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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Discussing Global Corporate Social Network Adoption

What is great with Yammer, a company offering a corporate social network SaaS solution, is that they had the bright idea to create a network for their own users. You can then ask questions, post your ideas and share your findings.

So, last week, I reacted to a post where somebody shared the fact that France an Germany users adoption of corporate social networks was pretty low. And in fact, some of us, discovered that we are all facing the same issues within our communities:
  1. Asia Pacific (and especially Australia) and North America and Canada are early adopters and using the tool quickly and effectively.
  2. Latin America users are pretty good adopters, but they tend to speak in their native language (aka not english) and the noise/signal ratio is pretty high. 
  3. France and Germany are far behind all the others in term of adoption.
Even if we can not draw generalities from several experiences we can nevertheless draw some conclusions:
  1. Age of the employees as an impact on user adoption of a corporate social network. The older being the less confident in the tool (for political, social and technical reasons).
  2. The language is often a barrier. English is not well spoken everywhere in the world, and it should not be.
  3. Nomenklatura (or circle of power) exist in companies. This nomenklatura is the result and the combination of two distincts trends: "Knowledge is power" (aka hierarchy vs. network) and "Let me out of the Pleb" (I do not want to talk to share with people below me in the hierarchy). If you have ones in your company, then, consider the fact that a social network will make it more obvious to all. 
  4. Eastern Europe is open to corporate social network, but needs more "education". The great point is that they consider the corporate social network as a way to be part of the whole and join the "group". They really see it as a hook to the company world, ideas and ... possible future jobs or projects.
  5. In France and Germany in particular, in the corporate world, people do not want to "write" or share ideas or thoughts that could be used against them. At least, they fear much more to be fired than their counterpart in other regions. In some regions, a simple social network chart is enough for everybody, in these two countries, people will wait the government to publish a law before using a social network ;)
  6. The network and desktop computer used have an impact on usage. Think mobile ... Agile ...
If you want to deploy a corporate social network globally, you could benefit from the following lessons learned (of course it depends on your company and project!):
  1. Begin by designing, building, and presenting the corporate social chart. Everybody should understand it, so it should be available in many languages. Depending on some countries, a social chart could not be enough ...
  2. Deploy France and Germany at the end, when all others are on board. Like a startup try to grow quick, fast and follow the path of least resistance. 
  3. The main benefits of a corporate network are based on communication and dialogue. The more users, the more usage, the more data created, the more exchanges, and you hope at the end the more chance to create value to people or communities.  
  4. You need to be able to scale well (from 10 to 10000 users from 1 to 150 messages a day, etc.). IT cost could become unsustainable quickly. So think BIG since the beginning, and choose the right business model that will support your community for at least 3 years. 
  5. Choose social network tools suppliers based not only on cost and services, but also on their communities and the way they interact with them.
  6. Document successes immediately and share them within your corporate social network.
  7. Stay transparent, work for the mass with the mass. Avoid an elitist view of your communities except if it is dedicated to it.
  8. Let people speak their language, in their communities. You just need to have community managers able to speak these languages to control what is going on.
  9. Learn from others, adapt, evolve ...
As somebody said on Yammer, a corporate social network is a journey, not an end.