Becoming a Social Business in 10 easy steps

I was lucky enough to attend the IBM Leadership Alliance conference last week in Boston.  This is an annual gathering of a large number of senior IBM execs, IBM Champions, key customers and a some hangers-on like me.  The entire event is covered by a non-disclosure agreement as the IBMers share their product plans and seek feedback on their plans from the audience.

One session stuck out particularly for me.  It was Sandy Carter‘s presentation on becoming a social business.  Although the precise content of her presentation is under NDA I am allowed to discuss the 10 steps to becoming a social business.  I will examine each of these in a forthcoming series of blog posts but wanted to give you the main steps now.  As I said, my thanks go to Sandy and her team for letting me give you the headline points.  Expect to hear much more on these steps from her and IBM in general in months to come.  The following, however, are my impressions of how to ensure success when implementing an enterprise social network such as IBM Connections.

1 – Integrate Social into your business processes

Establishing an enterprise social network does not in itself make your organization social.  Instead, the benefits of becoming a social business are to be found by applying the techniques associated with social in your business processes.  If you want to enhance the collaboration and communication in your company, embed social techniques into your business processes.

2 – Customize the experience

A successful social business solution will be customized to the organization it serves.  This starts with corporate branding but goes into nomenclature, approach, reporting standards, auditing standards and so on.  A social business solution needs to behave like the model corporate citizen, so customizing it to be so is a good step to success.

3 – Set Governance and Social Policy Rules

Amongst the first questions often asked in a new deployment of an enterprise social network are:

  • “What are the guidelines for using this thing?”
  • “Am I putting this information in the right place?”
  • “What information can I share?”

Setting governance and social policy rules is an excellent step to ensure that end users are clear on the rules for using the system.  Although this is something that each organization needs to decide for itself, there are numerous examples dotted around the internet for you to start with.  A particularly good example is IBM’s own Social Computing Guidelines.

4 – Hire Community Managers and Social Job Roles

It is important to make sure that your social network is managed and controlled properly.  Analogous to a gardener, the Community Manager feeds and trims their communities to help them grow in healthy ways.  Social Marketing Managers, Social Content Managers, and a host of other “SXO” roles can allow larger organizations to harness the collective intelligence of its staff to maximum effect.

5 – Leaders Must Show the Way

Getting the input of the leaders in your organization if essential for success in becoming a social business.  You need to formulate approaches which don’t scare your senior management from the process, but instead demonstrate the multiple benefits to be had by their participation.  We’re not advocating that every chief executive creates a video blog like IBM’s Ginny Rometti, but a light-touch approach to interacting with the early participants in your social network, such as commenting on what they’re doing or posting the occasional status update will go a long way to accelerating the adoption of the social enterprise tool.

6 – Evangelize and Enable

It should become clear in the early days of your enterprise social network who the most fluent and comfortable participants in the system are.  Harness their enthusiasm and give them the tools to evangelize, demonstrate and enable their co-workers.  Nothing works better in these scenarios than rapid intervention to help them get what they need done to help them spread your message.  Do they have a project starting?  A document to produce?  Information to share?  Jump in and help them – they will learn and repeat.

7 – Communicate the What, Why and How of your Social Business Plan

Make it easy for different areas of your organization to take your lead and run with it.  Document approaches you know to work which are appropriate to you company.  Provide the evangelists with the materials, such as reports, videos, approaches, examples, and in fact anything you think they could need to make the system a success.

Consider preparing an Executive Handbook which is written for, yes, you guessed it, the senior executives.  It provides examples of other senior managers and how they work with the system.  It gives advice on tone, approach and other guidance on how to take their first steps in the social network.

8 – Motivate and Engage

Bring the enterprise social network to where people work.  If you can, consider the following as being excellent ways of engaging the staff:

  1. Provide mobile access – configure your firewall to allow connections from the IBM Connections mobile application on the users’ iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android application.
  2. Consider allowing web-browser access.  IBM Mobile Connect can provide a clientless VPN to protect your valuable information if you have concerns over security.
  3. Make it a game – gamification increases adoption of enterprise social networks by up to 80%.

9 – Reverse Mentor your Leaders

In Step 5 we explained that getting your leaders to participate is essential for success.  Consider reverse-mentoring your senior staff with Millenials who are more comfortable with social technologies.  This presents an excellent opportunity for one-to-one training for the executive and also becomes a very valuable career step for a promising younger member of staff.

10 – Show the Metrics of Value

If you want to improve something, draw a graph.  So it is true with enterprise social networks.  Use the onboard analytics tools to demonstrate the growth in adoption, content, and success of the system.  IBM Connections 4 contains key elements of IBM Cognos Business Analytics to help you do this.


These are some practical examples of how you can drive adoption of your enterprise social business solution.  In the coming weeks I will be examining each point in more detail, giving concrete examples and resources you can use to help you on your journey.

Thanks again to Sandy and her team.



Technologist based in Scotland with a passion for social business, collaboration and analytics. Serial tweeter (@alanghamilton) and self-confessed IBM-fanboy. I believe social business is a new way for organizations of all sizes to form stronger working relationships within themselves and with their customers and partners. By demonstrating how any organization can become more open, responsible, compassionate and flexible I can show that staff and customer satisfaction increases, morale improves and better business results come.

more informationWeblog:

Author: Ruby Wade