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How to Design Your Enterprise Social Network for Maximum Impact (Part 1)

SAP’s rapid growth in the social software market has allowed us to work closely with our customers to learn, get feedback, and co-innovate. During this process, we have developed a design methodology to maximize user adoption and business value. In this four-part blog series, I will share our lessons learned about how to hardwire success into your SAP Jam deployment.

The first step in designing or re-launching your enterprise social network is to understand where you are and where you want to go. The following table is a simple maturity model that I use to help customers understand where they are on the social spectrum and where they may consider going next.

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An Enterprise Social Networking Maturity Model

Most organizations will see initial activity from “Pioneers” or early adopters. These are technology savvy employees that latch onto the tool and use it for a particular task or project. This might be an innovator in IT that leverages SAP Jam for a software implementation or an extroverted engineer that enjoys posting videos about their latest discoveries. This is an excellent start because it can generate buzz inside the company but often this will lead to isolated, islands of activities. If you are using a “build it and they will come” rollout model, you are likely to max out at this level of adoption.

Our experience shows that moving to a socially “Strategic” organization requires management engagement. There must be a top down articulation of how employees should use social collaboration tools and how that usage directly benefits the company and the users. The addition of more formal groups and a realization that social can enable employee success will drive more uniform adoption throughout the company. For example, a company with high revenue growth targets must rapidly hire employees in a scalable way. An SAP Jam onboarding group will ensure that new employees are connected, trained and adding value as quickly as possible.

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SAP Jam Group for Social Onboarding

The combination of “bottoms up” user innovation with “tops down” social group design will accelerate user adoption and engagement. The “tipping point” occurs when social becomes part of the organization’s culture and working fabric. Managers and employees leverage social in their everyday projects, communications and meetings. Employee recognition and company values are highlighted, reinforced and visible in social engagement and activities. Employees realize that not only does social collaboration help them do their job better but they recognize that it is critical for them to be effective, visible and successful in the company.

Another dimension to validate how ingrained social activity is within the organization is to look at the type of activity that is occurring. Most projects begin with a lot of groups being created and populated with content. In the second stage of development, these groups become sticky. There are a large number of users going to the groups to view and download content on a recurring and frequent basis. Finally, full engagement takes hold. Users begin to comment, debate and offer their own content to the communities.

This simple model gives a quick understanding of the maturity and depth of your organization’s adoption of social technology, and helps identify the next step of your social journey. Please share your thoughts and experiences. Where in the maturity model is your company and why? What are you doing to drive your organization to the next level? Has social become part of your corporate culture?

In Part 2, I will discuss the social network design elements that must be considered and defined before you roll out SAP Jam.

Follow SAP Social Software on Twitter: @SAPSocial

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  • Great first part, Richard. I have worked with many clients who have Yammer (not Jam) that are stuck at this adoption level, but what has really struck me the most about them is their complete unawareness that there is anything they can do to change or restart the deployment of the enterprise social collaboration tool. In fact, I would venture to say that within the collaboration space, there is a huge need for educating companies around the importance of an analysis of their current situation if they are existing customers, or for a true implementation methodology of social if they are new customers.

    As I worked with the CubeTree team in defining the SFSF implementation methodology in use with JAM when it was only an SFSF product, I would be curious to understand what approach SAP is now taking to really educate their customer base, especially those with some version of Jam as part of their package, around this need.

    • Thanks for your comment Ana. I agree that many companies are hungry for best practices on how to drive the adoption of social networks. We are handling this demand in several ways. We engage directly with our largest customers to provide feedback and guidance, we are creating self service content on our customer community and we are building professional services packages that SAP and our partners will deliver. Would be happy to learn more about your customers and how we can help.

  • This is good information. At my company we are still in the Pioneering stage in that most of our business is spread through word of mouth and they’re interested in experimenting with a social tool. Although the tool is being drive by management and majority groups are tied to a business goal. What we need to do a better job of is defining specific use cases in our company.

    Where our groups struggle is the continual growth of adoption. Depending upon the use case, some group’s have high activity and others do not. We’ve found that for groups that are designed to act as a social community for their organization tend to have less adoption/interaction. In these situations I’ve found that groups need to have a dedicated administrator who’s continuously sparking collaboration and posting informative materials to really drive traffic to the group.

    • Thanks for your comment Lucas. I have also seen what you are describing. There are some groups that are short in duration with a high burst of content creation & consumption, eg. a sales kickoff meeting or a training course. Others have a strong start but then die off. I have found that these groups (eg. employee interests) absolutely require someone driving fresh content & interaction. Our best performing “auto-pilot” groups are those where content is being generated in order to meet a business goal. Our sales enablement group for example is being refreshed with new content that the product & marketing teams are creating as part of thier MBOs, and new questions are generated on the forum by the necessity of sales reps to win deals. So I think the secret is to create groups that employees feel they must use to get thier jobs done right. That way, you have built in champions and community managers.

  • Hi Richard,

    How do you prevent a ‘wild wild west’ situation that occurs in many large companies where outdated groups and overlapping information between active groups exists?

    Is there a recommended administrative structure for requesting/approving/sunsetting groups to ensure alignment as a business evolves over time?



    • Hi Jordan: Fantastic question.

      First, we recommend that you do some group “housecleaning” on an annual basis. Eliminate overlapping, defunct or low adoption groups. This is important because group prolifiration becomes a problem for users trying to search for content or identify which groups to join.

      Second, it is very valuable if you create a group hiearchical structure. So for example, you may have ordering centers around the world, each center has some common content/processes globaly and each region has its own unique content/processes. It may make sense to create a single ordering group and then create sub groups for each region. In this way, it is simple to navigate, you target the right content to the right user and you avoid group proliferation.

      We would like to create some templates and guidelines on how to best create these group structures. If any customers are interested in collaborating on this project, please let me know.