Dion Hinchcliffe: The top challenge is culture change!

In advance to our E20 SUMMIT I had the chance of asking , Chief Strategy Officer of the Dachis Group and keynote speaker at the E20 SUMMIT 2013, some questions about his views on the “Social Enterprise (R)Evolution” and the key challenges for the projects that he is perceiving.

1) How do you evaluate the state of the E20/Social Business evolution? Where are we on the way to the social enterprise?

Dion Hinchcliffe: I think we’ve recently entered the so-called ‘trough of disillusionment’. After talking about social technology at work for so many years, it’s now actually happening in many organizations. Thus many of us are now grappling with the challenges and realities of broad usage. The heightened expectations as well as the hyperbole that’s often accompanied E20/Social Business over the years has set a high bar for us. Yet I’m also very encouraged that I can easily find a good set of success stories these days too. In term of hard evaluation however, the data shows social media has widely entered our workforce today, and we can witness the full spectrum of outcomes today. For example, a new InformationWeek survey says 85% of organizations now have some form of official social networking in place, while only 18% report that these efforts have become a great success. While that’s amazing progress, it also shows we have our work cut out for us still. Fortunately, I find these numbers align well with the adoption narrative of most enterprise technology.

2) What are the key challenges companies are faced with on their journey towards the social enterprise?

Dion Hinchcliffe: The top challenge is culture change. You can drop social technology into any organization, but you can’t suddenly expect that employees will adopt the way that social media works or that business processes or traditions will automatically change. Social is a new way of operating (observable work, openly participative processes, co-creation) and this requires conscious effort to change our thinking and the way we function. Other top challenges include enterprise apps with overlapping features (e-mail, CMS/DMS, IM, unified communication, enterprise microblogs, customer forums, CRM, etc.), underinvestment in community management, and lack of executive understanding or buy-in.

3) What are the needed strategic elements for the E20/Social Business initiative to be successful?

Dion Hinchcliffe: There are three fundamental ingredients to be successful with E20/Social Business (or any major corporate initiative): Adequate resources/budget, organizational commitment, and a business problem to solve. Missing any of these greatly slows down and/or blunts the outcome of the effort. Beyond that, there seem to be special strategic elements for E20/Social Business. These include not isolating the internal/external efforts into two entirely separate projects (the data increasingly shows this has a surprisingly high impact of whether significant ROI is achieved), building a strong community management capability, and focusing on each stage of the adoption lifecycle by addressing the unique needs of business users and customers at each these stages (early, middle, late, laggards.)

4) What is your key recommendation for succeeding with the social technology adoption?

Dion Hinchcliffe: Put the technology second. You can even be a social business without the technology, it’s just easier if you have the supporting tools. It’s depressing how quickly the social business discussion turns to the tech, when the hard part is rethinking how your organization works to take advantage of the great benefits that that the core ideas (and a growing set of solid case examples) articulate for us. So, figure out your strategy/objectives with becoming a social business first and then find the tools to support these, realizing that you generally want to avoid social silos as well in the long term.

5) What actions should be considered to support the transformative process that is emerging out of the E20 initiative?

Dion Hinchcliffe: Keep focused on the key ideas that are fundamental to what makes E20/Social Business special. Try hard over the long term to make sure you don’t lose sight of these ideas along the way during the complex journey of change.  I’ve summarized the fundamental principles in my book, Social Business By Design, but the most important one too often falls by the wayside the most often: “Anyone can participate.”