Why Social Business Initiatives Fail
Deeper analysis of the 2013 Global Executive Study and Research Project provides insight into how organizations are setting up their social programs for failure.
Why do so many social business programs fail?
Gartner research estimates that fully 80% of social business initiatives will deliver disappointing results over the next three years.
That’s a bad track record. It’s almost as if organizations were sabotaging their own efforts.
A careful look at data from the 2013 social business report from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, “Social Business: Shifting out of First Gear,” provides three interesting and common sense insights into why social business initiatives often fail to meet expectations.
1. Managers go into social business with unclear objectives.
The first insight can be found in the question that asked respondents whether the social business initiative they were involved in was started to address a specific business problem. Sixty three percent of respondents indicated “no.”
This situation, a classic one with information technology, occurs when managers hear about the latest technological developments and decide their organizations need to adopt these tools simply because colleagues and competitors are doing so. “Because it’s there” may have been sufficient motivation for Sir Edmund Hillary to climb Mount Everest, but it’s a lousy reason to adopt social business tools.
Uncritical adoption of technology, particularly when associated with social business, is a recipe for failure. Managers need a clear vision for how these technologies will influence business operations and communicate this vision to employees through both word (i.e. training of and clear expectations for employees) and deed (i.e. incentives and job performance reviews). It is important to ask first why an organization is adopting social business tools and what it hopes to gain from them. The answer to these questions will drive which tools to adopt and how.
2. Initiatives start as pilots then fizzle out due to modest participation.
A clear business objective may not be initially necessary, however, if the initiative is explicitly started as a pilot project. In this case, technology is adopted with the explicit intention of trying to figure out exactly what the business applications of these new technologies might be. Indeed, about half of the respondents indicated that the social business initiatives without a clear business objective were intended as a pilot project.