Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Second-wave adopters are coming. Are you prepared? Part 1 / 3

by Christoph Schmaltz

I decided to break this blog post down into three parts, as it had become way too long during all those endless nights of writing. The general theme is that in the near future we will see more companies starting Enterprise 2.0 projects to increase productivity, reduce cost, improve client relations. While we have seen some early success stories, companies will need to think hard about ways to attract second-wave adopters.

The post is divided as follows:

1) Overview of barriers to introducing Enterprise 2.0 and user adoption
2) Scrutinizing barriers to user adoption
3) Thoughts on how to attract second-wave adopters
  


While everyone is talking about social tools and services in the consumer market, things have been comparatively quiet in the enterprise market. Yes, there are very noteworthy case studies out there (Sun, Wachovia, TransUnion, and also some of our clients), but the number of initiatives and scale can’t stand up to the things happening in the consumer market.

The crux of the matter is that different dynamics are at play in the enterprise impeding more often than not the commission of even small-scale social software projects: 

  • IT departments
    • There is an obvious disconnect between IT and LOB; rigid, long-term IT strategies; concerns about security and compliance
  • IT investments
    • Millions of dollars have been spent on heavy enterprise systems that promised much but delivered little. Admitting failure is difficult, especially if people that commissioned the systems are still with the company. 
  • KM 1.0 stigma
    • The promise that knowledge could be captured and stored was proven wrong but cost businesses millions of dollars. Anything coming along now promising better ‘knowledge-sharing’ raises immediate suspicion.
  • Organizational hierarchy
    • Gatekeepers seeing their position weakened.
  • Corporate culture
    • Fear of losing control.
  • ROI
    • The focus on quantitative ROI, even though investment is relatively low compared to traditional enterprise systems and ROI figures for DMS, CMS, CRM systems were usually based on a coin flip rather than real figures.

However, with the current economic climate, change is not optional anymore. Organizations need to address inefficiencies caused by outdated management ideas and inadequate technology to increase productivity, save costs and offer better service to existing and prospect clients. This is one of the reasons why I expect to see more and more social software projects starting over the next months. At that point we will talk more about the HOW and less about WHAT and WHY of social tools. But even if companies start exploring business social tools the question remains: Will people come if you build it? And more importantly, will they stay?

User adoption is especially critical in E20 projects, because the tools become more valuable the more people actually use them. Therefore, user adoption must not be an afterthought but carefully thought of for from the start.

Here are some of the most common barriers to user adoption:

  • Insufficient training
    • Even though the training effort is relatively small compared to heavy and complex enterprise systems, handholding during the rollout is very important.
  • Culture
    • Culture can be subdivided into personal and corporate culture, but both influence each other. People fearing disadvantages from the introduction of new tools will do everything to sabotage or avoid their usage.
  • Generation gap
    • Baby boomers, Gen X and Y and Millennials adopt technology in different ways and interpret the world according to their own values and beliefs.
  • Applications not part of users’ workflow
    • Technology exists to help people to create value and do things more efficiently and effectively. If the technology does not support those processes, users will be reluctant to use it.
  • Time effort > personal value
    • People are pressured by deadlines, objectives and managers. If the tools do not help them to alleviate some of the pressure, they will stick to their current tools and processes ignoring their inefficiencies.
  • Complex applications
    • Uptake will be low if applications require a lot of effort to learn and subsequently to use due to unnecessary complexity and lack of usability. 

In the following post we will have a closer look at each barrier.

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