Gartner Says Many Social Software Projects Fail Due to IT Managers Not Having a Well-Defined Purpose to Succeed

Analysts Identify Seven Key Characteristics of a Good Social-Application Purpose

(PresseBox) ( Stamford, Conn., )
Many social software projects fail because IT managers wrongly believe that successful communities form spontaneously after social software tools are installed, according to Gartner, Inc. IT and business managers in charge of deploying social software need to choose a core purpose for the community and arrange implementation to achieve that purpose.

"Contrary to the common perception that vibrant communities arise spontaneously, starting with a carefully chosen purpose does not limit participants. It gives them the direction they need to form a productive community," said Anthony Bradley, managing vice president at Gartner. "As those initial communities gain momentum, other groups will use the social application to build their own communities, and this is how social applications achieve widespread adoption across the organisation."

Mr Bradley said that many IT organisations fall into the trap of following "worst practice," installing social software in the expectation that productive communities will emerge spontaneously. Gartner's discussions with clients suggest that the "install and they will come" practice rarely succeeds; about 70 per cent of the community typically fails to coalesce. Furthermore, of the 30 per cent of the communities that do emerge, many revolve around interactions that planners didn't envision, that don't provide business value and that may even be counterproductive.

The perception that communities on the public internet appear to arise overnight and quickly grow to encompass millions of participants has led many organisations to assume that social software does not require the system-building rigour typical of many deployments. However, most successful social sites start with a defined purpose and a limited scope.

Gartner said that users need a well-defined purpose of appropriate scope around which to mobilise and that a good purpose for a social application has seven key characteristics:

1. Magnetic The purpose should draw people directly to participate, immediately appealing to the "What's in it for me?" characteristic.

2. Aligned Purpose should align with business value that is the "What's in it for the business?" value, be it direct or indirect.

3. Low Risk Organisations are advised to resist the temptation to opt for high-risk communities, which seem to offer the greatest potential for business value. They are better revisited once social applications have gained momentum.

4. Properly Scoped Gartner advises organisations to start with a minimal scope and focus on growing a community's scale as fast as possible. Once the community has scaled up, users will guide on how to expand the scope.

5. Facilitates Evolution Purposes must be selected that both the organisation and community can build on. A "purpose road map" will allow for growing the scope of communities or establishing other applications and communities with the goal of progressing toward a highly collaborative organisation.

6. Measurable The success of a good purpose can be measured. Especially early on, when organisations are skeptical of social applications, Gartner advises choosing a purpose where business and community value can be clearly measured.

7. Community-Driven The value must come from the community. The best communities contribute far more to themselves than do the organisations that support them. If the purpose requires the organisation to contribute most of the content, and the community participants are mere readers, the organisation has simply used the new technologies as another channel to push communications.

Gartner analysts will provide more detailed analysis on the impact that social software is having on the organisation during the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2008, taking place 3-7 November in Cannes, France. Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the IT industry's largest and most strategic conference, providing business leaders with a look at the future of IT. More than 3,000 senior business and IT strategists will gather for the insights, tools and solutions they need to ensure their IT initiatives are key contributors to and drivers of their enterprise's success. Gartner's annual Symposium/ITxpo events are key components of attendees' annual planning efforts. They rely on Gartner Symposium/ITxpo to gain insight into how their organisations can use IT to address business challenges and improve operational efficiency. Additional information is available at Members of the media can register for the event by contacting Laurence Goasduff at About Gartner
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