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How to get executive commitment for enterprise social networking

Editor’s note: This article is a guest blog post by Rich Caballero, first published on the SAP Business Innovation blog.

Are you struggling to drive an important cross-company initiative? You have an innovative idea and a sound game plan, but every day feels like pushing a boulder up Mount Kilimanjaro. The key to keeping your sanity is to get an executive sponsor and supporter. They can single-handedly open the floodgates to provide the awareness, resources and budget you need to surf to success.

Dream it. Say it. Do it.

Here is a simple three-step process to attract the attention and secure a commitment to action from management.

1. Dream it: Get your executive excited about a vision

The secret to step one is to package your compelling vision in a way that will resonate with your target executive. To do that effectively, you must understand what makes your manager tick. David Merrill & Roger Reid have defined four social styles that define the way that people interact with each other:


Merrill-Reid Social Styles

This matrix can help you position and communicate your vision and plan with maximum impact. Let’s take a real problem many business professionals are tackling: how to convince management the value of enterprise social networking. It turns out that getting management engaged in social networks has a huge impact on user adoption. According to Community Roundtable, C-level participation in a community drives 2-3 times more collaboration. This should make sense since a connection with our leadership drives employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction. A recent Deloitte Core Beliefs and Culture Survey found that access to management and leadership was one of employees’ top requests. Therefore, convincing management to become a good social citizen is a critical component to any social network’s success. You may have defined several goals, use cases and value propositions for your project. However, we want to be selective and highlight only those components of the vision and plan that are most interesting to our audience.

For example, once you have identified your manager’s social style, you can position your plan as outlined below:


Social Network Positioning Aligned with Social Style

2. Say it: Get them to articulate this vision publicly

Once management is on board with a vision and plan, we want to encourage them to communicate this plan as far and wide as possible. Think about all the potential communication channels available to your champion: board meetings, executive staff, all hands meetings, employee newsletters etc. This is an important step because communicating the vision will (1) bring awareness to your solution (2) engender a sense of ownership and commitment by the executive and (3) therefore, create motivation for them to see the vision executed.

3. Do it: Make it as simple as possible for them to execute

In the context of our example, the last step is to make participation and contribution to the social network as low maintenance and stress free as possible for the executive. Some practical ideas include:

  • Align the communication channel with the manager’s preferences. Do they like to write or talk? Do they prefer video, images or audio? Propose that they communicate via the media which allows them to shine.
  • Enlist one of their trusted advisors to create content on their behalf or actively look for threads where they should be commenting.
  • Managers are frequently on the move, make sure there is a mobile app installed and working on their phone and tablet.
  • Provide a dedicated technical resource that will initially make sure their account is active with single sign on and on an ongoing basis, solve or answer any technical issues or questions they may have.

So if you are struggling with how to enlist an executive to champion your initiative, follow the “Dream It, Say It, Do It” methodology. Please share your thoughts and experiences. Have you had success influencing an executive to commit and take action? How did you do it?

Follow SAP Social Software on Twitter: @SAPSocial

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