Why social business initiatives fail

On March 11 in Banff, Alta., the Canadian Cloud Council’s Cloud Matters Conference will kick off with the “Business Gets Social” panel. Social Business is a disruptive force and promises to engage employees and customers in more meaningful interactions than ever before. But to have a successful social initiative, your organization and leadership need to fully understand that it will take time and significant effort to achieve success.

Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and part-time professor at York University, is participating on the Business Gets Social panel and takes the pragmatic view when discussing social initiatives.

“Most social initiatives are doomed. Rolling out a social initiative takes planning and thought, just like any marketing program. It takes hard work,” says Love. “I find it perplexing. Nobody would ever hold a conference for 500 people without weeks of planning, totally understanding the audience, thinking about the content and planning every aspect of the interaction. Yet they dive into social initiatives without even half the thought that they would give a live event. Like any social gathering or important event, we know that to sustain a conversation with a lot of people takes planning and a lot of effort. Social initiatives are no different.”

Organizations of all sizes and complexity need to spend time assessing where a social initiative makes the most sense and clearly understand the purpose for each social initiative. Doing social for social’s sake will end in disappointment if not approached with strategic thought. According to a report by Gartner Inc., 80 per cent of social business efforts will not achieve intended benefits through 2015.

Gartner’s prediction isn’t meant to scare businesses from embarking down the social path. Rather, the research helps set appropriate expectations and provides further validation to approach social from a strategic perspective. You risk more by delaying the development of a social strategy which may put your organization at a competitive disadvantage in the future. Innovative and progressive companies understand the importance of social business and are willing to invest the time and effort to achieve a successful outcome.

Also participating on the panel is Stephen Lamb, CIO of the British Columbia Institute of Technology. If you are considering a social initiative, Lamb advises, “start by answering the question of ‘What’s in it for me?’ If you can’t look a user in the eye and genuinely answer that question, your chances of successfully rolling out a social business initiative are severely hampered.”

It is important to understand that you have to look at social initiatives in a new light and from a variety of stakeholder perspectives. “This isn’t a new ERP system or some other ‘classic’ enterprise system linear deployment that you can mandate,” says Lamb. “This is an initiative that is tough to describe, difficult to measure success in the short to mid-term and is solely reliant on people actually seeing value in it, engaging and contributing. Be mindful of all that. Be mindful that a classic IT deployment isn’t going to work. Be mindful that the risk of failure is high and adjust your expectations accordingly. It’s a long haul.”

Jim Love and Stephen Lamb will be sharing more of their experience and insight at the Cloud Matters Conference on March 11 and 12. Follow the event on Twitter:
Jim Love: @therealjimlove
Stephen Lamb: @SEE_EYE_OH
Brian Clendenin: @brianclendenin

Brian Clendenin is the Enterprise Regional Sales Manager for Western Canada at SuccessFactors, an SAP Company. Prior to SuccessFactors, Clendenin served in enterprise sales at Gartner Inc., where he provided advisory and consulting services for emerging technology in cloud computing and enterprise social networking areas. Clendenin speaks and writes on the topics of cloud computing, social media and talent management, and serves on the advisory committee at the Canadian Cloud Council.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Clendenin
Brian Clendenin
"We are at one of the most exciting moments in history when it comes to innovation in IT driving innovation in business." Widely recognized as a powerful speaker intertwining storytelling and expertise, Clendenin writes and speaks on the topics of leadership, cloud, infrastructure, monitoring & analytics, DevOps, AI, machine learning, security, mobility, IT strategy, and digital transformation. Invests his time interviewing engaging thought leaders. (Connect with Brian Clendenin on LinkedIn)

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