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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly News on Social Technology in the Enterprise

by Dave Hannon

January 30, 2013

By Dave Hannon

The good news? The majority of companies are using social technology in their enterprise, a recognition that, as a technology, it's being taken far more seriously than it was a few years ago.

The bad news? Most companies aren't getting all they can out of social technology. According to Gartner, over the next three years, "80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology."

And McKinsey's take on the matter is only a few percentage points brighter. "While 72 percent of companies use social technologies in some way, very few are anywhere near to achieving the full potential benefit," McKinsey says, but at least emphasizes the upside. "In fact, the most powerful applications of social technologies in the global economy are largely untapped."

The ugly news? The IT organization might have some adapting to do if companies want to truly leverage social technologies. Because when you analyze some of the roadblocks between implementing a social technology and gaining its true value, the first thing you realize is you don't "implem ent" social technology at all. As Gartner analyst Carol Rozwell points out, by their very nature social applications are different. Their goals are different, their users are different and the method in which you select and share (not "deploy") them must be different. And when you consider that aspect, the traditional IT organization might not be the right organization to champion and roll out social technology.

"Traditional technology rollouts, such as ERP or CRM, followed a 'push' paradigm," says Rozwell. "Workers were trained on an app and were then expected to use it. In contrast, social initiatives require a 'pull' approach, one that engages workers and offers them a significantly better way to work. In most cases, they can't be forced to use social apps, they must opt-in."

(By the way, this infographic also provides some good data on the other roadblocks -- including where IT apathy ranks on the list.)

It's important to note that we're not talking about endorsing a shadow IT program here. McKinsey's Jacques Bughin makes this point in this HBR blog post by warning you can't "let a skunkworks social-media project get so far outside the mainstream that it can't make effective use of common platforms and other resources." (Bughin's post also highlights a couple great examples of how companies are effectively leveraging social technology in the enterprise).

But IT will need to relinquish some of the control it typically wields and let business-side users dictate the direction of social initiatives and even the selection of applications. Because the value of social comes from...well, socialization. People. Users. And a lot of them.

McKinsey sums it up well: "Ultimately, the power of social technologies hinges on the full and enthusiastic participation of employees who are not afraid to share their thoughts and trust that their contributions will be respected. Creating these conditions will be far more challenging than implementing the technologies themselves."

And lastly, for SAP CRM users, the upcoming CRM 2013 conference has a few good sessions on social including "Innovative ways to thrive as a social enterprise with SAP Customer OnDemand" and "Lessons for engaging customers via social media and other non-traditional interaction channels."

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