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Who should lead a social collaboration initiative?

By Angela Ashenden posted 08-18-2014 06:56


I blogged recently about how I thought HR should play a more central role in social collaboration initiatives (and it prompted some interesting discussions/debates!), so I thought this month I'd focus on who is currently driving this trend within organisations. It's a question I'm asked a lot - who should lead a social collaboration initiative? - and it's one of those questions that it's difficult to answer generally and concisely because it depends very much on the specific organisation: its structure, its culture, and also the individuals themselves. And somehow, "it depends" is never the right answer..


I've had the opportunity to work with many different organisations who've already started down the social collaboration path, and much of my work is focused on analysing what determines a successful initiative. There are, of course, many aspects to that, such as whether there is a clear business reason for the initiative in the first place, and whetheradequate investment has been made in the business change needed to shift an entire organisation's culture. But - as I discuss in my recent report Building a business case for social collaboration - getting the right leadership is certainly key; without it, it can be very hard to convince people at all levels - from senior execs, to middle management, to the people who get things done - that this is something that they need to take seriously, and make the effort to understand and embrace.


My research suggests that it’s most often the CIO or the head of internal communications who takes the ownership role in such initiatives - though the most successful are often co-sponsored by execs from several different parts of the business, as this helps to avoid internal politics (such as concerns about self-promotion and empire building), as well as accelerating the adoption process by already having the buy-in of several areas of the business on day one.


In practice, however, I think it comes down to the individual themselves; all the most successful initiatives have a sponsor/owner who simply inspires the success of the initiative. They are enthusiastic, articulate, business-aware; they can see the opportunities that the initiative - and the technology - offers, and they are able to communicate that effectively to the various stakeholders across the organisation (granted with the support of a small adoption team and a sturdy business change/adoption strategy). They make the effort to find out for themselves the best way to get value out of using the tool, and share that experience with others, encouraging them to do the same.


Fundamentally, I think it does come down to the individual leadership skills of that person - true leadership skills, in the way that Simon Sinek explains it, for example - as to whether they can encourage the whole organisation to make the necessary shift. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who's in a senior executive role, but in practice, the chances are that if they have the necessary leadership skills, they probably already are.


Who leads the social collaboration initiative in your organisation? I'm always on the look out for potential case studies, so if you have an established initiative and you'd like to share your experiences, please get in touch!

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