The enterprise social network (ESN) is a digital tool that isn’t always easy to grasp. Its positioning as a multi-headed hydra addressing many issues (from internal communication to the knowledge base, through network animation or collaborative work) does not help us understand it clearly. Therefore, finding the right solution can be a struggle. That’s why we want to help you identify to key steps to choosing the enterprise social network for you.
Many software publishers have created their enterprise social network solution, and some of them are clearly very successful. However, not all of them suit your specific needs. This is why you should proceed methodically rather than jumping into the search for the optimal tool too quickly.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Before benchmarking any tools, analyze your initial needs, identify your main purposes and the features you need, and take inventory of any constraints.
- Next, move on with the tool search: make a list of those that spontaneously correspond to your needs and compare them.
- Finally, find references for each of the solutions that seem to best match your needs and get customer testimonials.
This article gives you the keys to choose your enterprise social network solution in a rational way, helping you save time (and likely money!), as well as boosting the chances of your ESN project’s success.
What need(s) and for what purpose(s)?
Since 2012, as they have grown in popularity, enterprise social networks have been equipped with functionalities that respond to new needs/problems and enable new uses.
Before even starting to analyze what solutions are available on the market, it’s critical that you first identify your core needs and uses you wish to deploy throughout your organization. These are the criteria that will tell you whether it’s relevant to integrate them into your benchmarking.
Here are the main need and use scenarios:
- Internal communication: disseminating important information to your internal stakeholders (employees, volunteers) by allowing them to react, complete, contribute and publish news autonomously
- Resource pooling: allowing everyone to find their place in the organization via an organization chart, a detailed directory and thematic communities (by profession, location, interest, project, etc.), where even external partners can be invited. Being able to share information or documents in these communities.
- Employee engagement and collective intelligence: facilitating feedback and sharing of ideas and suggestions through surveys or information sharing
- Documentary base: providing regularly updated “cold” documents and information (such as procedures and leave forms), so that employees can access reliable information at any time
- Direct exchanges: encouraging discussions between employees (particularly via chat and video conferencing), thereby reducing the number of meetings
- Network animation: governing “daily life” of a network of partners or members (an association or a club/business community, for example), including a shared calendar, segmented communities and a directory that facilitates contact and exchanges
- Project management: facilitating the progress of your projects with the ability to define a list of tasks to be performed, assign them to stakeholders and track their status
- Collaborative work on a daily basis: simplifying the work of several people, reducing the number of meetings and replacing interminable email exchanges
After this clarification of your initial needs and uses to be deployed, you also need to identify your constraints as well as your list of desired functionalities. You can then (and finally!) start looking for solutions, without getting lost.
Be aware of your constraints and needs
Do you have “imposed figures” in your specifications (meaning those functional elements which, if absent from a software publisher, will force you to choose another one?) You need to be aware of this as soon as possible, before starting the benchmarking process. Otherwise you risk losing precious time.
These may include but are not limited to the following characteristics:
- White label: personalized platform in your company’s colors
- Multilingual: platform accessible in several languages
- Data security / confidentiality: processing in compliance with the GDPR, hosting that escapes the Cloud Act*, for example
- Connection mode: accessibility via an SSO that works with G Suite and/or Outlook
- Integration with your business applications (CRM, billing, social networks, …)
- iOS / Android mobile applications
- Desktop application
- Accessibility to employees without email address (= “blue collars”)
- Support (during pre-project and/or deployment)
* This U.S. federal law passed in 2018 allows U.S. law enforcement agencies to access your data – even those stored on European servers – as long as the service is based in the U.S. Consequently, Facebook, Microsoft, Slack, Google and many others are included.
To explore further, find the complete checklist here: “Choosing the Right Enterprise Social Network (ESN) Solution“
Identify the features you need
Your initial need is well identified, as well as the uses to be deployed. You have even defined the “structural” constraints of your organization. Now it’s time to identify the functionalities you need, clearly distinguishing between those that are necessary and those that are accessory/optional.
Our advice: don’t save this thought for later. Just like shopping, if you wait until you’re already in a store in the middle of a sale to remember what you need most, you’re done for 🙂. Indeed, all software publishers offer a myriad of features, and that can distract you from what you really need. That’s what you should keep in mind.
Draw up your shortlist of solutions—then compare them.
Once you’ve identified several solutions that fit your need, start your benchmarking.
We recommend you compare the following points:
- depth of functionality (presence of both essential functionality as well as additional options)
- the quality of the support (such as the existence and support, customer/user support, support languages)
- control elements (such as creation of reports and exporting)
- prices displayed (per user license)
To help you choose, we’ve analyzed these different elements to develop a list of the top 12 of the best enterprise social networks.
Beware of pricing
Multiple pricing methods exist, so if it’s not self-service software (i.e. that allows you to purchase licenses online with a credit card), ask each provider for a quote. You’ll sometimes be able to obtain a more advantageous price.
In any case, choose a solution with clear and simple pricing.
Also, beware of hidden costs. Some software publishers only mention the cost of licenses up front—then add various additional costs only after you express interest: setup, management, training, data integration, a user hotline, etc. Their imagination can become quite abundant…
Check customer and user reviews
The explosion of SaaS software during the past decade has allowed many platforms to emerge, allowing us to compare software and reviews left by users of each solution.
Take a look at the websites below to see what users are saying about each software:
Ask to speak with the software publisher’s customers
Finally, before you make your final decision, ask the software publisher for the contact information of one or two customer references—and permission to contact them.
For you, this is a unique way to:
1. See if the publisher is ready to let its customers talk about its solution
2. Hear from other customers and learn more about their relationship with the software publisher’s staff
Now you have all the keys to choose the enterprise social networking solution that’s best for your company!
Talkspirit is a French enterprise social network software publisher, which is well-known for the quality of its support—even at the pre-project stage. Even with no commitment on your part, a Talkspirit account manager will call you back to help you choose the best enterprise social network (ESN) for your business.