Surfacing Ideas: Bringing the Needs of 'the Street' Up to the Boardroom

Ben Zweig

So, you’ve made the decision to bring social collaboration to your enterprise. It’s a great choice that will net many gains for your team in global team engagement, communication, and managing content. As a leader you have objectives and targets in mind with your rollout. You will find lots of experts on social collaboration, both internal and external, in your endeavor. 

As I’ve worked to bring communities live, I’ve learned that, for all the experts and experienced voices out there, make sure you listen to the “street.” Who are the final users of the social platform or solution that you purchased? Do they have a seat at the project table from contract to go-live? Certain project decisions can be perceived as an imposition, (which is sometimes necessary) but empowering a few members of the community to explain these conclusions often brings clarity and meaning to those choices.

I was reminded of this again the other day talking with a colleague. Each of us in our jobs usually has a pretty good view to what is going on for our group or organization. It’s so easy to see for us as we work but not necessarily visible to those sponsoring or leading a project. I learned to tap into that knowledge on a specific Jive rollout and it was amazing how adoption jumped as these users caught the fire of social collaboration. “Street” users are the people who really see your organization and have insights you may have overlooked. 

The IT department or operations team may have well-intentioned ideas of what is good for your company but may not understand the individual needs of different departments. As projects go forward knowledgeable “street users” can act as buffers to naysayers, helping you with adoption and growth.

Social collaboration really is a new way of increasing the velocity of sales, communication, and general information distribution. “Street” users hold an important key to your success and to future adoption. Here are some tips I’ve used in looking for and recruiting these kinds of users: 

  • Think way outside the box. Work with your social project experts to find areas of the business that appear to be unaffected by social and look there for a voice. You’ll gain objectivity and a future business advantage with social in a new area.
  • Look for consistently “siloed” business or work groups and recruit a person (or a cross team collaborator) from each of those groups. This is one of my favorite actions on a social project. People love to be discovered and, more often than not, they welcome the platform. You will gain insight into the isolation and gain respect for recognition of the issue.
  • If you are a global organization, it’s essential to have regional voices at the table. Find a key user/leader that understands the goal of this rollout and has a clear view of “the street.”
  • I always try to poll my IT and business leaders and see if there are redundant social initiatives. Bring those project leads to the table and see if there are ways to streamline and accelerate your project through bringing them on board.

 Finally, make it fun. Be creative with your new street recruits and social evangelists. Give them a team name, recognize them with their peers, and make sure they understand that their voice is respected and important. You’ll be amazed at the insight and impact street knowledge will have on your social project.