Social Business Failure #12: “This Isn’t About the Tool”


In complete juxtaposition from last week’s post, we can’t forget this is also about the tool.

When I first started working with NASA, there was a group sent out to look at tools. (Although this story is about NASA, there are others I have worked with which have done the same thing – this is a pretty common scenario.)  They went through the usual drill.  They gathered features, functionality.  They conducted a bake-off to determine which tool is the best.  They chose one and implemented it on a pilot basis.

It failed, which is why they asked me to help.  It didn’t work for a number of reasons, but not the least of them being that although they were looking for social media, what they were evaluating were tools that were not “social”.  They thought they were social tools (indeed, the tools marketed themselves as such) but they were not.  They lacked some of the more basic requirements needed to pull it off.  They were looking more at content management tools, not social tools.

Then, when we got on the right track, there was a tendency to go with the cheaper solution.  But this solution did not have what was needed. (Cost and convenience are odd things.  They lure us to a decision we know is not worthy and we are caught between the two – what is right and what is more convenient or cheapest.  But that thought is for another day…)

Too many times we try to jump in with the tool first.  RESIST THAT TEMPTATION.  But when it is time to choose a tool, it is a very important decision, one not to be taken lightly.  Although social is not ABOUT the tool, the tool is a heavy component and should not be discounted.

For example, the number of clicks it takes to get to information, the flow in which that happens and the ways users are notified of new/changed content are often overlooked or glossed over points by a novice when choosing a tool.  There are many attributes that have a hidden importance and until you understand the social element you very well may not uncover those needed features.

So what to do?  1) Make sure the person who evaluates potential tools has experience in this.  There are enough people out there that finding someone should not be a problem anymore.  2) Listen to them and weigh their advice heavily.

And then know this: No tool (or set of tools) will give you everything you need and want.  There are gives and takes, many of which won’t be discovered until you have purchased and implemented the tool in production.  Just go with it and enjoy the journey!