October 2, 2009 — Leave a comment

Ever think you know someone really well and then you meet one of their siblings and they’re completely different?  You never could have imagined it.  Same parents, same church, same school, same neighborhood.  What gives?  One goes out all the time, the other stays in.  One got straight A’s, the other never finished high school.  One likes their beef grass-fed, the other is vegan.  I think you get the idea.

Well, IT projects can be a lot like that.  You can have two projects, same goal and they can be worlds apart.  Same company, same vision, same CEO, same culture, same training.  What gives?  Well, I’ve had the opportunity to work in such an environment (project = e2.0 deployment) and I can tell you what gives.  It’s the requirements.  Well, not so much the requirements but from whom they come.   Talk to IT.  Talk to BD.  Then talk to HR, Marketing, Comms.  Then go and talk to your ‘product’ folks.  Worlds apart.  Even though everyone at the company is committed to the same mission, they’ve each got their own role and their own care-abouts.  The ‘thing’ they want designed is obviously going to be biased to what makes their world tick.

So, to whom do you listen?  It’s a tough decision in the ‘social world’.  My advice is actually the same I offered in this post I wrote in June (I was at the e2.0 Conference in Boston).  The difference is that now (more than 3 monhts later) I’ve got the experience to back it up.  Turns out I was right.  Doesn’t happen often.  But when it does I’m going to blog about it.  Here’s an excerpt:

My advice to you is do your homework.  Know the vendor space, know your architecture, know your security model, know your requirements.  Most importantly: know your business and how this new tool set will help you solve your BUSINESS problems.  Do all of this before even approaching a vendor.  Get a sponsor from your BUSINESS.  HR is not OK.  Comms, eh, you’re getting warmer.  IT…COLD.  Get at the heart of what your company does and find out who does it.  Once you find them, they will tell you everything you need to know.   If you can make them happy and solve their problems you greatly increase your odds of success.

Looking back on that advice, it’s a little rough around the edges, but it absolutely rings true.  Jeremiah Owyang has a new post here where he urges companies to bring ‘social’ beyond just the marketing department.  I agree, but if you’re talking internally focused efforts (and I understand that wasn’t his intent, so this is not a criticism) his advice doesn’t go far enough.  You need to start with the ‘core of your business’ folks.  They will cover many requirements of the other functions, but it won’t work the other way around.  Once you get the right requirements from the right people you’ll have created an excellent foundation from which you can become holistic.

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