Focusing on Adoption (exclusively) is a Dead-End

For an early adopter market, adoption in this space always seems to get a bad rap.  Why is that?  Because adoption is not the end-game.  It’s the beginning.  In the Council, the members are focused on changing hearts and minds and promoting the use of social tools in order to drive acceptance for a new way of working.  In Deloitte’s excellent report issued today, Social Software for Business Performance, we couldn’t agree more with the findings.  In fact, the rap on “adoption” uses our research to make the point.  There is no benefit in adoption for adoption’s sake.

It’s important to understand that “technology” adoption is the beginning of the journey.  It’s the first wagon wheel turn on a Westward Ho! trek toward complete embrace of a workforce that is socially calibrated and connected.  If you want to experience the benefits of working socially, workforces need to be comfortable and see the benefit of the radical internal organizational change it requires.  It sometimes amuses me that the folks who are critical of the adoption effort required are not particularly proficient in working socially in the first place, and cling to the world they know which is process-oriented and rooted in the industrialization (machining) of the enterprise.

I’ve often said that the adoption story is much less about the technology than it is about the organizational dynamics required to rewire the culture toward a more open, more egalitarian society if you will.  My source on this does not hail from any new technology fad.  In fact, it’s a paper originally published in 1957.  It is a supplement to a paper called, “How Farm People Accept New Ideas.”  It draws from a sociology, not technology foundation.

Introducing these concepts and making them stick inside a large organization is, indeed, a lot like cat-herding.  But, these are not cats or kittens. Change is painful and difficult inside large organizations.  One of the best quotes we heard from last year’s BlackBelt Workshop at the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference was from one of our members who said, “These are not cats we’re herding; they’re Tigers, and they bite!”

Business process oriented vendors are getting savvy to social.  Council members just had a great Q&A yesterday with SFDC’s Chatter lead, Chuck Ganapathi, yesterday, and we’re planning a demo and conversation with Tibbr in the near future.   My prediction is we will see new business processes that replace or obsolete old ones more and more as, well, adoption proliferates throughout the enterprise.

Author: Susan Scrupski

Longtime fan of technology to improve humanity.

  • Pingback: Adoption is a phase, not a state | @Greg2dot0's Blog()

  • Andrew Carusone

    I agree. A focus only on “adopting” the use collaborative technology will result in only the “installation” of a new set of software. In order to realize a transformational change in the way employees work…resulting in fundamental differences in the way productivity is achieved, value is created and customers are served…takes much more. Simply positioning collaborative technologies within the workforce (water cooler) or only focusing on “a new way to communicate” will fall short of the promise of E20. Efforts must also be focused on embedding the use of collaborative technologies within the normal flows of work (communicating, cooperating, coordinating). This must happen through both organic efforts (adaption driving adoption) and formal efforts based upon fully “sponsored” change, fully enrolled employees…resulting in a committed workforce where the change is internalized at a personal level. Where the person “owns” the change. He or she fully incorporates it into day-to-day activities and finds doing so intrinsically rewarding.

  • Agreed Susan, adoption is merely a piece of the puzzle. Albeit still a piece that is oft neglected or poorly delivered…

  • Are both the report and the 2.0 research links supposed to be encrypted? Just asking. I will look for them elsewhere. Thanks for the heads-up. Check out this video of Geoffrey Moore’s keynote at yesterday’s SAP event in NYC: very interesting re: why social software, much richer rationale than I’ve ever heard: Click on Business Analytics Keynote to watch; Moore starts at @ 14:45.

  • Hi Susan. Nice post. I certainly agree that one of the most important drivers to successful uptake of any new technology at work is tying it to core business processes. While having nice new shiny toys is fun at home, at work people turn (and return) to the things (people and content) that help them get their jobs done. However, I don’t agree that we’ll see new or replacement processes, as that insinuates companies did not know what they were doing before. Nor do I think in terms of finding a new way to work. Rather I think companies will update or augment the existing business process they rely on to run their company. This is the same as when faxes were introduced, then email, IM, … , and will be the same for whatever buzzword we talk about next year. It is certainly an exciting time as so many businesses are looking for ways to improve their existing collaboration tools.

    • I guess time will tell. I think this is the old evolution or revolution argument, eh? I personally see the workforce opportunity reflective of the larger movement afoot in the global society – “something in the soul that cries out for freedom.” I’ve always felt this way, from the beginning of my interest in covering this sector on my blog. (2006) Not only do I feel we will see new and replacement processes once the global workforce gets comfortable with this new way of working, I believe companies who do not embrace social tools and flat structures will find themselves at a swift and lethal competitive disadvantage. This trajectory is less like fax > email > IM than it is like vinyl > 8track > CD > // >iTunes. Not continuous improvement, reinvention. It’s also a reason why the buzzword wars don’t concern me. The movement to socially connect, share, filter, integrate and act is unstoppable. The business value will present itself in surprising and industry-changing ways. It’s interesting to me to see how our sector is bifurcating into two camps: the business process/add-on camp and the social unrest/upheaval camp. Of course, the answer is, we’re probably both right. 🙂

      • I completely agree that companies that don’t embrace social tools will be at a disadvantage against there more nimble well connected competitors.

  • Michael Idinopulos

    Great stuff! Adoption is table-stakes. It’s necessary but not sufficient for achieving business value.

  • Richard Rashty

    Susan, that member was me referring to the “These are not cats we’re herding; they’re Tigers, and they bite!” statement!


  • Susan,

    I couldn’t agree more. I actually saw that in my most recent research as well, where the success of social tools was really dependent on organizational structure rather than pure adoption. In general, the top 20% of performers had about 70% adoption through their organizations, compared to about 50% adoption for the other 80%. But i don’t think there was some magic number of moving from 50% to 70% that suddenly made companies more social and gain more ROI from their deployments.

    Rather, it was about companies deciding that disruptive and enterprise-wide innovation was an important goal and not being wedded to a status quo business model that numerous studies have shown are an eventual death sentence to an organization. But moving from process-based to social-based (or brain-based or human-based) business practices is not an easy task. It’s ironic that even though we’re mostly hard-wired to be social, businesses have been hard-wired to be non-social for the entire 20th century and it’s a hard lesson to unlearn.

    • Wow. Sounds awesome Hyoun. Do you have a link for your research? Would love to share it. Wondering if I can do something with “brain-based.” Maybe relate it to “brain-dead?” 🙂

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention ITSinsider | Focusing on Adoption (exclusively) is a Dead-End --