Comparing and selecting an Enterprise Social Network (ESN)

At Ripple Effect Group we follow a particular User Centred Design (UCD) process that we use as a key input into the process of helping our clients select the most appropriate Enterprise Social Network (ESN). This enables us to develop a tailored requirements matrix that is matched to the prioritised needs of each organisation, rather than using a generic ESN feature list.

Sample ESN matrix

Sample of a tailored ESN technology selection

There are a number of reasons for doing this. First, we treat the vendor selection process as part of the organisational change journey and we believe it is important to demonstrate traceability back to the UCD process. This avoids the risk that staff we engaged with during the UCD process perceiving it as tokenistic.

The other reason reflects the complexity of dealing with the software products themselves:

  • We need to understand the nuances of high-level features and drill into specific requirements that may differentiate one option from another.
  • We need to take into account the overall social user experience of how different features work together in the context of the client’s requirements.
  • The pace at which many vendors release feature updates is now frequent enough that the requirements matrix needs to be updated each time it is created.

We also consider non-functional and other requirements that might be provided by the client or emerge during the UCD process. Establishing strategic or operational constraints is critical at this point – for example:

  • Are we limited to on premise or do we need to host in the cloud?
  • What appetite is there for custom development or is an Enterprise Social Network that supports only limited configuration options enough?
  • How quickly does the Enterprise Social Network need to be implemented?
  • How important is mobile or front-line access to the Enterprise Social Network?
  • Do you need to migrate from an existing platform or upgrade a related platform, such as SharePoint?

Once we combine all this information, we can make recommendations. There may be a clear winner, but we typically provide a short-list of candidate vendors each with its particular strengths and weaknesses highlighted (both functional and non-functional).

However, this isn’t the end of the journey. We then encourage our clients to “kick the tyres” of each short-listed vendor and can facilitate a more detailed discussion about specific features, procurement and support arrangements.

While this might sound like a long process, if speed to implementation is a factor then we can move quickly through the vendor selection and immediately into the launch if necessary – this simply becomes one of the factors we take into consideration in our recommendations.

Need help with comparing or selecting an Enterprise Social Network?

We can help you to select from a range of ESN platforms, including popular options such as Atlassian Confluence, Elgg, Drupal Commons by Acquia, Jive Software, Newsgator Social Sites for SharePoint, Socialcast, tibbr and Microsoft Yammer.

Contact us for more information about our fixed price ESN consulting packages or schedule a “show case” session with us, where we can provide an overview the vendor landscape.