Employee advocacy is becoming a mega trend. So much so, there are now over 30+ technology platform providers in the space within the last 2 years alone. If you’re considering evaluating employee advocacy software technology to support your employee advocacy program, this post is for you!

The most important first step has nothing to do with technology. 

Yes, really! First a foremost, you must establish clear business goals that your employee advocacy program is designed to support. If you don’t establish these and reach a unified agreement amongst company stakeholders on them, no technology platform can help you. Establishing clear and attainable goals is step #1. These goals must not only be clear and agreed upon, they must also be measurable! Otherwise you run the risk of not being able to evaluate program success by measuring performance and tracking progress over time. If you don’t sort this out first, your employee advocacy program will likely be short lived because you won’t be able to secure the needed investment and resources needed.

Once you’ve got your foundation of goals and how you will measure success in place, the 5 steps below provide you a proven roadmap. This isn’t simply my opinion. These are tested and proven. I followed these 5 steps with my team at IBM when we were evaluating and determining the optimal fit Employee Advocacy software platform for the global tech giant. I hope that they’re helpful to you:

  • Determine your business requirements for the technology before you begin evaluating any product, or requesting vendors bid on a Request for Proposal (RFP).  This sounds obvious, but I’ve learned from clients and colleagues who’re leading Employee Advocacy programs for their brands, this is often a step they missed. Work with your team and stakeholders to gather, catalog and prioritize business requirements that are “must haves” for a successful implementation of your Employee Advocacy program. Starting with business requirement will help you review platform options with the same criteria. Once you have this inventory, you can begin to prioritize the “must haves” against other functional features and sort through features that are “nice to have” but not critical your program.
  • Demo as many Employee Advocacy platforms as feasibly possible, a great way to do this is by attending conferences.  Be sure to take your “must have” criteria list and evaluate them first hand through demos and trials. In addition to evaluating the multitude of Employee Advocacy software platforms first hand, you’ll benefit from talking directly to the development and/or sales team.  This also allows you the opportunity to get to know the staff that you’ll likely be interacting with. You want to be respectful of their time. Remember that they’ll most likely need to help others who are at their booth wanting to see a demo. So if you think their offering may be on your short list, ask them if they would be willing to schedule a private demo while you’re at the event. This way you can run through your list of must have’s with their help and you won’t be feeling pressured by the line of others who are interested in accessing the demo and are vying for attention along with so many others waiting in line behind you.
  • Beware of the “Shiny object” syndrome. While you might see and learn about exciting new capabilities you never knew about during the demo phase, it’s critical not to forget that you and your team spent a great deal of time pulling together your requirements list, establishing the “must have” features for your employee advocacy program. Be sure you’re evaluating your options based on your program priority “must haves” and avoid running the risk of getting enamored with a bunch of shiny new technology functionality that looks cool but you may not ever use.
  • Be realistic about what you can afford! A saying my Dad used often was … “you have Champagne taste on a Beer budget” … Don’t let this happen to you while you’re evaluating employee advocacy platform options. You’ll need to secure financial support not only from your stakeholders, but also your procurement team. So be cautious of your limitations and evaluate options with the financial reality and any procurement limitations (i.e. the specifications for providers you can transact business with) in mind.
  • Form follows function This well-known architecture principal, originally defined by the great designer Louis H. Sullivan should be applied to the evaluation of Employee Advocacy software. Remember that the technology platform you select must be implemented within the business infrastructure your company has in place. Where “function” is the enterprise technology infrastructure, architecture, and business processes that any choice must integrate with, “form” is the Employee Advocacy software that will need to work within it. It is critical to follow the form follows function principal. Consider how your program operates within your business model and evaluate how the software will need to be integrated:
    • Will you require it to connect to your lead generation process?
    • Your Sales and/or the Customer Care operation at your company?
    • Your analytics, social/market intelligence and/or reporting functions?
    • Your CRM system?

Consider these system integration requirements up front. If you don’t, the business is likely to suffer from your choice down the road and be fraught with challenges to integrate with existing processes and systems costing you more even more money in the long run.

Do you have other steps you’ve found to be critical? If you have, I’d love to know what they were, please post a comment with your feedback.