Social Business: Pining for the Fjords!

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it…  It’s dead!”

So, which is it dead or not dead?   There is so much confusion in the market about what “Social Business” is, it might as well be a dead parrot (too).  And there is no shortage of people who come at this conversation with a perspective that simply adds more confusion based on their orientation or specific economic agenda.

No one knows this struggle better than I.  I had lost the battle to preserve “Social Business” for its original owner, Muhammad Yunus, who by-the-way is trying to solve global poverty and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, sometime in 2009 in discussions with the social cognoscenti.  My former employer and friends at the Dachis Group had settled on repurposing Social Business to describe the evolving phenomenon, and after I was acquired, I too fell in line eventually rebranding the Council I had created for early adopters of Enterprise 2.0 to become “The Social Business Council.”*   I think the goal had always been to create a singular view for the market, and I supported the direction.  But, even as I was leaving Dachis Group in the summer of 2012, we took a pulse to see how many of the early adopters had fully integrated their internal social collaboration initiatives (collaboration and learning) with their external social media marketing initiatives (sales and marketing), and wished we hadn’t asked.  I knew the number would not be high, but I was literally shocked to see the response was nearly zero.  The actual number was 4%.   The number was so startling that when I presented it at a Jive user’s group meeting here in Texas, people were somewhat alarmed.  So, I repurposed the figure in the report to reflect how many people said they had plans to do it, but currently had not done it.

planets

The reality that surrounds this issue is we are really talking about two different planets that share the same language based on the principles of the early web 2.0 phenomenon and open web.  But, anyone who’s played in both these camps will readily acknowledge that a digital strategist or VP of Consumer Strategy has no idea what social collaboration is inside the enterprise and most likely spends his/her entire day in email, teleconferences, meetings, and ppt.  And, someone who’s running an internal enterprise social network has no idea who the top players are in SMMS (or what that acronym even means).  The problem is becoming somewhat unwieldy, however, because people who do not know better can easily confuse expertise in one area with the other.  Some of the senior enterprise folks in our network are facing career track issues with this right now.  Further, there’s now evidence of attempts at rationalization taking place, trying to shoe-horn the whole shebang into a singular phenomenon.  Nice try, and if it leads to changing the world, we’re for it.

One of our Change Agents, Richard Martin, pointed out that Nilofer Merchant side-stepped the issue quite neatly in her book 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era: “You might wonder why I’m not using Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) or social business (#socbiz) terminology. Enterprise 2.0 primarily focused on the tools necessary to create information flow, based on the idea that we can do better if we share information freely. Social business (#socbiz) was a term first created by Muhammed Yunus, but more recently has been a popular way to describe the way companies function and generate value for all the constituents (stakeholders, employees, customers, partners, suppliers)—the idea being that we add a social overlay to the existing structural framework. Here, I pose a new question with the notion of Social Era: in what ways can we structure things entirely differently to create more value in the context of our times, to be fast to market, to be fluid in mind-set, to be flexible in how we organize, deliver, and create value?”

She nails it in that “new” question.

We’ll be talking about some of those answers in an upcoming webinar we are doing next week in cooperation with our sponsor partner, Socialcast by VMware. The webinar will provide a reality check on where social is today, but more importantly, will talk about the underlying trends that are driving enterprise-sized businesses to become more network-based and adaptable.  You’ll have the pleasure of listening to thought leaders Simon Terry and Harold Jarche share their insights on why social matters now more than ever before.   Simon will explain how we got here, what the problem is in the market, and Harold will explain ways we can begin to address these problems today.  We’ll cover a few case studies and have lots of time to do Q&A with webinar participants, so please sign up and join us.  We look forward to your participation.

Webinar: Moving Forward with Social Collaboration
Date:  December 12, 2013
Time: 11:00 a.m. EST

 

This webinar kicks off a series of projects we’ll be doing with Socialcast to educate the market.   We have a lot more in store as we roll into 2014 too.  As always, thanks for your support for the great work we’re doing at Change Agents Worldwide.  You can support us by tweeting (@chagww and #caww) about us, liking us on Facebook, following on on G+, joining our public community on G+, and following our updates on LinkedIn.  Of course, don’t be shy about joining us as well.  Things are going to change in 2014 for new members, so if you’ve been considering joining, now would be a good time.

Last thing –  Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review are running a fairly good survey on trying to get to the bottom of some of these issues and to mitigate some confusion in the market.  I highly recommend you complete the questionnaire.   We’re also very excited about Change Agent Jane McConnell’s Digital Workplace results which will be out in early 2014, as well.

See you next Thursday!  And, as always, interested in your comments.

 

*Sadly, one thing is deader than a dead parrot: The Social Business Council.  Dachis Group shut it down this month.  It was a great resource for many early adopters and fans, and its legend lives on in the halls of Wikipedia if you’d like to update the page.

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Business Process 21C: The Jackhammer Tales

suitOver the past few months I’ve begun to reflect upon how I arrived here at the intersection of process and innovation in the Enterprise.  It occurred to me that everything I learned as a researcher, a writer, and an industry observer in the services provider space  (my pre-Internet career) now had great bearing on what I was seeing in the Enterprise as a result of the pace of disruptive technologies impacting the market.  The question that kept re-emerging for me was: how are rigidly defined business processes that were hammered out in the 90s reconfiguring to adapt to better, faster, more efficient ways of meeting customer needs?  Even more puzzling is, if my friend Josh’s old joke is correct, “SAP is like pouring concrete into a company,” how are large enterprises dismantling foundational ERP systems to include disruptive technologies?  After all, no 21st Century business can stand to stay frozen in the past.  Even SAP itself is retooling to provide greater flexibility and real-time actions and insights with its HANA in-memory database and its JAM social platform.

This big question has been vexing me for a while, so I asked my friend and fellow Enterprise Irregular, Phil Fersht at HfS Research, if he’d be interested in an exploratory study to see how BPO providers and consultants are responding to new advances in mobile, social, the Internet of things– all new capabilities that were not present when the majority of institutional business processes were “cemented” into the Enterprise. I’ve seen evidence of several companies who’ve been introducing social, in particular, to provide greater value to customers.  Of course, some of the best examples are coming from platform vendors themselves such as this post, “Enterprise Social is about Business Process Redesign”  by CEO  at Socialtext.  But, I’ve seen other examples such as Deloitte’s work in this area explained in this post, “Social Reengineering by Design,” and even examples about how large consulting firms are changing their own internal processes as a result of new ways of working, as evidenced by this post, “Spark – taking Collaboration and Corporate Social Networking to a new Level at PwC.”   Luckily, Phil agreed this is an area definitely worth pursuing, so we’ve kicked the study off this week.  We’re compiling data and hope to publish results in the early May timeframe.

I’m really happy to be working in this area that combines my long history of covering the traditional outsourcing sector with my area of interest for this current iteration of my career in next generation technologies.  Phil has done an amazing job with HfS Research, too, so I’m proud to be contributing to their strong brand in the market.  HfS was recently named one of the leading analyst firms in a formidable field of competitors.  Last week, I paid a visit to my longtime business advisor Mort Meyersen, who is an icon in the outsourcing field having helped build EDS and then Perot Systems.  It feels good to be back among old friends, mashing up what I’ve been learning from new friends.

I will be working hard on this study for the next few months, but also working on the startup we announced a few weeks ago, Change Agents Worldwide.  So, busy, busy, but really having fun.  Hope to see some of you at SXSW, but I will be hunkered down and only getting out to a few of the evening events.  Please keep up with me on Foursquare if you’d like to connect while you’re here in Austin.

More Serendipitous Social Upside Vignettes

Continuing with my series on unexpected windfalls and other business benefits realized from socialworking, here are two more examples.  I need to anonymize these to protect the member companies.  One is a large retailer, the other is a large life sciences multi-national.

Social Delivers the Goods (and more)

We’ve all had that experience when we waited for that shiny, new appliance to be delivered.  In this case, it was a washing machine.  Our member, a large retailer, prides itself on its service to customers in its appliance department.  When the delivery driver arrives at the home, they pick up the old appliance, install the new, test it for 15 minutes, and teach the homeowner how to operate it.

This leading retailer delivers thousands of appliances every day.  Delivery drivers (independently) were starting to see problems with a particular model of washer.  As it turns out, a fitting on the back of the washer had been changed by the manufacturer, and they were leaking after installation. The vendor didn’t know about it, the merchant didn’t know, and the drivers definitely were not informed the manufacturer had made the change.  But, the same problem was presenting itself around the country from different stores delivering the appliance.

A few of the delivery drivers turned to the company’s community space and asked, “Is anyone getting leaking problems on this model of washer?”  Once they realized what happened, they were able to stop a problem that would have been a major issue in returns, liability, flooding basements and utility rooms, simply because the manufacturer had decided to change the fittings and didn’t inform the merchants. (Do I hear social supply chain anyone?)

The activity stream of collaboration and sharing got the message to the merchants and back to the vendor and the problem was fixed in a matter of weeks vs. months.  Without a social platform for this mass-scale type sharing, it could have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to customers’ homes, diminished customer experience, aggravation, etc., before it bubbled to the surface in a meaningful way.  “The platform gave them the opportunity to share.  Now, the enterprise has to listen,” said our member.

The rewards of over-sharing

Many of our members (some say, like Sisyphus) are trying hard to change the culture at their large organization to encourage new social behaviors.  One of the killer tools in the social toolkit is the “work out loud” axiom.   Work out loud dictates that rather than burying your work in email threads or unsharable telephone calls, you publish what you’re doing and thinking online in a collaborative space (all day long) so others can learn what you know, and likewise, you can mine the intelligence of others’ expertise and experience.   This sort of thinking often falls into criticism from those who are not enmeshed in social business transformation.  The particular vignette  I’m about to discuss cropped up in a thread in the Council where I was grousing about grief I was getting in our Enterprise Irregulars back channel on social business.  My EI compadre, Esteban Kolsky, had expressed his opinion on all things social with this comment directed to me:

…that has nothing to do with being social, and they are not mutually exclusive. you can collaborate without being transparent or authentic – and the whole Kumbaya aspect of being social has been overplayed and shown to have not correlations with real business results. The whole “social” revolution is not about producing more data (as most people expect) but about purposeful engagement in new channels – which if you did not know how to do before, you cannot do now. Know who you engage and how, not just throw you stuff out there for everyone to pick it up. Twitter is no more than an awesome and free PR tool, not an engagement network. Facebook is no more than a way to stay in touch with friends and family. If you can prove otherwise, I am listening- but the people with the best results in the “social” world will tell you it is not simply about “being out there” or being transparent or authentic or collaborative.

Of course, I politely disagreed with Esteban, but in the subsequent discussion with the Council members, a number of great gems emerged to reinforce my opinion.  One of which is the following shared by one of our Life Sciences members:

“Serendipity happens. If you just wait to share until someone ‘needs to know’…you miss potential opportunities. We had this happen a few weeks ago. A marketing person shared information openly to create awareness about their approach to a new project…and someone from research saw it, and commented about some existing data from her department along the same lines. The two teams got together offline as a result and saved us tons of money thanks to knowledge re-use and reduced duplicate effort. Without just ‘being out there’ for the sake of ‘being out there’…that wouldn’t have happened because we are too large to identify all those opportunities on purpose.”

I asked him if he could quantify the savings.  He investigated it and related this to us:

Savings from serendipity: $250K – a planned research project was cancelled thanks to the shared learning across departments.  The existing data was determined to be more informative toward the cause than what the new project would have generated anyway.

Increased Sales: Sales projections estimate a potential sales increase of $30M over 5 years, thanks to the improvements applied to the marketing approach.

Intangibles:  Better insight into customer experiences, leading to improved resources that aid in providing better outcomes for the consumer.

So, by being transparent, authentic, and collaborative in this new way, the member company decreased operational expense by $250K and potentially added $30M in future sales from this single event.

Another member, Joachim Stroh, summed up the conversation neatly with this illustration.

Enjoy!

Attributes of a Socially Optimized Business

Once again, I had the great pleasure to work with my colleagues on an XPLANATiON with our Social Business Council members.  We interviewed a core group of our members to identify the attributes that comprise the whole of the socially optimized business.  I think you will agree, the results are fabulous.

Where are you on the course from Start to Social?

Special thanks go out to members @briantullis, @jimworth, @kendomen, @kimberlymahan, @kristenritter, @seanwinter, @dpontefract, @bricejewell, @robcaldera, and Joachim Stroh.

The Sabermetrics of Social: A Weapon of Mass Disruption

Jonah Hill is not a sexy guy.  He was perfectly cast, however, juxtaposed against Brad Pitt in this year’s academy award contender, Moneyball.  If you’ve not read the book or seen the film, the plot premise centers on the true story of how an under-financed ball team, The Oakland As, leveraged the black art of sabermetric principles to divine a record-breaking season in professional baseball.  The true star of the film was Hill’s character, Peter Brand (Paul DePodesta in real life), who brought a dweebish Ivy League blandness to the romance of American baseball by introducing, well, math. DePodesta was one of, “a new breed of front-office executives whose personnel decisions rely heavily on analysis of performance data, often at the perceived expense of more traditional methods of scouting and observation.” (source Wikipedia).

Stripping out the emotion and the soft factors that tally up player value in baseball is analogous to what’s going on today on the social web.  Everyone’s got their eye on the superstar plays (say, the Old Spice guy, @comcastcares), but they’re missing the raw analysis of true performance metrics.  Making sense of the nuanced patterns is the key to securing competitive advantage.

I saw the film this weekend and couldn’t help making the connection between the film’s premise and the Social Business platform we’re building at Dachis Group.  We launched the Index publicly about three weeks ago.  The SBI is just a lightweight view on a monster social vacuum pulling social data from literally millions of sources about the leading brands in the world.  In order to unleash the power of the tool, you need to get in there, ensure your brand is pulling from all your social sources and start looking for significant patterns.  The social business data platform exists to help brand managers and interested brand marketers discover how social is impacting their brand performance.

We invite you to use this data to hone your social strategy.  As Forbes pointed out recently in its cover story, “Newly armed customer and employee activists can become the source of creativity, innovation and new ideas to take your company forward.”  Harvesting those data sources is our job, but it’s going to take a Peter Brand (Manager) to unlock what the data is telling you.  Relying on consistent, verifiable data analysis, you’ll be able to make sensible predictions that can start delivering wins in the same way the A’s racked up its record-breaking season.  Big data may not be sexy, but gaming the win potential is an irresistible seduction.

There are a host of extremely interesting services coming from the SBI development team.  Very soon, you’ll be able to measure business outcomes framed by a distinct set of measures and metrics that are driving those outcomes.  With user-assigned metadata, you’ll be able to view a variety of dimensions on those outcomes.   This is just a taste of what’s in store.  Social data has the potential to become the long tail that wags the brand dog.  Make sure you’re taking advantage of an early mover advantage, before your competitor does, that is.

News Flash: Social in the Enterprise is not for Amateurs

In the early days of experimentation with 2.0 in the Enterprise, anyone could really fire up a wiki or blog, port some RSS feeds, and call an impromptu meeting in the cafeteria to recruit a renegade team to collaborate and share.  A lot of the enthusiasm and passion that surrounded these tools stemmed from these small pilot efforts.   Today, workforce collaboration and social ideology is top of mind in the largest corporations.  One interesting metric we decided to track at the Council was “who” is tasked in the Enterprise to get this job done.

Working with our Dachis Group | XPLANE colleagues, we created this infographic that details who’s leading social business efforts internally, and where they fit in the organization.  As you can see from the data, social business is serious business and merits primarily six-figure, Director level oversight.  This survey represents about 100 of our members from some of the largest corporations in the world who are currently engaged in a worldwide rollout of a 2.0 transformation initiative.

Another key point revealed in the data is that it’s not IT exclusively leading these efforts.  Although we have a large concentration of IT members, several other areas are represented.  In particular, Knowledge Management, Learning, and Innovation are well-suited to communicate and translate the benefits of working in a new social paradigm.

The infographic can be downloaded here. Enjoy!