Reconciling the Conflicting Priorities of Your Enterprise Social Network

Social business is maturing and becoming part of the mainstream tool belt of many companies, yet success is still elusive for many. A recent article in PC World titled Many employees won’t mingle with enterprise social software states that the lure of an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) is often unrealized. The article also suggests that 70-80% of companies who are implementing an ESN are struggling with them. It goes on to list several reasons for this. They also include a decent case study from GE to demonstrate the success that can be achieved. However, I feel the article is too specific, leaving the reader to extrapolate how this applies to them.

If we take a step back, we can see that what we have is a potential conflict of values. This is very common when defining priorities and implementing systems. It is very difficult to consider other perspectives given the pressure for agility and speed.

Organization’s values Personal Values
Increase Revenue Reduce wasted time
Increase Satisfaction Make my job easier
Reduce Cost Help me get ahead
Reduce Risk Make me feel appreciated


Sometimes the values are aligned and cost savings for the organization can make the individual’s jobs easier, but often they actually put more burden on the employee.

If you err on the side of focusing too much on organizational values, you’ll have a system that nobody wants to use. If, on the other hand, you focus too much on the individual values, you’ll have a system for which no wants to pay. While there may be some overlap in objectives, usually they are coincidental.

Voluntary Adoption

It’s important to note that ESN’s are not compulsory to many people’s’ jobs. Compulsory systems include systems like Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Performance Management (PMP), expense management, etc. Employees are incentivized through various methods to use these systems, whether it be through personal or financial objectives. One example of this would be an employee must use the expense management system to get reimbursed for company expenses.

Voluntary systems, on the other hand, do not have that hook that makes their use part of people’s’ jobs. These typically include systems such as collaboration platforms, ESNs, and intranets. These systems need to provide a value to the employee for them to self-adopt the solution. It has been widely stated that you need to make your ESN “the place where work gets done”, but it’s more than that. You need to ensure it gets done better or faster for the employee. Rarely do people take on new voluntary systems that make their job more complex.

Balance is key

To build a sustainable ESN you need to carefully balance both sets of values. You also need to make it perfectly clear to both sets of stakeholders what the value proposition is. That is not to say that everything must satisfy both, but there should be a mix of projects & processes that satisfy each.

Implementing an ESN is very challenging, but when you understand and address the need to satisfy two sets of values, it’s a big step in achieving a thriving enterprise social network.

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