Emanuele Quintarelli: Organizations are far from leveraging social as an accelerator

e20-emanuele-quintarelliEmanuele Quintarelli (@absolutesubzero) continues our pre-summit interview series.

Emanuele is a seasoned Enterprise 2.0 / Social Business strategist, co-author, speaker and a “Digital Transformation Leader”.

He has launched Netwo.it, the Italian Architecture Summit, the Web 2.0 & Beyond Conference, International Forum on Enterprise 2.0 & the Social Business Forum.

He lives and breathes Social Business.

Emanuele joins us with a introduction talk for the Expertise Discussion: Key Factors for Strategic Enablement at Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT.

Emanuele, what are three tags that label your talk?

I would say “best practices”, “change”, “business value”.

You are presenting the results of a recent research you have done in Italy. What is the research about?

Both experienced practitioners and new joiners to the Enterprise 2.0 / Social Business world have always searched for credible best practices to make their job a bit easier and less uncertain. Quantitative data, such as the one you can find in large surveys from top analyst firms such as Forrester and Gartner, has the additional characteristic of being an effective mean to sell internal collaboration projects to the senior management.

Unfortunately such resources has two crucial limits from a local perspective: it is mostly meant for the Global/American market and it is focused more on the technology than on the softer cultural transformation and people dimensions.

For these reasons, together with Stefano Besana, I’ve launched the first quantitative study on the best practices of adoption in employee collaboration in Italy. What we have found objectively tells apart organizations able to position Enterprise 2.0 as a strategic initiative with measurable business benefits from all the others.

What are the key results of the research regarding the status-quo of the social adoption and social transformation?

Unfortunately the key message survey results highlight is how far organizations are from leveraging internal communities, collaborative intranets and enterprise social software as mandatory accelerators in their future and those of their people.

The largest barriers come both from the lack of comprehension of the business outcomes social collaboration introduces and the peculiar roll-out strategies that cannot be ignored if we really aim to go from a technology perspective to an enterprise-wide digital transformation approach.

On the other side, the study clearly proves how collaboration is a huge opportunity for those coming at it with a more mature attitude.

For example:

  • By 2016 75% of the market is expected to see collaboration as a key enabler of the organizational performance (up from 52% today)
  • Internal communities are already considered an effective lever to permit knowledge reuse (40%), increase efficiency (30%) and enable employees to stay up-to-date with what happens in other teams or departments (30%).
  • While most of the participants are still struggling with adoption (the majority is not able to engage more than 30% of the workforce), leading organizations have already reached 50-75% of the population
How is the “social idea” perceived from the management? Are they understanding the potential of social as an strategic enabler for the businesses?

Both the buy-in and personal involvement of top management in social collaboration initiatives is considered as the single most important factor to unlock adoption and measurable results. While management’s role is not the only critical dimension according to the participants of our survey, it is often the starting point from which a number of other enabling factors such as investments and qualified community management support descend.

In other words, even if organizational evolution should be clearly based on concrete professional needs of the workforce, this is not enough to turn a small scale experiment into a new culture and the “way things get done here”.

That’s why, articulating the value proposition of a social collaboration initiatives in terms of business goals that are aligned to and resonate with the overall corporate strategy is the first step towards success.

What are the characteristics of those companies that are evaluate the “social initiative” with a strategic importance?

What we have quantitatively discovered is that, at the end, it’s all about a handful of aspects that unfortunately most organizations systematically ignore. By getting such dimensions covered you will both mitigate the risk and maximize the value the firm will extract from the initiative.

Here are some of the top areas on which top performers excel:

  • The project is explicitly supported and sponsored by the top management (70% vs 34% for laggards). Long lasting processes, technology and process change should be somewhat mandated by the formal organization
  • Social collaboration doesn’t happen without a significant effort. While Enterprise 2.0 may appear as inspired by public social networks, your intranet or employee community isn’t Facebook. Successful projects have a dedicated and professional support (sponsor, community managers, other departments involved) in 91% of the cases (vs 51% of the others)
  • The right budget should be there. Like any other project, social transformation requires meaningful investments. This means more than 500K Euros or more for 27% of the leaders versus 8% of remaining participants. Even more importantly, the available money should be spent more on the people and strategy dimension than on the technology
  • A hybrid roll-out strategy is by far the most effective approach. Top performers use a mixed top-down and bottom-up way process two times more than laggards (52% vs 27%). Senior management involvement should then be balanced with a key role attributed to end-users in shaping both the priorities and the chosen solutions. When uncertain, end-users come first and early-on in the design process
  • Culture and business potential are no longer an issue. The strategic importance of social initiatives is proven by the ability of leading organizations in overcoming the “wrong culture” and “not a priority” objections. These two arguments still represent the primary reason of failure for all the others (40% vs 15% for the business priority and 27% vs 10% for the culture)
  • Measuring participation and business outcomes is not optional. An amazingly high portion of companies aren’t yet looking at collaboration from a quantitative perspective given that 50% of our sample hasn’t adopted any metric. This is true only for 9% of the top performers and many of them look not just for the level of activity (like, views, comments, etc) but especially for the business outcomes (revenues, cost reduction, new products, etc).

Emanuele joins us with a introduction talk for the Expertise Discussion: Key Factors for Strategic Enablement at Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT.

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Rogier Noort
I'm a Social Business addict coming from the technical depths of IT and rising from these dark ages, through web and social, to the enlightened field of Social Business. Also blogger, podcaster, talker and listener.