e2.0 Iterativ Project Method: Defining business needs and drivers (post 2 or 5)

May 4, 2009
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e2_0 methodology  

This is number 2 in a series of five post. Inthe previous post I started outlining a basicmethodology for implementing e2.0 (social enterprise) initiatives that I callthe Iterative Project Method.

 Before we dive into the first phase of themethodology, “Define business needs / drivers” I will reinforce a few key ideas. 

First, because of the widespread use and viral nature of Web 2.0 social tools there is a good chance that there is already a fair bit of social toolscrossing over from personal use to business use, more on that later. 

Second,the method is called “iterative” because in my experience projects like this,that require a lot of culture change and change management, are best executed in a series of smaller and ever expanding projects. There are a number ofreasons for this including demonstrating incremental and fast value to the company, allowing for refinement of the project processes as more is learned in each phase and aiding the cultural shift necessary for long term change and impact by clearly showing real world successes (assuming of course the project phase is successful).

 Lastly I want to point out that projects most often fail because of lack of or poor planning

e2_0 methodology  

This is number 2 in a series of five post. Inthe previous post I started outlining a basicmethodology for implementing e2.0 (social enterprise) initiatives that I callthe Iterative Project Method.

 Before we dive into the first phase of themethodology, “Define business needs / drivers” I will reinforce a few key ideas. 

First, because of the widespread use and viral nature of Web 2.0 social tools there is a good chance that there is already a fair bit of social toolscrossing over from personal use to business use, more on that later. 

Second,the method is called “iterative” because in my experience projects like this,that require a lot of culture change and change management, are best executed in a series of smaller and ever expanding projects. There are a number ofreasons for this including demonstrating incremental and fast value to the company, allowing for refinement of the project processes as more is learned in each phase and aiding the cultural shift necessary for long term change and impact by clearly showing real world successes (assuming of course the project phase is successful).

 Lastly I want to point out that projects most often fail because of lack of or poor planning (here’s a good post on project failure). It is especially critical to define and come to agreement on the expected outcomes of the project, after all how will you know if you are successful if you have no idea what success looks like. The perception of risk is greatest around go-live but in reality the true risk in highest in the planning phases.

On to phase 1, defining business needs and drivers.

Step 1. Defining or identifying the current use of socialtools in your company. As I stated above because of the nature of social tools, their widespread use, the tendency of web 2.0 tools to creep into business from the bottom up and the their inherent viral expansion there’s a good change that on inventory you will find several in use already. In this step you are simply documenting what exists, what is often called the “as is” state. It’s important to know in detail the base state that you will build on and possibly leverage (and of course potentially change if the current state isn’t in alignment withthe project objectives). You are not taking any other action at this point beyond documenting and gaining understanding of what’s being done.

Step 2: Defining business needs. 

Now that you know thecurrent state of social usage in your company you can start to evaluate the business drivers that are creating the motivation for starting this initiative.This is the beginning of your business case justification and is essential indefining the future direction of the projects. The business needs can come fromseveral different areas in the business and generally fall into two basic“buckets”, 1. internal focus, 2. external focus. I like to start by outlining thecurrent market conditions and the factors that are causing the greatest business challenges. These can be things like poor (or good) economic conditions, growing global competition, loss of market share, rapidly increasing demand for a product that is creating internal process breaks, etc. Once you have the list of these factors, rate the impact on your business(could be as simple as high, medium, low or a 1-5 scale, it doesn’t really matter what scale you use as long as it is relevant to you) which will lead to a prioritized list of market factors. Next apply the market factors across the 2 dimensions, internal and external to arrive at a list of issues. Don’t worry about solutions at this point, all we want to do is come up with a prioritized list of issues that we can use to develop a list of business needs. Here’s a simple example, let’s say your #1 market factor is that your flagship productis falling behind in market share to your top competitor. That might lead to uncovering (yes, you may have to do or purchase market research to dig this out) that your product is not perceived as being as innovative as the competition. So if product innovation is the issue then the related business need is increasing product innovation in your product management / design organization. From that basic need you might have both an internal need and an external need emerge next: Internal: collaboration and communication between product management and product design is faulty and does not accurately handoff or represent the product requirements. External: The business needs to capture and prioritize customer requirements more effectively. Customers don’t feel engaged in the process (which could be a separate need). In the end you should have a list of critical business needs to take forward in the process.

Step 3: Gain executive support. 

OK, I know this sounds pretty basic, get the executive team behind what you’re doing. It is basic project management but doing it at this early step, before you have defined thesocial strategy or come up with ways to meet the list of critical business needs is important for a few reasons. Getting executive buy in of course ultimately leads to funding for the project. At this step though you are getting the executive sponsor defined and making a good business case (look atyour issues / problems list) to invest the time and resources to define astrategy and build a business case for the necessary investment. More importantly you are starting the process of getting executive support for the culture shift and process changes that will fall out of of this initiative.

Step 4: Define social strategy.

 This step might seem abit overwhelming and you may need outside assistance at this point in the project but it’s still critical to build an initial strategy now. You need some framework to hang the rest of the planning on, an initial cut at an end state.I could probably write a whole book just on this step but this is a blog, not abook so I’ll try to keep this reasonably brief. The social strategy is the “tobe” state, what you want to look like after the initiative is implemented. I suggest that it’s useful to define an overall strategy at a high level for the whole initiative then do a specific section on the current scope in the next phase of the methodology. The high level strategy is a “map” of the high levelend state for all the projects you now envision. Remember this is an iterative method so you can and will continue to refine this strategy as you implement,measure and start a new phase. For example lets say you have a list of issues and needs that include:

-issue: loosing market share on flagship product line because customers perceive that our products are not as innovative as the competition and are switching to that product over our product.

Need: internal collaboration tool for use by product management and engineering.

Need: a process and tool for collecting, prioritizing and managing customer requirements.

Need: foster closer ties between customers and your company to increase customer loyalty,

etc.

For the high level strategy you could include all the needs and start to divide them into complimentary groups. For example group 1 –implement a customer ideation tool and change the product management process to incorporate more customer feedback, group 2 – implement a customer community platform that supports a series of company blogs and a customer community around the product ideas process, and group 3 – implement an internal collaboration tool that supports a product specification Wiki for use by both product management and product engineering, implement a company microblogging toolto encourage a broader exchange and discussion of product ideas, and implement a design review and markup tool. Of course a complete enterprise social strategy would include many more items but hopefully this is enough to give you a good picture of what I’m suggesting in this step.

Step 5: Identify roadblocks (including cultural issues).

 Take the strategy you outlined in step 4 and build a list of specificroadblocks that might derail or impede the phase and must be dealt with during each implementation. This should map to each of your strategy groups from step 4. Roadblocks can be very diverse and could range from things like the engineering department has a culture of independence and doesn’t like to work closely with product management to our executive team does not yet see the value of blogging and might not publish regularly. Capture as many as possible,you can plan how to deal with each later in the process.

Step 6: Identify stake holders.

For each of the strategicinitiatives outlined in your strategy identify the key stakeholders, includinginternal (executives, key influencers, key managers, etc.), and external (key customers, user group leaders, industry analyst, media influencers, etc.).

Out of this phase you should have an as is state, a list of business needs, executive support, a social strategy, a list of roadblocks and a list of stakeholders.