Advice to social media start-ups selling to the enterprise

As the need for social media within an organization becomes more prevelant, the search for low cost, high value solutions becomes more important.  The landscape is ripe for start-ups to implement there technology within enterprises.  But, as someone who works “within the firewall”, here are my tips for those who are pitching there wares:

Your technology should work seemlessly with  common existing technology

Most organizations use Microsoft Office, Internet explorer and Outlook/Lotus Notes.  Your technology should work seamlessly with the existing technology to not only make the IT transition easier, but also makes it easier on the user

Let your technology “hide” behind existing technology

It is sometime hard to tell someone who has been documenting process for 10 years “you now must do it on a wiki…and oh yeah, feel free to use html”.  You are going to grind work to a halt.  Allow users to stay within the technology they know.  Altissan has a new release that allows users to update their wiki page in Word – and publish it back on the wiki all the time staying in Word.  Or, RSS feeds in your e-mail client.  This allows users at first to stay in the technology they are comfortable with to begin.

Single sign-on integration

Does you technology allow it to partner with internal IT for single sign on?  The introduction of social media is sometimes fragile…having user try to remember yet another password can turn them off and have them never return.  Once they are into their day, they should be able to seamlessly login on to their social network with no problem

Strong Reporting

Whether they actually use them or look at them, enterprises love and require reports for their technology.  Robust reports!  If your technology cannot easily spit out number of visits, page view, articles, etc by user name, time then you have lost some potential clients.  Oh yeah, and reports should be a push of a button away (both numerical and graphical).  Manually compiling information will not cut it. 

Cost

Yes, this is important.  In times of cutting costs and maximizing resources, this will come later…but i very important.  No more need be said.

Ease of use

At the end of the day, the enterprises have employees with different ages, skill sets and attitudes.  If it is is hard to use, looks ugly or takes too much time (vs value), then forget it.  It will be one more piece of technology that peters out…an no-one notices.

Can be small and big – but if possible, you should have it all

Enterprises sometimes do not need everything.  They may need a wiki to start…an expert directory in 6 months and a discussion forum 6 months after that.  Allow your technology to be sold in pieces when required…or have the whole suite available (for a cheaper price).  Let then ease into it before giving them everything.  And, if your technology is only wiki…have a partner that does what you do not do so when they are looking for the next piece of technology, you can recommend one that work well with your technology,  you have a relationship with and have past implementation successes.

Search functionality

Enterprises have information overload.  When your technololgy is running, it should be able to search all of what is out there.  If it is there, but people cannot find it, it might as well not be there.

That’s it for now.  Feel free to add anything that I missed or dispute anything I listed.

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