How did we compare KSS. Part 2

    Today we continue the topic of choosing a corporate social network, which began in a previous article . In it, we talked about the difficulties that Russian companies are facing when trying to decide on the choice of a platform, based on Western reviews and descriptions of platforms. Therefore, having studied the available materials and tried to work in the networks included in the review, we created a table of functionality of corporate social networks. I take this opportunity to thank those active participants who have helped and continue to help supplement and expand the table of our analysis.

    And now we’ll talk about two approaches that can be encountered when choosing corporate social networks - “top-down” and “bottom-up” - and give a recipe for choosing “Super-style”. Let's start with the approach that is traditionally used when choosing classic IT systems in large companies.

    Top-down approach


    In this approach, as a rule, the business customer is in the leadership of the company and is the primary beneficiary and the engine of the project. The business customer analyzes the current processes and what is missing to achieve the desired result in the business. As a result, he finds new rules or processes that need to be implemented. If any additional IT system is required for the implementation of the processes, the Directorate for Information Technologies is connected, which understands the current IT systems, and forms the technical requirements for the new platform. If a decision was made to implement, for example, an ERP system, then a project would begin to deploy an IT platform and introduce new processes. The logic of decision making is slightly modified when it comes to corporate social networks that connect people, processes and communication technologies. In this case, the HR department or the department of internal communications is usually connected at the analysis stage, which, on the basis of the corporate culture, is looking for ways to attract employees to use the new system, and then, at the project implementation stage, it tries to involve personnel in working with the new system. Schematically, the process looks something like this:

    esncomparison_topdown.jpg

    To summarize - as a result of serious preparatory work, a balanced decision is made. Thanks to a comprehensive analysis, the likelihood of encountering growth problems or the narrow technical capabilities of the system will be minimized. However, this approach implies high time and resource costs for staff involvement and evidence that he really needs an additional platform to work.

    Bottom-up approach


    I recall a short story from my practice. Somehow, a representative of a large customer appeared on the horizon - the deputy IT director, who asked me to do a comparative analysis of Yammer functionality with SharePoint to justify the transition to a new platform. At that time, I had already formed a steady habit of first of all searching for information on a corporate social network. Therefore, I sent this request there first. I admit, I was puzzled by the answer received from a foreign colleague who sold Yammer almost from the day it was founded. It turned out that he already had experience when he was asked to do a similar analysis. From a dozen comparing points, the functionality was very similar - the total score was almost equal, slightly in favor of SharePoint. But these are completely different platforms with different appearance!

    Therefore, my colleague did not give me a comparative analysis and strongly recommended not to conduct, but to identify the business customer and make him a live demonstration. I advise you to take note of this experience and, when selling corporate social networks, not only evaluate the functionality, but the most important thing is to give future users the opportunity to see and use the platform themselves, while they will immediately like or dislike some of the options. The given case describes a different approach - bottom-up.

    This is an option when the decision is made not at the level of company management, but on the ground and then spreads up and to the sides. As a rule, this may be some kind of business department that needs to solve its local problem. Department activists find a solution, most likely a cloud solution, to access their IT service, and begin to work in it. The idea is spread by word of mouth method, new departments are connected to the system with their usage scenarios. At some point, it turns out that already a noticeable part of the communication processes in the company has changed and the company itself works a little differently on the new platform. As a result of such a spontaneous development of events, problems associated with the rejection of the corporate social network by management are possible. Also, due to the lack of a serious analysis of the technical capabilities of the new system, it is likely to encounter the difficulties of integrating a corporate social network with existing IT systems. But there is also an important positive point - you do not need to involve anyone in the new system, people begin to use it practically instantly. Schematically, the process looks something like this:

    esncomparison_bottomup.jpg

    Life, of course, is not limited to the two options described; in reality, a combination of two co-directed processes can be observed. However, if you look at the platforms we are exploring, you can see that conceptually, developers take for themselves one way or another decision-making method and adjust their products for it.

    The top-down option is more of a concern to Jive and IBM Connections. One way or another, but their creators began their movement to social networks through the socialization of portals, which historically began as corporate media and spread “top-down”. By the way, previously SharePoint also developed along this path, but then it stopped in the development of socialization functions. Therefore, in these platforms:

    • the logic of the portal is always present, simply more personalized than regular portals, and with elements of a social network;

    • as a consequence of the first paragraph, by default, users on the screen will see several levels of the hierarchy at once, and will have to be able to "read" complex interfaces;

    • a large administration apparatus has been developed and there are ample opportunities for configuring the interface, the latter can be changed beyond recognition;

    • limited time for testing a cloud service;

    • By the way, another interesting observation - the interface of these systems is likely to stretch to the full width of your screen.


    From the bottom-up approach, platforms such as Yammer and DaOffice are more inclined to:

    • They don’t try to replace corporate portals with themselves, look like “clean” social networks, initially have a clear, simple and intuitive interface;

    • as a consequence of the first paragraph, they are very similar to their public counterparts Facebook, Vkontakte, etc. (*);

    • perfectly integrate with existing portal solutions, primarily with SharePoint;

    • have no time limits for test free use (I know an example when one of the largest world companies used the free version of Yammer for a year and a half);

    • have limited options for customizing the interface.


    Although, at present, Yammer actively corresponded with Office 365, for example, its interface was “stretched” and it made a number of treachery.

    Bitrix24 in this sense cannot be assigned to one or another group. It goes its own way and initially develops as a social intranet.

    We want to note that all of the above does not imply any restrictions such as "this platform needs to be implemented only this way, but this one is different." Simply, if you do a detailed analysis of the functionality, then more of the checkboxes will be collected by representatives of the top-down group, and it will be easier for you to test the platform from the bottom-up group.

    Supereon approach


    So how to choose a platform? There is no single answer. You should find a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches that is most suitable for your company's organizational culture. The following sequence seems to be most adequate to us, which combines the advantages of both approaches:

    • It’s usually easy to make a list of finalists, but then it’s long and painful to choose the final winner. Therefore, first collect the general requirements for the system, and using analyst reports, requesting comparison tables from manufacturers, applying our comparison table from the previous article, knowing your IT landscape, understanding the historical context of your organization - select no more than three corporate social network finalists, meeting all of the above requirements.

    • Then test each platform from the list of finalists. The most effective way of testing is to start using them to implement specific, understandable business tasks: a joint meeting protocol, a group to discuss the pros and cons of this platform, proposing new ideas for using a corporate social network and voting for them, searching for like-minded people in the implementation of the project, examination and the help of colleagues in solving important problems. At the end of the test periods (after preserving all the valuable information in advance), it will be possible to make an informed decision about the convenience of users.

    • Based on your analysis of functionality and user reviews, select your platform. And do not listen to anyone other than yourself and your colleagues, since it is for you to work with them in this system later.


    The ending follows. In it, we will give some tips on testing corporate social networks, as well as present the collected user experience from various platforms. It will be emotional!

    (*) I must admit, the similarity of some corporate and public social networks arose not just like that, but is a consequence of the so-called A / B testing. It looks like this: thanks to customer surveys and the work of the analytical group, the idea of ​​optimizing the interface or adding new functionality that the development team implements arises. Then two similar groups of users of the cloud service are highlighted - one group uses the current interface, and the second - modified or with new functionality. Unlike the boxed installation in the cloud service, this can be easily done. On the example of these two groups of users, an analysis is performed - is the second group starting to use the new function and is the level of use of the cloud service generally increasing? If so, then the new revision has passed the “battle” test and it can already be applied to all users. If not, the new functionality is removed as unworthy of a corporate social network. For instance,

    esncomparison_abtesting.jpg

    That's why many social networks are so similar - they are made for the most easy perception by users. Which, however, does not mean that you will like them.

    Vladimir Ivanitsa

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