal gatherings, intranet reports, site visits, or professional intranet groups (such as the Intranet Leadership Forum).
This will quickly show the reality of enterprise social tools, which is that very few organisations have encountered any problems at all.
In the rare instance when a problem is encountered, it is often is only a single inappropriate comment of a minor nature, which is quickly and easily addressed by peers, or through normal management channels.
Across the intranet community as a whole, enterprise social media problems are few and far between.
Mitigate the risks
As the proverb says, ‘fortune favours the prepared’. While risks are rare in practice, it makes sense to prepare mitigation plans in advance.
As outlined in the earlier article Mitigating enterprise collaboration risks, there are many practical steps that can be taken to manage potential issues.
Many of these draw upon existing processes, such as employee codes of conduct, which outline the expected behaviour of staff. By addressing issues within the social tools, rather than off-line, any early mistakes will quickly define the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
Have a strategy
As outlined in the book Essential intranets: inspiring sites that deliver business value, social and collaborative features are just a means to an end.
Their purpose may be to promote the organisation’s culture, improve communication, enhance knowledge management, or support better customer service.
Ensure there is clarity about the goals and purpose of social and collaborative tools from the outset. This helps to guide the way they are launched, promoted and supported.
It also ensures there is a clear understanding of the ‘upside’ of these tools, which provides a reason for organisation to take on the risks involved (which while small, are always present).
Engage senior management in the planning of the social and collaborative tools, and look for ways to involve them directly in the new platforms. This provides visible backing for the initiatives, while directly demonstrating the benefits to the senior leaders who are involved.
Focus on adoption
Perhaps the greatest risk inherent in social and collaborative tools is that they aren’t taken up widely across the organisation.
When launching new tools, devote resources to initial promotion, support, training and adoption. Avoid ‘pilots’ that simply throw out new tools and hope for the best, and instead take a measured approach to the launch and use of social and collaborative tools.
If in doubt, start small. As outlined in the article Enable commenting on intranet news, even a small social element can deliver benefits while keeping risks very low. More ambitious approaches can then follow, in time.