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Deloitte and Sampson: Focus on process, the "why" not the "what", for social software

March 22, 2011 | | Posted by Jordan Frank
I found a common thread on process centric adoption in the Deloitte Center for the Edge's Social Software for Business Performance report and Michael Sampson's User Adoption Strategies book. This advice is reflected in my post on Emergineering from last fall.
The Deloitte study focuses heavily on a Traction TeamPage deployment at Alcoa where the study highlights a 61% reduction in hours spent on compliance activities in IT project management. Separately, Alcoa reports substantial performance increases in terms of time savings of over 100 hours per week in an IT implementation that was completed in 7 rather than an expected 18 months. It also highlights Traction TeamPage customer Ensign-Bickford where a process around Tooling Requests that created an continuous feedback loop, reduced re-work and reduced overtime hours from 10 to 1 (or less) per week.
In their analysis, Deloitte says meaningful performance improvement is achievable:

The experiences of Alcoa and OSIsoft prove that social software can achieve meaningful improvements. How did they succeed where so many others did not? Both Alcoa and OSIsoft employed a simple tactic: they avoided focusing on adoption. Rather, they identified specific operational pain points in the business that social software could address. By focusing on something tangible, broadly relevant and widely acknowledged as a problem, they overcame initial skepticism.

Sampson's book is another great reference point on adoption. He takes special care to focus on second wave people.

What-why reversal. A first wave person is attracted to the "what" of the new collaboration technology, but may struggle to articulate the "why" -- the future oriented picture -- to other people. They may "get it" implicitly, but struggle to put it into words. A second wave person gets the "why" (if it's conveyed in terms of their work), but will need help with the "what." (Page 30)

Later on, Sampson uses my quote to lead off Chapter 9 - Making it Real:

The deployments I have seen succeed the fastest and become the most enduring are those that are built under the backdrop of a defined work process that is better conducted wiki or blog-style than in email, Notes, SharePoint or whatever the alternative. Patterns emerge within these deployments that change their nature and branch into new uses of the technology -- but leveraging the core process (or processes) is vital to gaining high participation and sustained user attention.

When you focus on the "why," people stop looking at the platform as a "blog" or "social" system but rather as a work-process system. They take it more seriously and part of their daily work, rather than a destination to only enjoy and engage in when they have a (very rare) free cycle. The patterns that take over become hardened and information infrastructure starts to take root. It's this infrastructure, whether its the history of issue / exception process focused discussions or documentation and later execution of compliance test plans, that creates a pattern on which new use cases can emerge, and enables a substantial Return on Information.