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4 Considerations for the social business center of excellence

The trend over the last several years in the enterprise is the establishment of centralized social media team often referred to as a Center of Excellence. Many times, the Center of Excellence (COE) is responsible for creating standards and governance around the use of social media (behavior and tools) internally.

The goal of the Center of Excellence should be more than just driving social media adoption, governance, technology (community, social CRM) deployment and training. In order to achieve true business results, they have to succeed at changing organizational behavior. In doing so, they must adapt and change their own behaviors at the same time. They must be change agents if they truly want to see social business transformation. Below are 4 considerations to keep in mind when building such a team:

What Is The Vision And What Message Will Be Communicated To Others?

Having a clear and articulate vision of the goals and objectives for the Center of Excellence will determine its success. And the message to the rest of the organization must articulate the value of “what’s in it for me” and answer questions such as:
  • Can I do my job better, more efficiently if I buy into this vision?

  • Will it make my job easier and will I be happier?

  • Is this the right vision for the company to achieve its business goals and does my role play into that vision?

One crucial factor that plays a key role in determining whether others will buy into the vision is what Malcolm Gladwell calls “the stickiness factor.” This refers to a unique quality that compels a message to “stick” in the minds of others and influence behavior change. After all, that should be the goal of the COE – influence and change behaviors. The message must dig much deeper than just “collaboration” and “innovation” too. It must ultimately correlate back to the needs, wants and desires of employees.

Find The Willing Participants (Change Agents)

It’s one thing to have smart strategists and business leaders as a part of the Center of Excellence. But it speaks volumes if the team members have the ability to influence others within the organization. Call it the Law Of The Few.

Borrowing an analogy from Malcolm Gladwell again, the COE should consist of “Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople.” Connectors are the employees who know everyone in every department and have the ability to serve as conduits between each group, helping to find connections, relationships, and “cross-fertilization” that otherwise might not have ever occurred.

Mavens are “information specialists” and are the people within the organization that many rely on to learn about new information. A maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his or her own. According to Gladwell, Mavens have the ability to start “word-of-mouth epidemics” due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. Even with internal change management initiatives, the ability for a message to spread word-of mouth (from employee to employee) like an epidemic could mean the difference between success and failure. Mavens are information brokers; sharing and trading what they know with whom they know. The goal of social business transformation requires an epidemic of change.

Salesmen are those within the organization that have a natural gift of charisma to be extremely persuasive in inducing others’ behaviors. They usually have powerful negotiation skills; and tend to have a unique quality that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them.

It’s also good to have employees from different job functions on the team, not just marketing. Because social will touch more than the communications function of an organization, it’s important to bring in other point of views from social customer service, legal, product, IT and maybe even finance.

Defined Roles & Responsibilities

It should be made very clear from the beginning what the Center of Excellence’s roles and responsibilities will be, whether it’s strategy, change management, technology deployment, etc.

Unclear roles can quickly give birth to organizational conflict and unnecessary silo creation between internal teams that may have social media as a part of their job responsibility. This is where the “soft” skills of the Center Of Excellence team can make a difference since much of their jobs will be to evangelize and educate the rest of the organization about their vision. One way to avoid push back and general conflict is to co-create the roles & responsibilities with the team as well other internal stakeholders who have a vested interest.

Celebrate Short Term Wins

Social business transformation can take years, and a renewal effort risks losing momentum if there are no short-term goals to meet and celebrate. While keeping laser focus on the long-term strategy, it’s imperative to try and establish smaller scale tactical objectives that the Center of Excellence can meet within a reasonably short period of time. Examples can include:

  • Establishing social media policies

  • Determining a social media measurement framework

  • Creating and/or rolling out social media training curriculum

  • More effective/collaborative team meetings

These are certainly tactical in nature but having tangible outcomes of the team’s change efforts are important. Consider the following:

  • What do you want your team to accomplish this week/month/year?

  • What do you want your team to accomplish in 2 – 5 years?

To track the progress, it’s important to pay attention to very small, identifiable changes in the day-to-day business operations such as:

  • New ideas/innovations proposed from internal meetings

  • Technology vendors (communities, social CRM, online monitoring) are selected, contract signed and deployment schedule finalized

  • Social media training started, completed or certain milestones reached

When these positive changes have been observed, its important to keep the momentum going and celebrate by:

  • Publicly recognizing their work

  • Monetary rewards (bonus, promotion, etc.)

  • Just saying “thank you” also goes a long way

A few small wins does not mean that the change has been successfully completed. There will surely be road blocks in the future if they haven’t already surfaced. Using these victories as a stepping-stone to the next achievement will keep the momentum going strong. Organizational change doesn’t happen overnight.


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