Pinch me. Social Business has arrived.

I am here on the ground at IBM’s gala Lotusphere annual event.  If I didn’t see it for my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it.  Social Business is all the rage and the main storyline IBM is taking to its customers going forward.

IBM Executives are describing “social” as the next wave in enterprise computing:

Mainframe > Departmental > PC > Internet > Social

According to Alistair Rennie, General Manager for Collaboration Solutions, who gave this morning’s keynote, “It’s the most important Lotusphere ever.”  He credited social business as key to combining people and technology, a goal IBM has been working on for decades.

What’s significant to me in this endorsement is that one of the icons of Enterprise (the “I” in MISO) is touting social as a must-do, not a fad or a trendy adaptation of consumer technology.  This only bodes well for companies and organizations of all sizes, as selling the “vision” of social is half the battle in getting something started.

So IBM, you go girl.  Bring it.

(I will be here throughout the week.  Looking forward to talking to many IBM customers about their experiences.  If you are an IBM customer interested in learning how to “go social,” please join us this evening at 5pm in Asia 3 at the Dolphin.  You can talk to other earlyvangelists who’ve been at this for a while.)

Social Means Business

I just read Kate’s post on today’s announcement about Dachis Group acquiring Powered.  I had to chuckle, because those of us in that “alternate universe, E20” used to think the same about the social media space.  In fact, I joked to Peter Kim this year at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, “How does it feel not to be a celebrity?”  I feel the same way at SXSWi.  (Truth is, I didn’t even go last year.)

But, Kate is correct, the world is changing and fast.  Every day one of our Council members, who’ve historically come from an E20 orientation – what we at Dachis Group refer to as “Workforce Collaboration” –  is being asked to help out with the enterprise social strategy whether that means social media initiatives, connecting to suppliers, or partners.  Some of our members have relocated entirely out of IT and into Marketing (who wouldda thunk?).  And it’s not just IT and Marketing driving these initiatives, either.  Social is touching every business unit in the organization.

I caution all our members to keep their eye on the bigger picture.  The Council is expanding to embrace all facets of social business.  Going forward, it will not be possible to separate where social media initiatives begin and e20 ends.  And, every customer will tell you they rarely use any jargon when they’re presenting business cases to their executives.  The language they use is rooted in the benefits of social collaboration, not the features.  This is typically different for every company too, and becoming more and more strategic.

This next phase of the evolution of the social business market is about integration.  Social Integration of people, process, and technology.  Integration of Work, Society, and Technology.  Integration of the past with the future.  It’s all good, and it’s why I’m particularly thrilled to be a part of a company executing with precision on that vision.

Social Business on the Ground

When we set out to investigate case studies, we were looking for “slam dunk” examples where 2.0 initiatives were inextricably tied to business results. In effect, we wanted to begin to dispel the criticisms that e20 was just the next silly, narcissistic exploit to enter the enterprise on the heels of yet another consumer fad: web 2.0.

Well?  We didn’t find those “slam dunk” examples. But, neither did we find any “failures.” What we did find was a massive movement shaking the bedrock of enterprise as we know it. The enterprise plates are still firmly in place, but our investigation revealed tremors– sudden energy being released among the employee population that is poised to crack the foundation of business as we’ve known it.

Time and time again we heard, “This is the most important initiative I’ve ever worked on in my professional life.” There’s something chilling, something inspiring about the people and companies who are leading the charge toward reinventing themselves to become socially savvy. As you read through these profiles and cases, you’ll come to appreciate while all of these companies are still early in the process, they all are confident they will succeed in their long term goals.  Some are realizing early successes already.   The prevailing operational mission at present, however, is to succeed at catalyzing the “ideological reformation” at the root level of the organization that needs to take place before real business value can be extracted, measured, and fine-tuned.  It’s a bit of a Catch-22, and almost as maddening and dangerous as originally described in the novel that coined the phrase.

We will continue to track the progress of these early adopters.  Regardless where you are in the spectrum, we all succeed when every case succeeds.  We’d like to thank IBM and MIT’s Center for Digital Business for lending support and sponsorship to this series of cases and profiles. Special thanks to all @20adoption members who participated in the series.

Current profiles and cases are posted on The 2.0 Adoption Council web site.  Feel free to download at will.  We have a few more coming, as well.

Mama Weer All Crazee-Social Now!

Indeed, a Quiet Riot is percolating in the heretofore boring ERP sector.  I spotted Josh Greenbaum‘s post on “Enterprise Relationship Planning” this afternoon.  In the Council, we have dredged up a 90s label– The Extended Enterprise— to categorize discussions about how our members are architecting their socio-collaborative initiatives to span partners in their supplier, distributor, and delivery chains.  Included here is the massive momentum around Social CRM that is touching the customer in personal ways as well and reinventing what it means to be proactive and responsive to existing and potential buyers.  One of our largest members recently  made a platform selection choice based nearly exclusively on the chosen vendor’s ability to bridge to external collaborators while retaining the ability to keep the conversation secure behind the firewall.  All of our members are somewhere in the adoption phase of evaluating these options.  The confluence of all SaaS and enterprise legacy systems and social is coming… It’s not if, it’s when.

The unique thread that links the revitalization of  all these mechanical, cumbersome, process-driven software “systems” is people.  People with intelligence, with tacit knowledge, with “exceptions” expertise.  We had a fantastic Council guru Q&A last week with Socialtext’s Ross Mayfield.  Socialtext cites a whopping statistic that turns traditional ERP on its head, “An estimated 60 to 80% of an organization’s work is ‘exception’ oriented.”  Squeezing the life (variability) out of a process is passe and will be replaced or supplementing with social data to improve its effectiveness, not detract from it.  This is a revolutionary idea.

This sentiment is expressed by one of our members, Todd Weidman,  who was discussing the rigidity of the Six Sigma process:

“In my experience in financial services, it’s used as a framework to eliminate as much process variation as possible. The processes become repeatable, follow a strict pattern, and ideally you reduce the cost of any transaction (and make it predictable, standard, and outsourcable). That’s fine if your building something to spec (manufacturing), but in any service-based industry, client needs demand many different types of solutions – think financial planning – there may be a number of different inputs for a customized solution. That, of course, requires collaboration between participants.”

Indeed, the future is about relationships.  And relationships are about people, not stuff.

Adoption is Dead. Long live Adoption!

Rumors surrounding the death of adoption have been greatly exaggerated.

The 2.0 Enterprisey crowd is gearing up to head to Boston for our annual pilgrimage.  This will be my fourth conference as a participant and board member.  Having watched and often interpreted the trends in this sector, I find it interesting to report that things have not changed much in general since our first get-together in 2007.   While it’s true that we have many, many more organizations large and small experimenting with and committing to 2.0 strategies– internally and externally– and the business itself is morphing into something much more grand and all-encompassing, the truth of the matter is: we are still early adopters of this new way of working.

The notion of “adoption” in general occasionally gets called into criticism by bloggers who are looking at the phenomenon purely through the lens of new technology adoption.   The adoption phenomenon is much more far-reaching and encompasses a wholesale reinvention of the way we will work in the future.  Social data and social layers that will filter transactions in the enterprise are the Next Big Thing in enterprise.  Period.  But before we can get there, we need to on-ramp legions of employees to change their attitudes and behaviors to maximize the benefits of what the socially connected universe offers.

It’s easy for us who spend a lot of time on the social web to re-imagine where we are in real terms relative to widespread embrace of social strategy and tactical best practices.   This is a mistake, and we need to scale back our expectations and see the immediate opportunity for what it is: an early adopter market.  This reality has been difficult to swallow, perhaps especially for me.   We’ve kicked off our case study series and early indicators are reinforcing the relative immaturity of the market.  We’ll have more details on those in upcoming months.  The good news is: we are all really early on a phenomenon that is changing the world as we know it.  This social transformation will be larger and more comprehensive than any technology transformation (including the Internet and mobile) we’ve seen thus far.  Those of us who are in this for the long haul know this instinctively and welcome the opportunity to shape the future.

That said, the Council members (who are squarely on the front lines of galvanizing change) have been working hard to put together some thinking on what’s working and what’s not  on the Adoption Trail.  In addition to our full-day workshop, we have an  entire track devoted to adoption issues at the conference this year.  I invite you to hear directly from these customers– at their sessions, at lunch, at the bar, in the halls… wherever they are.  You’ll know them because they’ll be wearing our pins, as well as a star on their badges.  We have over 30 Council members attending from a variety of industry sectors including: IT/High Tech, Telecommunications, Pharmaceuticals, Public Utilities, Government, Construction, Publishing, Retail, Non-Profit, Health Care, Financial Services, and Manufacturing.

On the last day of the conference, in the last session time slot, I’ve reserved time to discuss “what we missed” in our agenda planning.  As board members, we try hard to include everything topical that’s fit to present, but invariably, we could fall short and miss or underplay something important.  This session is an attempt to capture that lost content and discuss it with a panel of customers and industry thought leaders (including Dennis Howlett and Lee Bryant, as well as a team of sharp shooter Council members).  So, while you’re attending sessions, please keep a mental note of anything you feel has been missing from the dialog all week and bring it to the session.  We’re going to try and keep the session as interactive as possible.

Look forward to seeing you all in Boston.