Social Collaboration Initiatives Fail Due to Lack of Purpose: Gartner

In order to draw users to the initiative, Gartner said the purpose should naturally motivate people to participate.

Most social collaboration initiatives fail because they follow a worst-practice approach of "provide and pray," leading to a 10 percent success rate, according to IT analytics firm Gartner's research into the social collaboration efforts of more than 1,000 organizations.

Although social technologies are employed by 70 percent of organizations, the vast majority of organizations treat collaboration as a platform decision, rather than a solution to a specific business problem or a route to a desired outcome. One of the most striking patterns found by the survey was that social collaboration initiatives that have a clear and compelling purpose from the outset tend to succeed.

"Without a well-crafted and compelling purpose, most social media initiatives will fail to deliver business value," Anthony Bradley, group vice president at Gartner, said in a statement. "This provide-and-pray approach provides access to a social collaboration technology and prays something good comes of it, like a community forming and participants' interactions naturally delivering business value. As a result, this approach sees a 10 percent success rate, and the underlying reason is usually that the organization did not provide a compelling cause around which a community could form and be motivated to provide their time and knowledge. In other words, purpose was lacking."

Bradley also noted a well-defined purpose identifies who the participants are, what specific issue they are collaborating around, what value they will gain for themselves, and what value will be provided to the organization. Enterprise architects should begin by helping organizations identify and define, at a high level, the target community for social collaboration.

“Organizations approaching social collaboration in the 'provide-and-pray' manner do not fully recognize the value of purpose and do not understand how to take an 'architected' approach to it,” Bradley said. “Social collaboration efforts are a challenge for which enterprise architects are well suited, as these practitioners are often cross-disciplinary. They are able to work with social initiative leaders to define community purposes and condense these purposes into a strategy or road map which they can use to guide project teams during implementation.”

To help enterprise architects evaluate the relative strengths of purposes and sequence their integration into a social collaboration initiative, Gartner identified five characteristics of a good purpose, including participant magnetism, community draw, organizational value, low community risk and the promotion of evolution.

In order to draw users to the initiative, Gartner said the purpose should naturally motivate people to participate, and the purpose must resonate with enough people to catalyze a community and deliver robust user-generated content. The report noted that the best communities are heavily unbalanced in their two-way approaches, meaning that the community contributes far more content than the supporting enterprise.