The Enterprise 2.0 Candy Store

After spending Herculean efforts to get executives at your company to “get” social computing, you finally receive the green light to rock and roll.  You think you have reached the promised land.  But a new challenge, one that can derail your efforts, is looming on the horizon:  The executive who is a kid in the Enterprise 2.0 candy store.

What is the kid in the candy store syndrome?  It is an executive who went from curmudgeon to sipping the KoolAid…but now wants to drink every flavor of KoolAid.  One of the key symptoms is daily email messages asking if you have “looked at X vendor or vendor Y”. You suddenly go from executing & deploying selected vendor(s) products to chasing shiny objects.  Vendors that were originally evaluated and didn’t make the short list, are using foilware “flare” to lure the novice executive into their grasps.  Enterprise vendors that once laughed off 2.0, suddenly have an “integrated” offering.  Your problem is potentially massive because everyone and their brother is entering into this space.  In 2010, it will be hard to find a HR, Sales, Enterprise, Supply Chain supplier that isn’t 2.0 “ized”.  Executives who are salivating in the Enterprise 2.0 candy store will send your strategy, execution & your team into a tailspin.  How can you avoid and manage the sugar high?  Here are tactics that I use to manage the challenge:

  • Solid business & technical requirements is your deflector shield:  If you have well documented requirements and use those to evaluate all vendors’ solutions, then you have a data driven process.  Data is the best weapon to fight off emotional knee jerk reactions.
  • Set-up a dedicated play area:  We are still in the infancy stage of 2.0. You aren’t going to find one vendor who can deliver everything you need nor have one solution you can deploy and leave alone for 3 years. If you wait for the perfect solution, you will be waiting for a while. Pick vendors that satisfy the core solutions you need to deploy today.  At the same time, set-up a sandbox that allows your team & bleeding edge adopters to try out new “candy”, test usage models and watch list potential future capabilities.
  • Leverage analyst reviews:  Industry analysts get a bird’s eye view of all the vendors in the space.  They are on the vendor “briefing” circuit and get advance insight into company product direction.  Top analysts will also publish reviews & ratings of the vendors.  One report could potentially save you from meeting with a multitude of vendors and arms you with credible data to discuss with your candy store executive.
  • Usage model proof-of-concepts: Some of the best feedback comes directly from the end users themselves.  Once you have a short list of vendor products (recommend 3 max), throw them into a 2-3 week bakeoff.  Key users and business stakeholders are invited in to test their usage models, their requirements and usability of the menu of solutions.  If users have given a product a thumbs down, they will not use it if you decide to deploy it.
  • Develop vendor scorecards & executive business reviews: Performance of your current vendor is critical to ensure you are delivering business value to your company.  Using scorecards that rate the vendor on delivering to your expectations, not only helps you do robust vendor management, but it allows you to have indicators.  If you have a scorecard that shows everything is in the green, then it is hard to make an argument to change vendors just for the sake of trying new “flavors”.  In addition, pulling in your executive into quarterly or bi-annual executive level reviews, can provide assurance  that your vendor selection is still the sound choice.
  • Show the cost of change: Stabilization is essential towards achieving critical adoption of your Enterprise 2.0 platform.  Any changes in your standard solution, especially to the user interface (UI), should be minor.  It is challenging enough to encourage employees to incorporate 2.0 technologies into their flow of work, let alone force them to constantly re-learn technologies because the vendor changed.  Changing the user interface will hamper full adoption, which hampers your ability to extract full business value.  In addition, there is a resource cost for data migration from one platform to another.  A value tenet of social computing should be to reduce time and reduce costs – not add to them. Financial impact speaks volumes.


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