The Reality of Enterprise Collaboration in $1B Organizations

It is not often that you get the chance to go at the core of how enterprise collaboration is faring inside very large organizations to sneak peek both on the achieved results and the huge political, organizational and adoption barriers enterprise are facing on the social business journey. Well, thanks to the Social Business Council (originally launched by Susan Scrupski at the 2.0 Adoption Council) and its members now we have that opportunity.

A new report titled Engagement @ Scale in the Large Enterprise provides an up to date snapshot on the current state of social engagement with some revealing outcomes.

  • Workforce Penetration is still low. A bit more than half (58.9%) of the enterprise collaboration initiatives are targeted to the entire enterprise but only a few of them (16%) actually provided access to the whole organization:
    It could be because workers in the factory doesn’t have any PC, that some countries have restrictions or that the project is still in a pilot phase, but the large majority of enterprises haven’t yet opened up the platform to most of their employees.
  • IT and Corporate Communications have the ownership. OMG! Cross departmental steering committees, projects lead by business lines, shared ownership? It may be true in some cases but 74.5% of the initiatives are primarily owned by the IT and nearly 40% by the Corporate Communication department:
    While respondents could provide multiple answers, it is quite striking to see how low is the involvement of Innovation, Knowledge Management, HR, R&D in the launch and cultivation of enterprise collaboration projects. Unfortunately this data point suggests that collaboration may be still often deployed as yet another piece of technology while successful companies know very well how big the effort should be in terms of change management, business impacts, new behaviors, evolving internal processes.
  • Way to go on actual engagement. To me the only indicator that matters from an adoption perspective (not from a business one) is the percentage of members with access to the platform that are effectively using it. Look at what we get here:
    There are no cases where 100% of the users.. well use it.. and if that is expected, only 9% of the surveyed companies express more than 50% of adoption. In other words, for the absolute majority of organizations (57%) active or logging in users are still below 20%. This one is really telling about the state of enterprise collaboration!
  • Integrated internal / external social business anyone? Not yet.Lots of discussion (see for example the latest Magic Quadrant on the Social Software int the Workplace) about converging internal and external communities, about breaking down the silos, about involving employees to engage customers. Is this already happening?
    Nope. 96% of the participants haven’t integrated internal and external communities even if 45% are thinking about that. Surely a good message on the vision. Not a so good one on the execution.


I’ve personally learned a lot about the extent and the way large organizations are approaching enterprise collaboration. Some conclusions follow from the report:

  • 5 years are only the beginning of change. The free comments of the report shows how many of the enterprise collaboration managers expected to reach critical mass much earlier and with less effort. I can say the same is true for most consultants and thought-leaders. The reality is that we have a long change management journey ahead before collaboration will be pervasive, strategic and connect to business processes. Between 5 to 10 years is the norm in 1B organizations.
  • Success comes with distributed ownership and co-created change. Except for some rare cases, change management processes are most successful when co-created by (not with) the entire organizations. It is all about distributed buy-in but and comprehensively listening to the work-related needs of your colleagues. How to do that? By involving them directly and by turning them in the owners of the community. Applying the right process makes the difference between successful projects and failures
  • The journey hasn’t stopped. Even with the unmet expectations of shorter cycles for people adoption, most enterprises are still going on with their work because they see the value. Enterprise collaboration is the mark of an unstoppable evolution path towards social business with incredible business and people benefits.This is much more clear after 6 years of shared market experimentation
  • Proved methodologies for scaling Social Business aren’t widespread.¬†With all the marketing and push from enterprise social software vendors, client companies struggle to see the actual state of the market. This report provides a honest picture of what has worked and what it is still sto be done. Moving from pilots to enterprise-wide roll-outs surely requires better practices and more mature competencies most organizations are still missing.

A fundamental point to be considered is the kind of companies that participated to the survey.

The data Dachis analyzed comes only from 56 organizations chosen among 70 responses specifically because they have revenues over $1B. Other than the small sample, being part of the Council, these enterprises are among the most active and mature regarding Social Business. The outcomes are thus not representative of the entire market where adoption levels would probably be quite lower.

Is this a negative outcome? On the contrary, I see it more as the brink of a new age that we are just starting to breathe. Technology alone won’t bring any competitive advantage but this only means a higher entrance barrier exist in terms of culture, processes, engagement for those organizations honestly committed to put human beings at the center of their future.

Don’t give up the fight!

P.S for additional perspective on the report you can have a look at Susan’s and Dion Hinchcliffe’s posts.

Emanuele Quintarelli

Entrepreneur and Org Emergineer at Cocoon Projects | Associate Partner at Peoplerise | LSP and Holacracy Facilitator