This guest post was written by Socialware advisor and former Salesforce.com CIO Kirsten Wolberg.
As an IT leader, you have less time than ever to react to the constant changes that arise around social and mobile technologies. But how do you keep up?
My own experience in rolling out cloud computing solutions at Salesforce.com, including the social application Chatter, has taught me key lessons about how to shorten the learning curve and deliver projects with less pain. One of the best things you can do, I’ve found, is to build consensus among the right stakeholders. In this post I outline a straightforward process for making that happen.
Identify Social Media Stakeholders Ahead of Time
With both cloud and social applications, there is a tendency for marketing or sales teams to adopt new technologies without consulting IT. When unforeseen integration issues come up, those issues are thrown over the wall for IT to solve. Too often, it’s only at that point that the stakeholders who should have been in the room initially are brought together.
The better approach, of course, to get the right people in the room from the start. So who are the right stakeholders for social technology rollouts?
- Network Security — Often the last invited to the table, but the first to hit the brakes on potentially risky IT implementations.
- Compliance — Less involved in cloud issues, but necessarily involved in social media. Compliance officers must be made aware of the risks raised by social media and how these risks will be mitigated.
- Legal — Like security and compliance, the legal team needs to be involved up front, because otherwise they will tend to stop social media implementations as they try to do their job of preventing undue risk exposure for the firm.
- IT — In some cases, IT will lead the initiative to implement social, but they should be involved in any event to manage implementation issues.
- Business units — Ideally, a move to social media will be sponsored or championed by sales, marketing, or business development as they work to grow the business. If your company’s social media initiative hasn’t found its business champion yet, go find that person. Otherwise, the whole project could die on the vine.
Don’t Throw Yourself into the Fire
The best way to involve these players is not to bring them all together at first. Having all of these groups in the same meeting without preparation tends to magnify the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) of each group. When that happens, you might get burnt to a crisp.
Instead, set up a series of 1-to-1 meetings to educate each stakeholder and elicit the questions and concerns they care about. Holding separate private sessions gives you time to listen closely, do the necessary homework, and dispel at least some of the FUD for each area before bringing all the stakeholders together.
When you do get all the players together, you’ll already have allies in the room. People will feel included, and they’ll be much more likely to listen to one another—and to you.
Set Limits that Drive Results
The focus for these sessions, the 1-on-1’s as well as the group meetings, is to get to Yes. Your attitude going in should be that the ultimate answer is to figure out how to make social media work at your firm, not to shoot it down. Be ready to communicate this assumption again and again to overcome naysayers’ legitimate concerns.
Another key limit is to time-box the process by setting dates for key decisions. You will never move forward if stakeholders, especially the risk-prevention experts in Compliance, Legal, and Network Security, feel that debate can be unlimited. Not every stakeholder needs to be ecstatic about the idea before implementation begins, but all of them must agree to work together to execute credibly.
The Bigger Picture for Social Media Rollouts
It’s vital to get the right stakeholders around the table and get them aligned so you can roll out social media for your enterprise. But that’s only part of a bigger strategy, which includes focused efforts around:
- A broad pilot-to-rollout strategy.
- Managing the process of continuous change for your firm’s employees.
Each of these aspects is explained in detail in the Socialware IT Best Practices document “IT Strategy for Social Media Implementation: 3 Lessons from the Cloud.”