Are social software pilots useful?

Jon Mell who currently leads IBM's Social Business practice in the UK, has written a very interesting blog post on whether piloting social software with a small group of restricted users is useful. *Spolier alert he doesn't think they are useful*


Now the first thing I would say is that in the two organisations I've worked in where we've used social software, both rollouts have been in response to the business asking for a tool that would solve a particular problem. So at the first law firm I worked for we were asked to find a solution that would help departments share content more easily, allow individuals to comment on it and subscribe to updates. In this context blogs were identified as the most suitable tool and we embarked on a project to implement these. Subsequent to this we looked at how wikis (on SharePoint 2007) could be used to facilitate knowledge sharing.

In my current role I joined at a time when the firm has just purchased licences to a wiki tool. This was designed to be used by departments to facilitate greater sharing of knowledge and to help project teams work more closely together. In this instance several products have been carefully considered before a decision was made based on the requirements of the business and of course a number of other factors including cost and the functionality available within the product.

In neither of these instances did we decide to pilot the social software with a small restricted group of users. In his blog post Jon outlines the reasons why he doesn't believe piloting a social software tools with a small group of users is particularly helpful. There are several excellent points outlined by Jon, of which the following I am in complete agreement with :

The more people who have access the greater the success. A social system with 2 people is less useful than with 10, which is less useful than 100 etc. You are looking for knowledge accidents so you need to increase the traffic in order to encourage ‘collisions’
Social is about systems of engagement – and removing barriers to collaboration and information flow. If you artificially limit who can connect with whom the platform will fail as you are undermining the entire premise of the system
There are a number of other points which Jon makes, but these are the highlights for me. Of course the bigger question is if you did decide to have a social software pilot, was it successful?