Business Value of Social Computing (III)

Welcome to the third installment of the business value of social computing post series. You can review the first and the second post of the series, if you haven’t already done so. In this post I will higlight two main problems with the social computing today.

We have seen what social means and what parts make up the mosaic of social computing. We have also seen why do businesses use social and what benefits it can bring. However, businesses still cope with lack of adoption. Why is that? From our experience in deploying Beezy social network for SharePoint to our many customersmany customers, we have learned some key insights on the social success patterns, in the companies that have succeeded in social. We have also learned what doesn’t work, so to avoid it in future deployments.

Here are the two pain points with social computing today:

Social Is Slow to Grow

The enterprise social networks (ESN) are still a young technology. Even if they have been available for years now, they haven’t become mainstream until few years ago. If you compare it to a well-established technology such as OLAP datawarehouses or business process management (BPM), it still has to crystallize into best practice patterns and actionable guidance.

There are several reasons for this slowness in the adoption of social. It is a very disruptive technology, because it changes the way people work and share information. A change of this magnitude needs a lot of time to "stick" (some studies say that it can take 18 months for a change to become durable). In today’s fast-paced world, the instantaneous results we expect of deploying any new technology won’t be there with social. Embracing social in the company is a marathon, not a sprint. It has to be nurtured, encouraged and guided.

Also, the lack of clear guidance and the variety of use cases of social in different sectors and companies don’t help much to speed up the adoption. There are too many contradictory messages and guidelines out there. A company that wants to adopt social computing can’t just expect to plug it in and reap the benefits. It’s a slow-paced progress, but it’s also a steady journey. Have patience!

There Are Common Pitfalls in the Way

The second frequent pain point with ESN has to do with the common pitfalls and barriers to the successful adoption of social at work. Over and over again, companies have faced lack of social adoption and the root causes are very common between all of them.

The first cause of social failure is the lack of an overall strategy for social. As I said before, social computing isn’t a database engine that is simply plugged in. It needs to be deployed in the context of a greater business strategy, in order to achieve business goals. If you deploy first and ask for the business need later, you are putting the cart before the horse. Keep in mind that social is a tool, and not an end in itself. (You can check part 2 of the series for a refresher on the common business cases for social).

The second common cause of lack of adoption is having too many competing priorities. It means that the company is picking many desirable technology projects but doesn’t really commit hard on any one of them. While not putting all your eggs in the same basket is a common sense, not committing is akin to a paper tiger: looks strong from the distance but shaky when confronted. You will need "teeth" (business support and gravitas) to overcome resistance to change, and starting without that support is a recipe for a disaster. If you don’t have executive sponsors for your social endeavour, don’t even start. I have warned you Smile

The third cause is not having a clear business case. As I said few paragraphs before: every business has a unique case for social. You will have to find yours. If it’s lackluster or too broad, your users won’t find any value in the extra hassle that is needed to learn the new technology. It won’t work for them. Make sure to find your value proposition for social in order to start on the right track.


We have seen how social is by its nature slow to grow and how it’s easily derailed by common pitfalls. If you plan your social computing deployment having into account these facts, your chances of success will be higher.


Do you have something to add to this conversation? Make sure to leave a comment below.