Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Many Social Software Projects Fail Due to IT Managers Not Having a Well-Defined Purpose to Succeed

Many social software projects fail because IT managers wrongly believe that successful communities form spontaneously after social software tools are installed, according to Gartner Inc. IT and business managers in charge of deploying social software need to choose a core purpose for the community and arrange implementation to achieve that purpose.

The perception that communities on the public Internet appear to arise overnight and quickly grow to encompass millions of participants has led many organizations to assume that social software does not require the system-building rigor typical of many deployments. However, most successful social sites start with a defined purpose and a limited scope.

Gartner maintains that users need a well-defined purpose of appropriate scope around which to mobilize and that a good purpose for a social application has seven key characteristics:

1. MagneticThe purpose should draw people directly to participate, immediately appealing to the "What's in it for me?" characteristic.

2. AlignedPurpose should align with business value, that is the "What's in it for the business?" value, be it direct or indirect.

3. Low RiskOrganizations are advised to resist the temptation to opt for high-risk communities, which seem to offer the greatest potential for business value. They are better revisited once social applications have gained momentum.

4. Properly scopedGartner advises organizations to start with a minimal scope and focus on growing a community's scale as fast as possible. Once the community has scaled up, users will guide on how to expand the scope.

5. Facilitates EvolutionPurposes must be selected that both the organization and community can build on. A "purpose road map" will allow for growing the scope of communities or establishing other applications and communities with the goal of progressing toward a highly collaborative enterprise.

6. MeasurableThe success of a good purpose can be measured. Especially early on, when organizations are skeptical of social applications, Gartner advises choosing a purpose where business and community value can be clearly measured.

7. Community-DrivenThe value must come from the community. The best communities contribute far more to themselves than do the enterprises that support them. If the purpose requires the enterprise to contribute most of the content, and the community participants are mere readers, the enterprise has simply used the new technologies as another channel to push communications.

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