Architectural principles of implementing an Enterprise Social Network

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

When I think about the meaning, impact, usability, functionality, essence and raison d’être of the union of these three words: Network, Social, Enterprise… my analysis always concludes that we are facing one of the most powerful and transcendental organizational tools, not from a technological point of view, but from a cultural one.

Many organizations dive into the new wave of implementing an Enterprise Social Network without analyzing or assessing the implications that these developments can have in terms of organizational transformation. There is an unquestionable association between Enterprise Social Networks and cultural transformation. In the 21st century company, there can’t be one without the other, and viceversa. However, let me clarify that, in this case, the order of the factors does change the value generated by the product.

Building the house by starting with the roof…

It must be understood that an internal social network shouldn’t (nor can it) be implemented with the goal of managing a cultural transformation.

A considerable number of companies have launched themselves on a technological adventure to implement a social network, incorrectly thinking that it was a technology project and not a organizational transformation journey. There lies the first error of calculation by many organizations, which think the start of the cultural transformation will result from implementing an enterprise social network.

Trying to drive the organizational r-evolution towards a more open, plural and participative model by implementing an enterprise social network is building a house by starting with the roof. An internal social network is probably the most effective vehicle for transporting behavior and interactions associated with a new management model. Without a doubt, it is a powerful tool that, when well consolidated, can be the perfect lever to lift the weight of the usual organizational processes and conduct, and progressively introduce a new form of relationship, a new management, but it cannot be used as a starting point for that evolutionary process in the company.

The foundations of the Social Network as a transformation vehicle

However, like with any building that we don’t want the wind to blow away, before starting to build we need to work on strong foundations, making sure that they are resistant, that they offer reliability and confidence to those who pass through the building, to the inhabitants of that social network. These key architectual bases are essential in order for any enterprise social network to comply with its goal: to be the vehicle that transports the behavior of a new management model solidly, without cracks or fissures.

– Developing the culture of dialog and conversation before implementation. If historically we have limited open conversations and interaction in our employees, why do we think having an social network will make them behave differently? Make them share and dialog differently? It is vital that we instill and enroot the culture of dialog before implementation. It is the way to ensure that the social network complies with its objective.

  • Handing the social network over to the organization’s employees. It is no use if we buy the land, construct new behavior, build the vehicle, and then hold onto the keys that give free access to the building. The flow of interactions and initiatives that arise throught the social network are assets shared on behalf of the organization as a whole. To optimize the knowledge generated through the Internal Social Network, we need to consolidate what is not a private ground, but an open property.
  • Embracing and anchoring the will for organizational change.Probably the most critical pillar in this architectual process. It is the reclassification of the organizational ground. The bodies of power and organizational apex must generate commitment to the will for organizational transformation before implementing an Internal Social Network. It is imperative; if this commitment doesn’t exist, reclassification of the ground will not be real and the Social Network vehicle will travel empty.

An Enterprise Social Network is more than a tool, it is a lever for cultural transformation that can be a determining factor in the transformation process in which many organizations find themselves nowadays.

However, it is imperative that before implementation, the foundations of the culture of conversation are set, the property of knowledge generated in the organization are handed over, and above all, the control structure acquires a clear will to start an organizational transformation process. Only then will an Enterprise Social Network meet its purpose as a lever of cultural transformation and as vehicle that transports a new form of interaction and knowledge generation.

Andrés Ortega (@Ander73) is expert in People Management. He is currently the HR Director for Spain, and responsible for Engagement for Europe at DAMCO, which is part of the Danish group AP Moller Maersk. We at Zyncro strongly recommend you read his personal blog.