To Pilot or Not to Pilot Enterprise 2.0?

To drive productivity and organizational effectiveness, a new approach to Enterprise 2.0 is required — one that puts the business user and business problem at the epicenter to tap an organization’s innate social intelligence. In order to reach that level of efficiency and effectiveness, it is necessary to encourage acceptance and adoption across the organization.

This raises the question: To pilot, or not to pilot? Better yet, is a pilot the best way to prove the value of E2.0 solutions within your organization?

Organizations interested in exploring Enterprise 2.0 are grappling with the challenge. Discussions around whether to conduct a pilot before deploying E2.0 technology enterprise-wide have been volleyed back and forth.

For example, E2.0 thought leader Andrew McAfee believes pilots are often unintentionally set up to fail, or underwhelm, when they contain too few people.

E2.0 consultant Christy Schoon challenges this notion with the idea that a pilot that can be effective in proving the technology within an IT infrastructure, and provides an opportunity to learn lessons.

Who’s right? Both.

Who’s wrong? Neither.

This is because the relationships between data, information, knowledge, staff, management, experts, applications and platforms vary greatly among enterprise organizations. Companies are not as concerned about the pilot as they are about achieving business objectives and finding answers to the unique problems they are experiencing.

These might include growing sales, reducing costs, speeding product innovation cycles, accelerating time to market, and so on. In some cases, a pilot might be the only option when it comes to incorporating E2.0. For others, a pilot is not the right path to achieve these objectives.

Following are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind when considering whether to pilot or not to pilot for your organization.

Start With a Focus

The No. 1 reason pilots fail is lack of focus. In our experience with clients and prospects, one individual described how he went through an exhaustive technology selection process, purchased an E2.0 collaboration platform, and launched it with great fanfare. The immediate result was massive usage for the first month, and then a very rapid decline in participation — so much so that the system was scrapped.

After some probing, we found that the system was targeted at “everyone.” When asked what the focus of the system was, the answer was “everything.” With technology, particularly technology in an enterprise environment, “everything to everyone” just does not exist, and to deploy as such is a recipe for failure.

Employees are tasked daily with doing their jobs faster, more efficiently, and with greater productivity. When introducing a new tool, they will simply use it if it helps them do their job better. If not, as in this case, they won’t.

The system in this example initially generated a lot of usage, but when the novelty wore off and employees did not reap the benefits in their everyday lives, the tool fell by the wayside.

One might question whether the system would have prospered had employees been given guidelines, goals, expected results or tips. Without focus and direction, employees are less likely to follow the intended path of acceptance and adoption.

Continue With Context

A general lack of context in pilot rollouts is another reason they fail. If the pilot is not set up within the context of a business problem, then how will objectives be met? Is there an alternative to the traditional pilot that allows for more focus and context? I would unequivocally say YES.

It is called an initial “targeted project.” The targeted project has much in common with a pilot. The initial cost is low, it is usually focused on a smaller set of users, it allows the organization to vet the technology and IT infrastructure issues, and the organization can learn from its successes and mistakes.

However, this is what sets it apart from a traditional pilot: Rather than entering into a short-lived pilot that typically experiences an over 50 percent failure rate, a targeted project gets much deeper commitment because a) it is not a test — it is a real implementation, b) it is focused, and c) it is implemented within the context of a specific business problem.

Because the E2.0 solution is tasked to solve a real problem, it makes it easier for a group of employees to test it out while doing their jobs and gain tangible results quickly. The focus also means the implementation team knows where to invest its time and effort.

If it is achieving the business objective, then rollout can be replicated across other departments, which speeds and broadens participation, and deepens and enriches the E2.0 experience.

Targeted projects fuel focus, which provides another key outcome: an objective. Meeting an objective allows customers to then generate ROI, or at the very least, a metric for success, which is a lot more concrete than blanket statements like, “I think we are collaborating more effectively.”

Life After the Targeted Project: What’s Next?

Once the targeted project is established and under way, what’s next? How do you keep it from becoming a social free-for-all? How do you continue building momentum? There are a few steps to keep in mind when rolling out an E2.0 strategy in a way that works best for your organization — whether it includes a pilot, a targeted project, or an enterprise-wide deployment.

First, remember that the core of E2.0 is community and sharing. However, sharing for sharing’s sake will not enhance the value of your E2.0 deployment. Users need not engage to fill a void, because content gives context and purpose to socialization. A strategy that sits at the intersection of content producers and content consumers will naturally allow relevant content to bubble up, and users to engage on an as-needed basis.

Second, how your E2.0 strategy is controlled and your ability to moderate results will influence the success of your rollout. A “social volume knob” is one way to provide control over the social components of your strategy.

The social volume knob allows control over who can input ratings, comments, and tagging for documents. For example, you may want everyone to tag but allow only managers to comment. The social volume knob gives organizations control over content, and thus provides “social security.”

Whether a group is small or large, the success of an E2.0 rollout can be measured by awareness and use — so a person who has a question or issue should be able to communicate directly with the subject matter expert. Too often, this dialogue has been private or isolated, denying the rest of the company the benefit of the resulting wisdom.

An E2.0 strategy that facilitates collaboration and community will fundamentally improve the way individuals, departments, and entire organizations interact with content and each other to drive business objectives.

Any E2.0 rollout big or small — pilot or no pilot — should be tailored to an organization’s own culture and structure, and tightly align focus and context to the overall business objective.

Phil Green is the chief technology officer and blogger atInmagic.

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