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A Social Business Index Round-Up

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By now many of my colleagues and a decent part of the tech press has had a chance to kick the tires and post their points of view on the grand opening of our new Social Business Index (SBI). For those that haven’t heard much about it yet, I’ll go through their useful contributions below. For those that have seen it, I wanted to provide a bit more detail on the service as well as a pair of brand new interviews I conducted with two of the individuals most closely connected to the SBI. We truly believe the index is a powerful and significant new social business intelligence platform, as well as what we hope is an invaluable and freely available public service.

Reactions to the SBI

First, let’s go through the most significant and insightful pieces in the media to tease out what the SBI is and what it can do.

One of the best summaries was by Robin Wauters of Techcrunch, who wrote:

In essence, the information service aims to provide some insights into how ‘social’ companies are, and how they stack up against similar corporations in their respective industries and their competitors, and provide some ‘social business’ benchmarks by company, subsidiary, geography, department and brand.

If Klout and PeerIndex are about trying to measure the ‘socialness’ and influence of people and rank them, Dachis Group basically wants to do the same for corporations, in real time.

It’s a good distillation of the key points, that the SBI normalizes social activities so that it can actually be measured between companies, and that it provides different key dimensions to slice and dice comparisons. It’s also updated in near real-time, which distinguishes it from virtually all of the other social business rankings.

Over at The Next Web, Courtney Boyd Myers noted the breadth and depth of the SBI’s tracking over 100 million social media accounts:

The Dachis Group says its SBI is derived from company, employee, partner/vendor, customer, engaged market and influencer data, and it is sourced from scraping sites like Twitter, Facebook, Wikis, YouTube, forums, and blogs as well as data buys, data partnerships, company contributions, and its own internal data team. It had over 100 of the world’s largest companies participating in its early access program to help cement the data and gain insights as to how the data is used.

In this way, as companies change the way they behave and in engage in these channels, and the world responds to it, the changes will be reflected in the score and other metrics that the SBI lists publicly. The SBI provides a long-awaited continuous feedback loop with social media that can be used to dramatically and quickly transform the way companies engage with the marketplace by giving them a normalized benchmark — along key performance indictators (KPIs) — to respond to.

It was Arik Hesseldahl at All Things Digital, which got right to the heart of the matter, rhetorically asking “Which Company Is the Most Social? Check the Social Business Index“:

As so many companies have learned the hard way, it doesn’t take much for an unhappy customer to organize an army of similar-minded people on Twitter. The case that always comes to mind is when in 2008 mothers got mad at Motrin, giving Johnson and Johnson a headache.

Episodes like this put the onus on companies to be social, and some do it better than others. Today the Dachis Group, an outfit that helps companies get a handle on all things social media, launched its Social Business Index which ranks, in real time, the most socially-active companies.

But some of the best descriptions of the Social Business Index came from folks at the Dachis Group. All of them are worth reading and offer a unique perspective. While probably do not have time to go through all of them, as you use the SBI and want to understand it better, they can help. These posts include:

You can also read my own take on the SBI on ZDNet, exploring how it delivers on the promise of big data to bring highly innovative and emerging new capabilities to the social business community.

Finally, I was also able to sit down and catch up with the two folks that have been instrumental in creating the Social Business Index itself. The SBI is the brainchild of Dachis Group CEO Jeff Dachis himself and I was able to sit down with him and talk about his vision behind the index. I also was able to talk with our CTO, Eric Huddleston, whose technical leadership with the SBI product team made the launch of the index possible.

Interview on the SBI with Jeff Dachis

Interview on the SBI with Erik Huddleston

We’ve also been asked quite a bit over the last few days about how the index works and what it’s made of. To address this, we’ve been contributing to an informative Google+ thread that’s been building all week. It’s good place for those that want more details on the inner workings of the SBI as well as some thoughts on future plans. Please give us feedback on our various social channels including comments below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

We’re pleased at the very positive reception of the SBI so far and look forward to expanding it and improving it in the very near future!

Converging on the Social Enterprise

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I was in San Francisco last week for Dreamforce, the yearly confab for Salesforce that has had a major focus on social business the last couple of years. There’s little doubt that Marc Benioff clearly sees the very near future of business, and it’s something he calls the social enterprise. While you can read my blow-by-blow of the opening presentation, which was one of the most impressive cases for becoming a social enterprise yet made in my opinion, the process of social business transformation is a complex one and isn’t going to be made so explicitly by many firms.

That’s not to say that some organizations, either by inclination or through gifted leadership (or both), won’t naturally adopt social business methods. To them, the patterns, tools, and modes of participation are even easier ways of working than what they do today and there are relatively few obstacles. Those aren’t the companies that will ultimately have a dark night of the soul as they look at what their competitors are starting to accomplish and wonder how they can get there too. As the evidence mounts that socially engaged workforces, along with their trading partners and customers, result in more productive, efficient, and profitable enterprises, it will be — by definition — the organizations less likely to be able to make the transition that will have the most challenges and the longest path.

This was a key point made at Dreamforce, namely that there is a growing “social divide” between 1) our customers and workers, and 2) our organizations, the latter of which have been much slower to adopt social methods of engagement, both internally and to the world at large. Like Benioff, I’ve long predicted that the gap between how we’ve changed as a culture and society will become untenable with the relatively slow rate at which many of our businesses are adapting to these changes. Benioff has gone so far as to seriously suggest that there will be a “Corporate Spring”, analogous to what’s happened in the Middle East this year, that will change the status quo positively from companies to governments as aging and obsolete methods are cast aside by workers for better social ones.

Frankly, this loss of control is evident in many organizations when they do any kind of application audit these days: Workers are using the means that pose the least barrier for them in getting their work done. Social media is increasingly winning the growth game with shadow (unsanctioned) social tools for collaboration, for example. These are technology and behavioral shifts that just about every CIO is closely tracking at the moment.

Social Enterprise: Data plus apps plus participants = business value

But the transition to the social enterprise, as inevitable as some (including myself), think it will be, will not be as simple as buying the latest social software solution — no matter how good — and declaring victory. For starters, the process involves genuine cultural change even more than than it requires technology enablement. Then there is the sheer size and variability of the enterprise itself to contend with. The truth is that as compelling as comprehensive platform visions such as what Salesforce articulated last week are, the journey towards social enterprise involves conscious decisions to change organizational behavior, business strategy, and technology.

How Social Business Convergence Is Happening

Here is my premise: Just as the early rise of departmental use of social media in marketing, communication, and collaboration has escalated to more organized and sophisticated methods, I’ve noticed that there has started to be what I’ll call a convergence to social business. This is opposed to a “revolution” or a “transformation” though those will certainly happen in the large over time. Instead, based on what I’m seeing in the case studies, stories, research, news, and with clients are the following changes that — is a series of loosely connected yet closely related changes — gives us a portrait of how our organizations are most likely to evolve in these directions over time. The exact details may vary for you, but this is how organizations generally will make the transition to social business:

  • Moving from some participant channels, then to all separately, and finally together. Right now most organizations are just developing their social engagement capabilities for B2C, B2B, E2E, and E2B. They will develop them separately for the most part, then learn the importance (and need) to cross-connect them strategically and then begin unifying the platforms, organization roles, resources, and processes so that there is consistency, reduced duplication, better governance, and higher business impact. The organizations that can do this in the fewest steps will be the winners and they will be aided by increasingly mature platforms from the largest vendors, though some companies will roll their own.
  • Going social generally first, then connecting social activity to work processes. Those that have been following the extensive discussions recently in the social business community are becoming more aware of how important that social activities be integrated with high value work streams. If business applications for customer care, product development, operations, and so on are isolated from social tools, then by definition there will be limited impact. Most organizations will adopt general purpose social communities (internal and external both) and then begin the hard work of integrating them to line of business applications as well as producing new kinds of socially-enabled applications that didn’t exist before, such as social intranets, location-based apps, and much more. Lesson: Those that can put social to work with business apps via a more direct and meaningful route will generate substantially more business value than those that don’t.
  • Starting at the departmental level and then creating enterprise-level social business capability. This is the story around the social business unit and CIO-level programs to provide the strong technical support. Unfortunately, cultural support for change will lag in many organizations that don’t have strong social business leaders at an executive level, as serious a hindrance as not having social business capabilities themselves.
  • Top-down leadership and grassroots initiatives meet in the middle, then sort it out. Most organizations have blogs, wikis, social CMS and other social media lurking in the margins, some even that are quite successful. At the same time, many organization are indeed pushing out official efforts but ones that don’t necessarily have support and buy-in from workers. Very often, the issue is with different parts of the organization at approximately the same level will engage in internecine conflict until their approach, platform, or preeminence wins out. While this is what happens at first, slow in same cases, though more quickly for high functioning organizations, the issues get resolved and the various parts of the organization generally becomes “calibrated” in the same direction, resulting in a unified approach to social business in general.

It’s clear that social business can be an arduous and difficult road for some, but it’s also a profoundly rewarding one as organizations consciously update their digital strategies for the 21st century to reflect the realities of and changes in the modern world today. The good news is that we now know more than ever before what the broad outlines of the transition to being a social enterprise will look like. I think you’ll find that aids like the list above helps see the context and the eventual end point to aim for. There are also many other valuable lessons learned accumulating in places like the Social Business Council and the Community Roundtable. For now, smart and forward-thinking organizations will begin looking more holistically at how they are evolving and develop strategies to make the transition with the least disruption, fewest steps, aimed at the most constructive and valuable outcomes.

What else are you seeing in terms of convergence of social business activities in your organization?

Social Business Intelligence: Positioning a Strategic Lens on Opportunity

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Recently I’ve been tracking the growth of social analytics and the means of delivering well on it. Connecting analytics to the needs of the business is the next step beyond basics of collating, aggregating, and identifying patterns in what the world is doing that affects your organization. On ZDNet recently, I explored the rapidly growing trend of big data. Collectively, big data represents a set of highly innovative new ways that companies are developing to distill value from the sheer scale, richness, and complexity of today’s vast networks of people and their data, of which the Internet is just the biggest example. It is social media in particular, however, where big data and business value intersect.

Technology of any kind isn’t very useful to us unless it’s put to work. This is where one of the most interesting new parts of the social media landscape has been forming, namely in the new field of social business intelligence. This is the discipline of monitoring the whole of the social media world while continuously deriving insight from the aspects of it that matter to you, strategically or tactically, depending on your needs. I say aspects instead of conversations, because while analytics will give us useful metrics, it’s only until we apply the lens of business intelligence to the data itself can we clearly see the deeper and larger scale implications for our businesses.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of blur between social analytics and social business intelligence. They’re both relatively nascent fields that have plenty of overlap. So where social analytics is about the measurement and data mining of the social universe for any reason, social business intelligence is concerned with a more holistic process aimed at specific business outcomes, depicted conceptually in the visual below.

Strategic View of Social Business Intelligence

To be sure, there are many different flavors of social business intelligence just as there are many reasons why organizations will want to create business processes around the feedback loop that forms. Currently, many of the processes involved are manual and ad hoc as the industry has felt its way forward and learned how to engage more meaningfully with social media. A few companies on the leading edge have increasingly formal social business intelligence processes based on sets of capabilities they’ve acquired or built. Other firms have hardly any technology at all, other than perhaps some reports and spreadsheets.

They are all seeking the same thing however: To pinpoint the opportunities and identify the events that matter most to them so they can engage. The actual response to social business intelligence insights will vary entirely based on what is learned. It can be strategic and affect how the companies evolves its products and services or the way it engages in entirely new and innovative ways with customers. Or just as likely, it’s on-the-ground insight that drives individual interaction or collaboration with prospects, customers, business partners, and others whose current and past activities social media have been identified as important.

Developing your social business intelligence capability will be a journey that will have stages, like any other process of development. For most organizations, it’s just a set of experiments at the moment. But over time, with hard-won lessons learned, it will become more formal and institutionalized. Usually too soon, the question of centralization will come up, since it’s often one of the experiments in a particular corner of the organization or another that will have significant success. It almost certainly will be asked if it makes sense to share this best practice and locate it in the social business unit or other centralized social media management capability. For now, encouraging decentralized experimentation is more important than achieved the economies of scale, since local successes are rarely likely to meet the whole organization’s needs. What’s most important is making as many discoveries as possible about what works and what doesn’t.

Right now we are tracking a rapidly growing and expanding set of providers of social business intelligence. Products like Radian6, Kontagent, and SAS Social Media Analytics are just three examples out of many of social analytics tools that also provide some level of deeper social business intelligence features. Over the next few years, there will be numerous entrants into this space, as well as additions to existing social media services, as the industry as a whole learns the ways that companies can turn their social engagement with the world into real opportunity and value.

Often starting as a secondary requirement of early social media monitoring and listening efforts, for now, these are the leading drivers behind social business intelligence capabilities:

Drivers of Social Business Intelligence

  • Marketing Optimization. Marketing has long been an early adopter of social media, and it’s no different with social business intelligence. Now instead of reports and dashboards that merely show the what, marketers can find out the why. With social business intelligence, companies can craft much more detailed yet fully integrated qualitative pictures of the inbound funnel, identify why engagement strategies are working or not, and organize systematic, yet mass-customized responses in scale.
  • Capturing Ideas and Unmet Needs. Going beyond the trend analysis of analytics allows the processing and isolation of the deeper implications of social media activity. Social business intelligence can capture innovation, new ideas from the marketplace, identify customer wants and desires, and identify the gaps in your organization’s services.
  • Situational Awareness. Identifying and tracking the top trends, understanding when critical situations arise to protect customer experience or brand, and much more. Going well beyond low-level analytics, social business intelligence can help make sense of more data than any manual or raw analytic process ever could.
  • Customer Care Opportunities. Fully empowering Social CRM, social business intelligence can augment the interaction with customers in social media by improving the triage, prioritization, and resolution process of customer care.
  • Sentiment Analysis. While social analytics can provide some basic insight into a customer’s state of mind, only more sophisticated methods can semantically process and assess the actual meaning of the social media conversations involving your company or its products in order to derive actionable insight.

As I pointed out recently, the focus of your social business intelligence efforts will be rooted deeply in business-specific motivations, thus these are just a small sample of the ways organizations will employ the capability. To give you a better sense of the possibilities I will explore specific examples of companies employing the strategies above successfully in upcoming posts.

What does all this mean for you now? In my opinion, it’s virtually certain at this point that social business intelligence will become a vital component of the way that companies derive bottom-line benefits from social media including revenue growth, innovation, cost reduction, and more successful line-of-business operations. So connect to the world, start your experiments, and start learning how to make it work for you.

The Path to Co-Creating a Social Business: The Early Adoption Phase

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The figures vary but in the last several years a major change has begun in organizations around the world. Sometimes the efforts are small and unsanctioned, sometimes they are big and bold, but increasingly businesses are employing social media strategically to engage deeply with both their workers and customers. We see this all the time in the large firms represented in our Social Business Council and elsewhere.

One of the biggest challenges these efforts face, whether they are internal or external, is that engagement via social media is generally perceived as a voluntary activity. As in, workers can collaborate and customers can choose to interact with a business through older channels that are often more familiar and better supported by the organization itself. Or they can engage through social channels. For people to choose the social path of engagement as the most suitable one, there need to be motivations and incentives that are aligned with that path.

As companies seek to ensure the highest level of success with their social business efforts, I am seeing that they want a proven, reliable way to drive adoption of their social business strategy, whether it’s an Enterprise 2.0 initiative, a social media marketing program, or Social CRM effort. But social media is not as deterministic and controllable as the channels that have come before it. It’s one of the reasons I say that adoption of social media can only be co-created. It is as much up to the those engaging to create value, sustain engagement, and build community as it is to those that sponsor them. You can’t own a community like you can buy software or a marketing campaign, social business is a two-way street like nothing quite like it. This makes adoption of social business a very different creature from the way businesses used to engage before.

Phases of Social Business Adoption

Fortunately, after over half-a-decade of experience in scale, we can see the broad outlines of adoption, which have stages that are very different based on the state of maturity and overall rate of social business adoption in the organization. In other words, as much as we might like it, there is no “one size fits all” approach to it. Fortunately, we can organize around these different stages, which fall roughly into four parts given below. Specifically, these are:

Phases of Social Business Adoption

  • Early adoption This is the most nascent and delicate state, where there is perhaps only a seed of community and there is no network effect yet or core membership that can help with the essential work of social business building. The goal is to validate the direction, tools, and social business design. This is often called the pilot phase.
  • Critical mass adoption This is transforming a successful early adoption phase into broader uptake that is self-sustaining. I’ve previously observed that this critical mass is around 20% of workers, but has been verified as even less.
  • Mainstream adoption There is usually a long pause between the first two waves of adoption and late adoption. Early adopters are often very early and the remainder are often represented by those who have challenges in engaging in a different way, for a variety of reasons. Specific steps must be taken to address these adoption issues.
  • Sustainable adoption A successful social businesses contains communities of people, their business activities, and supporting tools. They will largely self-organize and grow on their own once you’re well into the critical mass phase and beyond. However, these communities can also decline over time without appropriate care and nurturing. Employees move on, customers decide to leave, your company changes direction. All of these affect the long term health of your communities, and so specific adoption strategies are required for as long as you have a thriving social business environment.

This post is part of a four part series on social business adoption that will explore each of these phases, with early adoption being examined here. For this effort, I’ve contacted over a dozen experienced social business practitioners, tapped into my research, and aggregated the results of numerous case studies. The outcome is what you see here and while it’s probably as definitive as you’ll find, it’s a necessarily limited view of a rapidly moving new field. Also, in the end, what drives adoption best is whatever actually works for your social business project, and what works best for your project often isn’t what’s in the check lists, no matter how good. Social isn’t as predictable or as deterministic as we might like, and that’s the challenge. Of course, it’s also a large part of the opportunity to drive innovative new outcomes you could never otherwise achieve or imagine. So while your mileage may vary somewhat, the adoption strategies presented here can be a very useful jump start of your social business journey.

Recognizing that that although social business is part of a single continuum across workers, business partners, customers, and the marketplace, that internal use of social business and external uses involve participants that have a very different relationships with the organization. Adoption strategies therefore vary the most between these two groups and so they are presented here separately, though there is often significant cross over, particularly in areas like community management and connecting social business activities to relevant business outcomes and bottom-line benefits.

Social Business Adoption Strategy Phase 1 Early Adoption

Note that these adoption phases also take place during the journey of becoming a social business in the large and will be directly informed by that journey. Individual social business efforts, and their adoption strategies, should be loosely connected to what the entire organization is doing and “calibrate” to align themselves in the same direction.

Early Adoption Strategies – Internal Social Business (aka Enterprise 2.0)

While the blur between internal and external communities continues to increase, for now most efforts are still separate. Listed beow are the top adoption strategies for external social business efforts. Begin with these but experiment along the way and find the adoption patterns that are unique to your environment, culture, and constraints.

  • Establish a clear purpose. Ill-defined and vague social business efforts end up with a similar outcome. As Susan Scrupski, who formed the active and highly engaged Social Business Council (disclaimer: this is a Dachis Group online community), conveyed when I asked her what the single most helpful action she took to foster adoption was this: “We established a clear purpose for the community, combined with fostering a sense of trust and a culture of sharing.” Clearly stated intents and objectives let participants self-select, join in, and find what they are looking for while contributing more of the same.
  • Identify and engage adoption champions. Locate and identify unofficial leaders in your target community and get them involved and participating early. They will ultimately do the bulk of the work during the early adoption phase in drawing in participation using the social networks and good reputation.
  • Help leadership set the tone. One of the biggest triggers for adoption is when leadership clearly communicates how they’d like workers to participate in social business. While setting a personal example through participation is best, all it takes is direct, regular, and public involvement by several well-respected executives.
  • Communicate clear policies for usage (cans and cannots.) Social media policies have come a long way from the 7 page fine print of years gone by to simple and clear directives. Specifically, the lessons learned over the years have distilled to focus on explaining exactly what employees can and can’t do in the most understandable terms. Bonus points for providing effective suggestions on when they should use social business solutions.
  • Test social UX usability with workers. Inexplicably, usability of a social business design is too often under-tested or performed as an afterthought despite it being one of the biggest drivers of early adoption. If you don’t have budget set aside for A/B testing (which is proving to be the very effective, though more expensive) and time in the schedule to fix the biggest usability barriers you discover, you will take an adoption hit.
  • Use a consumer-style marketing campaign. How you communicate to workers and the tone you use will set stage for the way its perceived, and in the early days perception of everything. It must be credible but it must also be memorable and convey what’s new and provide motivation to join and try it. John Woodworth of 3M Lab Collaboration used this approach successfully: “Employees already have a preferred product. By using market segmentation and a value proposition for each ‘segment,’ we identified what they would need and how they wanted it delivered. A good customer doesn’t just try your product; they buy it often and endorse it. Focus the sales on finding the ‘good customers’ and the best markets.“.
  • Strategic community management. Especially early on, the facility of community management is one of the only real assets you have to drive social business transformation and adoption. Rachel Happe, co-founder of the The Community Roundtable and a world authority on community management, notes that “community building is a critical element of social business success and typically organizations cannot get there by deploying social technologies alone. There are a variety of contextual factors that can increase or decrease the ease of building a community but there are also some common best practices“. I’ll note these best practices in this list.
  • Connect to business purposes. This seems obvious stated this way, but many look at social business approaches as a horizontal or general purpose communications method more akin to e-mail to IM than a way to improve a specific business activity. Sometimes this is true of course, but the best results often seem to come from those that aimed their social business design at a specific business opportunity. As Lauri Buczek, social media strategist at Intel, recently noted in Mark Fidelman’s Sure Fire Ways To Become A Social Business, “First, identify the business objectives.Ken Domen, an enterprise collaboration lead at a large enterprise, conveyed to me that finding a “killer app” that solves a particular business problem better than before is a strong adoption technique. For example, Ken finds that IM and calendaring apps, embedded contextually in his social environment, to be particularly effective.
  • Proactively share the adoption process. Communities are built by their members, not companies alone. Time after time, as I see particularly effective examples of social business, I see that this is a core value. The more the process is open and members are encouraged and empowered to provide structure, rules of the road, and spread the word, the more ownership, involvement, and productive work results. Experimentation should be encouraged. A leading example is SAP’s million-plus member Community Network (case study) with their SAP Mentor program.

Early Adoption Strategies – External Social Business

As social business scales up and goes external, successful adoption has a new, though often complementary set of requirements. Some of the differences revolve around motivation in that external participants aren’t typically paid to work for the organization like internal participants and so usually have a very different set of reasons they are involved. Other issues that tend to be unique to external social business includes appealing to a much broader demographic and competing with similar communities elsewhere on the Internet.

  • Identify and engage influencers. Enlisting those with strong reputations and contacts related to the purpose of your social business effort has long been understood as an effective adoption pattern. Engagement with influencers takes many forms and should be connected to adoption whenever possible early on.
  • Use content as a participation seed. At first, there’s little in a new community to draw in initial participation. Rachel Happe says this is one of her top three adoption patterns: “Create a content calendar that provides members with something they value and creates opportunities for them to interact.” Obtaining seed content can be resource-intensive and can require more investment than expected if influencers are not well-engaged early. This should be sustained until at least the critical mass phase of adoption and usually beyond.
  • Go to the audience, draw them in. Building a community on a far corner of the Internet makes it hard for new participants to find it. This is one of the reasons that Facebook pages have become so popular, by going directly to where a vast, already social and participative audience is. There are many approaches to this but it can greatly aid adoption when integrated properly.
  • Personal engagement from key business stakeholders. Having the presence of company leaders and providing structured access to them by recognized members of the social business ecosystem provides the deep engagement that’s more likely to both increase participation and lead to useful outcomes. SAP’s Community Network does this proactively (see case study link above.)
  • Reward the remarkable 1%. By now just about everyone is familiar with the 90-9-1 rule, where 90% are passive browsers, 9% contribute a little, and 1% account for a disproportionate amount of the value created. These are rough numbers for external social business participation. While the specific technographics continues to fluctuate a little as the market evolves, the key to driving adoption is ensuring that your most valuable contributors are incentivized appropriately to contribute, once you identify who they are. While timing and perceptions of conflict of interest can be issues, rewards typically run the gamut from simple recognition to more formal business relationships.
  • Proactive community management. Community management continues to make my top list of what helps define a successful, vibrant social business. Rachel Happe includes this in her top three list as well, noting “allocating a full-time community manager that both encourages member activity and keeps the conversation on track.” The biggest misstep I see many social business efforts make is greatly under-resourcing this capability early on. SAP’s Gail Moody-Bird has observed that resources like this “are not a part time job for everyone.
  • Keep it simple. To be usable and effective for the broadest demographic, simplicity in joining, user experience, and conversation are essential to reduce abandonment and maximize the value being exchanged. This is Rachel Happe’s top adoption point as well, “keep the functional environment simple so new members quickly grasp how to participate.
  • Be authentic, don’t overproduce. Over the years, as I’ve collected best practices for online communities, I’ve noticed a common pattern. The fanciest and slickest social business experiences don’t necessarily achieve nearly the uptake as ones that are simple, basic, and straightforward. Though social media marketing aspects of social business can be an exception, excessive polish conveys a sense that too much lipstick is being put on. As John Hagel has talked about a trust paradox and social business, that being truly genuine and letting human realities be exposed is much more likely to sustain adoption and less likely to actively repel participants.
  • Employ the “Us First, World Second” strategy. Time and again, when I’ve spoken to social business efforts, they explained how in the early days everyone was on deck in the organization and helped create the seed of participation. I’ve even heard it phrased that at first “it was 90% us and 10% them, and then later it was 90% them and 10% us.” Driving early adoption in this was is successful but unsustainable at a high level for long and must be timed right. “All hands on deck” may be problematic for your organization for various reasons but it’s a powerful tool for early adoption when it can be used.
  • Build trust and a culture of sharing. This is one of Susan Scrupski’s adoption lessons and has been repeated by just about everyone I’ve spoke with over the years. It’s not just enough to build trust, the culture must be one where the free exchange of ideas is valued and encouraged, because that’s the observable value that drives innovation, better decisions, and more. Building that culture requires leading by example and rewarding contributors both.

Note that this list cannot be exhaustive and there are literally dozens of techniques large and small that one can attempt to drive adoption of social business. You should also never forget the fundamental cycle of listen, analyze, measure, and respond. However, these cover the more widely used and repeatable techniques that I’ve seen of the many social business efforts that I’ve examined over the years. I’ll be covered the remaining adoption phases in upcoming posts but welcome your feedback to improve and extend this list.

Looking to the Frontiers of Social Business

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Recently I’ve been taking a close look at what is coming next in social business. While social media has grown to become standard in just about every company’s business portfolio, it’s just as clear that things are not standing still. The business blogs and customer forums of a half decade ago are still here (and still important), but the larger strategic discussion has moved well beyond them to more transformative thinking, with approaches to match.

This week I’ve spent a lot of time looking at one of the next frontiers of social business, the intersection of application software and social networks. As I examined on ebizQ, the next app you use is increasingly likely to be inside a consumer social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn (no solid word yet on how Google+ apps will work.) This trend is also moving into the enterprise as social apps have started becoming available in Enterprise 2.0 platforms, as I recently looked at in detail with Jive Software’s Apps Market for their popular social business platform.

Social applications are increasingly proving to be an effective way to direct community-based activity into useful directions and social networks are a natural home for them. By providing application experiences within the users current social context, applications can lightly structure or orchestrate collaborative behavior at useful outcomes. Driving outcomes like this have proven effective across virtually all the departments and functions of the modern organization.

Social Business Capabiity and Maturity Ladder

However, as ripe with potential to reap meaningful ROI from social networking, social apps are just one intriguing examples of the overall evolution of social business. The big picture has been growing clearer in the recent years, even as the landscape keeps moving, as companies have learned to update their digital strategies with social business and begin to genuinely apply what we now understand as the truly transformative power of social media to how they run their businesses.

A Four Step View of Social Business Maturity

The social business ladder, when dealing with the connection of an organization to the broader external marketplace, can be said to have four major steps. Organizations typically start by trying to drive the world to their online presence, a clear extension of their Web sites and typically consists of the addition of blogs, customer discussion forums, and other basic social features. This is effective and useful, to a point, but it’s limited to basic information discovery, high-level awareness, brand messaging, and communication. It is also typically the purview of just one part of an organization, usually corporate communications and/or marketing.

However, companies typically realize there is much more to the social business story than basic social media. They then reach for the second rung of the ladder: Going to the world. This was made easier by large global social networks like Facebook and Twitter — as well as regional social networks in countries where these two market leaders have stiff competition. Driving the market to a social media presence on a corporate Web site is hard work, expensive, and limited in effectiveness compared to just going directly to where the world already is. The second rung is about building reach, establishing network effects, and connecting within the social channels that almost everyone already uses. This is a much more scalable and effective approach and is exemplified by Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and decentralized badges and Like buttons that connect an organization’s content and experiences that are elsewhere on the Web back into the world’s main social ecosystems.

Going to the world is powerful expansion in the way of thinking about and applying social business, but it’s just halfway there. More mature organizations have figured out how to more deeply engage the world via social business by greatly “turning the knob to the right” in how they listen, analyze, and engage. Scale is the name of the game when companies progress to the third rung of social business maturity. Listening to and understanding where all the important conversations are, tapping into them in a timely fashion, systematically understanding their implications to the organization, and ensure that appropriate responses, from simple information returns to complex marketplace collaboration, take place. All of this drives better decisions and results across all lines of business. The list of areas that benefit from engaging with the world including sales, marketing, innovation, hiring, support, operations, supply chain, and more.

Most companies are on the first two rungs and some companies are now on the third rung of this social business ladder. A few companies however, are progressing to what appears to be the next and most advanced level. This stage of social business is the most transformative of all and the natural outcome of the relentless blur that I hear about from more and more C-level executives as they witness the boundaries of their organization changing under the relentless pressure of the new, often highly social, ways that workers and customers use technology to connect with each other. The broad changes that businesses are experiencing are extensive yet they are also looking to be one of the most rewarding ways that we have to enlist the creative and productive output of the global population in rebuilding and growing our businesses. Businesses are asking “What will power next-generation enterprises?” A large part of the answer lies with mature social business approaches on the right side of the chart above. I’ll be looking at some of the more significant implications in the fourth rung in upcoming posts.

How Do Organizations Get There?

To get there, the enterprises of the very near future will have to be more visionary in an on-the-ground and effective way than they are today. As IBM’s Sandy Carter pointed out recently, based on her many conversations, there’s still work to do to communicate that social business involves far more than just PR or marketing. It requires engagement by the entire organization. McKinsey also recently underscored the inverse point, that “we’re all marketers now“, just further proving the point that we’re all much more involved in everything now as business activities become far more connected. In the end, the companies that can manage risk well while enabling their own disruption by climbing the social business maturity curve will be best situated to take advantage of the very significant and measurable benefits.

Where are you on the frontier of social business and why?

Connecting Digital Strategy with Social Business and Next-Gen Mobility

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How do the overarching digital strategies of today’s 21st century enterprise relate to social business and smart mobility? It’s a question I’ve been asked more and more frequently as these two major new trends become primary areas of focus in organizations around the world.

The reality is today that large organizations continue to struggle with how they are organizing around digital strategy in general. In this context I’m referring primarily to Web strategy — including the various aspects of a business it touches — since that’s almost entirely where digital is headed as a whole. One of the aspects that stands out the most when I’ve worked with companies recently is that most traditional businesses often have a dramatically lower level of maturity around digital delivery of their capabilities than native Web firms. This despite it being almost twenty years since the Web arrived. It’s clear there is significant impedance between the way digital business works and the way many companies still operate.

Updating Digital Strategy For Social Business and Mobile

The long-term ramifications of the Web continue to be felt by most organizations, particularly since the evolution of the Internet has not only picked up pace, it’s now profoundly situated in the way society and culture works today. Businesses do increasingly feel the need to catch up and reconcile themselves with these broad changes. Conscious attempts at this include formulating a comprehensive view of what digital strategy means today and this is what we’ll explore in some detail here.

Intersection of Digital Strategy and Social Business and Mobility

Though recent global trends such as social media and next-generation mobile have both appeared over the last five years, an eternity in the online world, most businesses are still only engaging peripherally in these areas. They are the proverbial digital immigrants often significantly behind the curve compared to their Web native counterparts. While most companies have started using social media or providing mobile experiences, the efforts are often experimental and too-often poorly integrated with their older channels such as Web presence, traditional marketing, e-mail, etc. to be truly effective or transformative to their organization.

The good news is that it’s abundantly clear that companies clearly perceive the need to change, even if they are experiencing continuing trouble in deciding on how best to proceed. For example, a new and more detailed breakdown of Jive’s recent social business survey shows that while three quarters of senior executives believe social media is of major importance to their business right now, only 27% think it’s a top strategic priority. However, as I recently explored in detail, there has already been a tectonic shift in the way the world communicates and engages. Traditional channels are declining rapidly in effectiveness, while new channels with entirely new sensibilities and modes of behavior are replacing them.

We also should not forget that the shift to social business is far more than just a channel switch for the world population. Along with it comes a global behavior change in how the people engage with each other. This discussion holds true to a lesser extent of next-gen mobility as well. More importantly, while social business and mobility are sometimes perceived separately, a recent report on mobility by Forrester’s TJ Keitt, explains why they are so deeply connected and belong together, technology strategists “must now must have a mobile-first mindset when designing workplace policies.

Crafting The Big Picture of Your Social Business Strategy

As I alluded to above, a major question I’ve been getting from senior executives quite consistently recently is how these changes relate to the existing digital strategies they’ve been crafting and refining over the years. What they really want to know is if the strategic application of social media and next-gen mobility can be smoothly incorporated or otherwise slipstreamed into what they’re doing today. The short answer is that yes, there is clear overlap and connectedness in this space. But the less happy news is that that successful admission requires much deeper rethinking of the way the business operates, particularly the timeless issues of control, trust, and risk. This is part of the impedance I referred to earlier and is much harder for organizations to work through, which is why many have done so only partially. Consequently, much social business and next-gen mobility consists of “paving the cowpath” instead of getting down to the difficult yet rewarding work of transformation the organization to new modes of operation. Fortunately, part of the solution lies in clearly and explicitly connecting your digital strategy with social business and next-gen mobility instead of implementing it side-by-side or in a vacuum. Of course, it’s usually easier said than done.

We should not forget that most digital strategies are reflections of the parts of the business that were involved in created them. Typically such initiatives are medium to long-term planning tools for marketing or customer relationship management (CRM) departments. Sometimes they are more B2B, Web presence, or e-commerce focused. But whatever their primary goal, the digital strategy picture of today’s business landscape must be complex, nuanced, and filled with a great many (and still growing) critical activities that must be addressed to remain relevant in the marketplace.

Depicted above is an up-to-date representation of the major moving parts of a modern digital strategy, including how social business and next-gen mobility relate. It is not exhaustive but I believe it does successfully connect the main elements of Web strategy to the two major new components that most companies have now added to their operational priority lists in the last two years. Though every company’s digital strategy will vary, there are typically components of social business and mobile that aren’t part of a digital strategy proper yet are a pre-requisite for success. The level of appropriate cross-over is largely up to organizations to decide and prioritize for themselves. I should note that the view of digital strategy shown here holds fairly true for corporations, government, and non-government organizations and indeed, for most entities large and small. Note that this view does not include management, budgeting, policy, or governance functions, which are separate from this functional view of digital strategy.

The Elements of Digital Strategy

Exploring the visual conception of digital strategy above, here is a brief tour through the various elements and how they are connected to and reinforce each other. These explanations are neither complete or sophisticated enough to use as their own basis. For that, you’ll need to delve into the subjects themselves and map your own requirements onto them. When possible, I’m provided supporting links and explanations to assist in this.

The list below travels roughly clockwise around the digital strategy visual above starting with social media marketing:

  • Social Media Marketing. One of the earliest areas of focus in social business, social media marketing remains a major strategic focus in most organizations and will be for some time. Covering an enormous amount of territory, social media marketing is typically the easiest and least risky to start with and is increasingly affecting all areas of digital strategy. Consequently, social media marketing is farthest along in capability in many organization skill levels, capability development in areas such as community management, tool selection, and so on. One of the biggest challenges in this area remains the impedance between push marketing and engagement marketing. In general, simply copying push marketing techniques into social media channels doesn’t work well. The best results come from strategically partnering with the marketplace to jointly co-create the the desired outcomes and network effects. Social media marketing is now near the end of its beginning, and a lot has been learned about how to unlock real ROI with it.
  • Demand Generation. A relatively new aspect of digital marketing, demand generation consists of targeted digital awareness efforts to drive an understanding and interest in a product or service. Most frequently used in business to business, public sector, and longer term business-to-consumer (B2C) sales cycles, demand generation involves multiple areas of marketing. It has been described as the fusion of marketing and sales into a holistic effort using sophisticated support tools that combine data management and intelligence to reach strategic goals. Effective social business integration has also been appearing recently in demand generation platforms like Eloqua.
  • Search Engine Optimization. Long a part of Web strategy, SEO is as important as ever as the proliferation of content accelerates. With pace of content creation increasing, the vast majority of it being user generated, SEO is the intentional treatment of Web markup to ensure that content, traditional and social media both, are readily discoverable. SEO is important both externally as well as internally to an organization and remains a key aspect of digital strategy, though internal implementation is typically neglected to the extent that productivity and efficiency suffers in many organizations making it difficult to locate information on intranets. SEO itself continues to evolve and expand as video, speech recognition (for audio), semantic, and social search engine optimization have entered the picture.
  • Search Engine Marketing. Tightly coupled with SEO capabilities, SEM is the marketing aspect of SEO to promote Web sites and content to increase their visibility for sales and branding purposes.
  • Social Networking Services (SNS) Apps. Applications embedded into social networks have become particularly significant as engagement mechanisms via the co-location of a convenient and potent user experience within the social networking experience. By tapping into users’ activity streams and social graphs, social networking applications have both the immediacy and full social context of their users to create a high-impact and shared social experience. SNS apps run the gamut of purposes including informational, productivity, gaming, and marketing. Most popular in the consumer world, where market leader Facebook has hundreds of thousands of available apps, social apps are now beginning to move seriously into the enterprise as well.
  • Online Advertising. While all businesses must have an online advertising strategy, I find that it is underaddressed in all but the most sophisticated Web industry firms where arbitrage and adaptive ad strategy is commonplace. For example, Amazon allows competitive ads on their own product pages, allowing them to generate revenue on the momentary visitor engagement, even if the customer decide to purchase a product elsewhere. Advertising now goes well beyond text ads into sophisticated user experiences that leverage rich media, social media, cross-platform experiences, contests, co-creation, and carefully designed demand generation funnels.
  • Consumer Social Media. The early world of consumer social media consisting of blogs, wikis, and simple social networks has exploded into a sophisticated world of global social networks, mobile applications, and aggregation involving the majority of the developed world population. Social business strategy connects to this complex landscape by exploring the many motivations and options in engaging with consumer social media to create better business outcomes. I find that many strategists are still not aware that most of the world now uses social media for communication and collaboration, over virtually all other forms of human interaction. Thus, if your organization is looking at engaging the marketplace, consumer social media is at the top of the list even while legacy channels still need to exist for continuity and consistency, while they still bring value.
  • Social CRM. Customer relationship management has been moving into the social sphere for several years now, though the practice is still early in the maturity stages. CRM itself covers the gamut from sales, marketing, customer services, and technical support, and each one of these aspects can benefit from social media. Pre-sales Facebook engagement, online support communities, and crowdsourced technical support are typical uses of Social CRM, with world class examples being GetSatisfaction and Fixya, respectively, have shown that CRM costs can be significant reduced while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Customer Communities. A while back I noted that the best customer communities were often created by customers themselves, instead of by the companies whose products or services they care about. Intentionally creating a successful community is still more of an art form than science, yet some companies have been very successful at it, most notably SAP. Customer communities, which started as little more than online discussion forums, have gone on to become a key differentiator in the way that businesses engage with the marketplace. In this new era, the traditional static corporate Web site is usually a marginalized brochure, with the more meaningful and productive aspects of customer engagement taking place in the structured and unstructured activities of online communities.
  • Community Management. A vital yet growing aspect of digital strategy, community management provides the needed oversight, moderation, and support that social media needs to be successful and sustainable long-term. Often informal, and increasingly recognized as a key function, community management has been gaining respect as a indispensable capability of modern digital experiences that can assure higher levels of success.
  • Affiliate Portals and Communities. These days I hear from a lot of companies that no longer have the staff to reach out to and directly support thousands of business partners and affiliates. These can be everything from supporting broker networks and franchisees to managing suppliers and licensees. Private label communities and social networks have become a prime tool in servicing these constituencies with a fraction of the staff, yet frequently lead to higher levels of awareness, engagement, service, and transaction levels than before.
  • Social Supply Chains and Open APIs. While supply chain management has been one of the last bastions of traditional business to be affected by social media, that is beginning to change. The most recent significant case study is Teva Pharmaceuticals, which reported a manufacturing cycle time reduction of 40% as well as reducing supplier lead time by up to 60% by applying social software to communication challenges. The other related — and just as big — story is open supply chains, typically via open APIs and supported through developer communities, which has lead to a major shake-up in the way business partnerships are digitally delivered.
  • Innovation Management and Crowdsourcing. Peer-production of ideas and work has become an increasingly popular topic as the tools and techniques have matured. Idea management tools using social collaboration, such as Spigit, and crowdsourcing platforms like Crowdspring or Mechanical Turk have led to a small and steadily growing revolution in the way business gets done. I’ve explored the growth of this topic in detail before, but it’s clear it’s just ramping up as co-creation increasingly becomes the norm in the way innovation and work output is achieved today.
  • Workforce Collaboration. Also known as Enterprise 2.0, internal social media has become a very popular topic in the enterprise these days. The way social media is entering organizations varies widely and will often form an initial beachhead in social content management, enterprise social networks, even (and more recently), unified communications. While interest in social intranets in particular is currently on the upswing, the business results are in from many different surveys and case studies: Information can be found faster, knowledge is retained better, and employees are more efficient and productive when there is widespread social collaboration.
  • Web Presence. One of the earlier elements of Web strategy, Web presence now must take into account rich media, CRM, mobility, e-commerce, and more. Often Web presence is put into a silo next to, rather than integrated with, newer digital capabilities since the platforms and tools upon which it is based is either aging or technologically incapable of moving into the present. Web presence remains an important part of digital strategy, but its relevance is steadily being eroded by newer forms of engagement, particularly social media. Proactive firms will find ways to reconcile newer digital strategy elements with what’s becoming a legacy channel for a growing number of organizations.
  • Microsites. The darling of targeted engagement a few years back, microsites remain a popular way to narrowcast online to a target audience or community to increase relevance, deepen reach, and foster engagement. Social microsites have become the next generation of microsite and it can be argued that Facebook pages themselves have become the ultimate microsite platform.
  • E-commerce. The long and steady growth of e-commerce has continued unabated and is on pace to grow into a quarter trillion dollar business in the U.S. alone by 2014. The latest developments include the “Grouponing” phenomenon of connecting discount e-commerce to local business, mobile e-commerce and payment systems, as well as social SEO (now the leader in driving inbound leads) and gaming. Doing businesses online is a booming business, but new entrants will need to use existing distribution networks to catch up while deeply incorporating mobile and social into their efforts.
  • Influencer Engagement. The premise here is that it’s more scalable and easier to reach influencers directly and take advantage of the audiences they’ve created for themselves, rather than reproduce their respective engagement level. While still an important part of any digital marketing strategy, influencer engagement remains largely a bespoke activity while the tools for doing it more scalably are still in their infancy.
  • Analytics and Business Intelligence. Along with Big Data, analytics and business intelligence across the digital spectrum is one of the hot spaces in the industry right now for its promise to derive deep insights and harvest value from the endless streams of social activity taking place today. It’s one of the major reasons we developed and recently launched our Social Business Index and why other companies, such as Salesforce with their Radian6 acquisition, have been focusing their attention on it as well. The premise here is that companies that can make sense of combined behavior of their workers, customers, and partners and make meaningful use of their collective intelligence will have a real competitive advantage.
  • Digital Branding. Branding remains an essential component of digital strategy, even while brands themselves are becoming ever more directly influenced by their customers. The rise in customer-driven marketing and advertising is only matched these days by related branding efforts, which despite cautionary notes to retain essential control, have already been conducted by some of the world’s largest and most influential companies including Ford, Kraft, and LG.
  • E-mail Campaigns. While e-mail is finally in decline in terms of usage, it remains an integral part of digital strategy for the foreseeable future. With the rise of spam and social networks, e-mail is no longer the particularly appealing channel it once was yet it’s still an important touchpoint for CRM and to a lesser extent marketing.
  • Location Services. Location-awareness consist of GPS, compass, RFID and other sensors in mobile devices to drive marketing, sales, CRM, and operations. Still in its early stages for most businesses, location-awareness can drive personalization, useful geographic context, analytics, and usage efficiencies in general for many kinds of applications. Digital strategies should maintain a proactive roadmap for where ambient location information can be incorporated over time to improve the digital user experience along with their supporting capabilities.
  • Mobility Platform Support. Businesses are getting serious this year in adding support for iOS and Android platforms for service delivery of internal and external mobile applications. This requires application development capability and operations support as well as matching analytics, branding, advertising, and other related aspects of digital strategy.
  • Mobile Content Enablement. Mobility support usually includes updating existing content and layout so that it works well with today’s newer mobile devices. This can be extensively automated and is also generally less challenging than developing entirely new mobile applications, though it is also often less effective. Content enablement for mobile can involve a wide range of activities including converting Flash to HTML 5 friendly formats, reformatting and testing Web forms and applications, and wholesale stylesheet/document repository transformation so that existing information assets are readily usable in popular mobile form factors.
  • Consumer and Customer Mobile Apps. The barriers to delivering high quality user experience continue to drop as the cost of high quality mobile app development falls. There is no avoiding the fact that mobile apps are becoming one of today’s prime customer touchpoints. One of the single most effective ways to engage with someone under 30 is to have your app on the first or second screen of their smart mobile device. Mobile applications are on track to become one of the leading ways to engage in the digital marketplace. In my opinion, virtually all companies should be developing competency in this space and ensuring integration with the rest of their Web strategy.
  • Mobile Messaging. SMS and MMS still have some life left in them and indeed remain one of the most popular communication services on the planet. However, they are threatened by new proprietary services such as Apple’s recently announced iMessage service and a growing chorus of independent providers such as Pinger’s popular Textfree app. Despite the technologies long history, businesses are just now beginning to build up real competency in mobile messaging for CRM and marketing (and to a lesser extent co-creation). The coming market fragmentation with major new non-carrier messaging services will likely just be a curve in the road. In general I anticipate that mobile messaging will be even more integrated into new digital touchpoints.
  • Mobile Line of Business Apps. The internal business use of mobile apps is growing in leaps and bounds. Most CIOs I speak with these days are now under significant pressure to deliver existing services via iPads, tablets, and smartphones. While internal app stores are a few years away for most organizations, content and application enablement are now well under way in many companies. Digital strategies typically don’t explore internal apps nearly as much as external, but that may change given the amount of audience blur developing across the channel.
  • Mobile Operations. A fair amount of operational competency and infrastructure development must be brought to bear the deploy the full experience of smart mobile in the enterprise. Bandwidth management for video chat is just one example of the headaches that mobile operations makes acute. Investment in all manner of smart mobile skills is another key area required to fully capitalize on what is one of the fasted growing segments of computing today. Operational capability is needed to deliver successfully on digital strategy in a timely fashion. Planners should be aware of capability levels and should proactive pursue and support funding to develop this area of their organization.
  • Mobile App Stores. App stores are positioned to be the solution delivery conduit for both external and internal mobile applications for the foreseeable future. Digital strategies should plan for this on their roadmaps. While app stores are already the primary acquisition channel today on smart mobile devices, the enterprise itself (as well as the supporting technology) has a long journey to resolve issues around data security, provisioning, and governance.
  • Mobile Security. Not part of digital strategy normally, yet impactful on it, mobile security is going to be a hot topic this year and next, particularly on platforms that are less controlled such as Android. Ensuring customers and workers have a safe and effective mobile experience will be a high priority — though sometimes a significant challenge — for those delivering through digital channels in the next few years.
  • Content and Document Management. Social media has had a sustained and continuing impact on content and document management, to the extent that many of the latest iterations of these tools are major social platforms in their own right (such as Drupal). While this is true to a lesser extent in the enterprise, reconciling the current proliferation of social media, content management, and document management platforms, many which also connect to the public and have digital strategy implications, is one of the bigger challenges for IT departments right now.
  • Intranet Strategy. Intranet strategy, a key aspect of social business, is usually not part of digital strategy proper but ends up being intertwined in it as the boundary blur continues to grow across worker to marketplace touchpoints. I’ve depicted the progression of intranets as one where social media is inevitably a key aspect, de facto or otherwise. Unfortunately, I expect that there will continue to be only a mild integration between digital strategy and intranet strategy given the diversity of their stakeholders.
  • Unified Communication. Social business delivery will increasingly happen in unified communications channels, even if they often aren’t the monolithic software and infrastructure suites that were gaining some traction a few years ago. Unified communications is often moving inside social networks these days rather than the other way around (witness Skype integration with Facebook as just one example), though the jury is still out on IBM and Cisco’s offerings which are growing increasingly strong.
  • Online Video and Podcasting. Rich media remains an important and significant part of digital strategy and social media (when it’s user generated.) However, the growth areas are in multipoint video chat, video archival and search, mobile video (both recorded and live broadcast), and of course, sharing capabilities. Integration of video into Web experience and applications is also increasingly popular and the case is increasingly being made that it’s a productivity driver as well. Digital strategies that treat video as a driver of network effect and accumulated value growth will have the largest long-term ROI.

Those organizations that take the time to coherently plan their digital strategies, as long as they are agile and flexible in keeping them updated, revised, and connected to ground truth, will do far better than those that only adopt approaches ad hoc and hope for the best.

For most however, digital strategy planning can be one of the most rewarding and beneficial tools in helping organizations rethink what they are doing in order to adapt to the seemingly onrushing future. Without appropriate care, however, they can also be an unrealistic albatross without deep connection to internal stakeholders and change champions that are effective in turning vision into reality. I urge you to look at the recent work on emergent strategy and business architecture as well as an updated view of IT consumerization to help you in your planning and create the best result.

You may also find our new Social Business CIO Shortlist as well as the Social Business Landscape as useful cross-checking aids.

Get in touch with Dachis Group Today

 

The Social Business Stack: The Elements

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Trying to stay up-to-date with the many moving parts of social business can be a full time job today. The technologies, trends, and techniques of social media as applied to business is evolving constantly and moving so quickly that it can be difficult to understand how all the pieces currently fit together. In information technology, we have long used the stack model to break down the description of a complex system into sets of related functions. It’s not perfect in that it’s a static view, and social business is very dynamic, but it’s a good start and lets us achieve some useful intellectual control over the elements of social business and how they relate to each other.

There have been some good attempts recently to map the social business space into something more understandable. One of the most compelling is Jeremiah Owyang’s Social Business Stack for 2011. He likens the social business space to a “Cambrian explosion” of products and services, which is certainly true. But it’s also the case that some of the most critical aspects of social business aren’t products or services at all. While the vendor offerings in the social business landscape currently contain well over a thousand products, it’s just as important to have a deep understanding of the core elements that every social business effort must contain and deliver on successfully, products and otherwise.

The Social Business Stack: The Elements of Social Media

The social business stack visual above articulates these core aspects of social business that should be the focus of any practitioner. In this view, people in social networks and the data they create and share form the first two vital layers. The delivery layer describes the physical mediation between social media and the real-world, usually the user experience (UX), though there are other ways of delivering social business experiences as well, such as with open APIs, which are just as important.

The next three layers are key enablers of social business but are less widely understood and/or mature, but are just as important. Aggregation drives efficiency in consumption and participation, while discovery and analytics makes the activities of people and the information they create much more useful over time. Management and security provide necessary abilities to govern and secure social business activities. And finally, with the business model layer, we focus on the desired outcomes, which means having a clear understanding of how your social business activities are creating value for the organization.

Note that this particular view of the social business stack is primarily one of nouns or things. There is another corresponding view of the activities of social business (the verbs), which are just as vital to the story and which I’ll post soon as well. In the next few weeks, I’ll explore the layers of the social business stack in more detail, exploring the strategic aspects and how they contribute to a healthy, vibrant, and highly enriching place to engage in high-value business activities via social media. In the meantime, I’d like to invite your commentary and contributions to expand and fill out what I’m hoping will be an authoritative view of the moving parts of social business.

The social business stack visual above has been placed in the Creative Commons. It also contains a current version number and I’ll update it periodically as we add to it the latest developments as they emerge, as well as any suggestions and criticism we receive.

2011 Sydney Social Business Summit

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For the last two years, the Dachis Group has held a curated series of events around the world on the topic of Social Business, known as the Social Business Summit. We believe that helping organizations explore the relevant issues on this increasingly vital topic will help provide the background and insight to make decisions on acting on Social Business simpler and easier. As I explored recently in our Social Business series for CIOs, while social media is very much a full spectrum, company-wide activity, it will be business leaders that will provide the support to make it happen. So everyone can benefit from the information, we are releasing the 2011 Sydney Social Business Summit videos and presentation slides in their entirety.  This opens up the leading-edge knowledge and experience assembled that day in a way that is very “Social Business” in nature.

The first Summit was held on March 2nd in beautiful Sydney, Australia at The Mint on Macquarie Street located downtown. The elegant venue was a great environment for a conference aimed at helping business and technical leaders navigate their way through the latest trends in business, society, and culture. The speakers for Sydney were selected for their industry authority as well as regional experience and background. The Summit was opened by Dachis Group Chief Strategy Officer Peter Kim who provided an insightful introduction to Social Business topics both globally as well as for Australia and surrounding environs. Peter underscored the theme of the day by posing the challenge to the audience, “How do you best organize yourself to support Social Business across your organization?

The next speaker was Martin Stewart-Weeks of Cisco, who gave both an overview and deep dive of how businesses are getting smarter and more connected using social media. One of my favorite lines from Martin’s presentation was “collaboration is an unnatural activity between non-consenting adults.

Kevin Tate came next and gave a highly engaging presentation on the world of business-focused Facebook applications, particularly something that’s becoming known increasingly as “large-scale social experiences”. Kevin shared what we’ve learned as the world’s largest Facebook Preferred Developer Consultant, including what works and what doesn’t in achieving business objectives in Facebook, noting that it is not yet ideal for creating a traditional sales funnel or conducting push marketing. As far as Facebook’s strengths, Kevin observing that they are in creating unparalleled awareness, amplification, and participation to be where the 700 million member global social networking platform outperforms when it comes to Social Business. Kevin wrapped up with a key insight that I believe all organizations must absorb, though it will be a challenging lesson for many: “Today, you have to earn your way into your customer’s attention streams.

After Kevin, IBM’s Josh Scribner provided a useful overview of the workforce engagement aspect of Social Business, sometimes called Enterprise 2.0. Using IBM’s internal experience in becoming a Social Business, Josh explored what IBM has learned as they’ve transformed nearly the entire organization into a Social Business including the importance of community management and making sure they were addressing long standing pain points in the organization. Josh presented some useful data on a Social Business impacts breakdown that listed increased skills, access to experts, and better knowledge sharing as benefits reported by stakeholders in the organization.

As lunch wrapped up, a musical improvisation session was provided that helped attendees get more used to extemporaneous collaboration.  Then I gave a detailed overview of what we’re seeing with internal and external Social Business today and what it takes to succeed by exploring the latest success stories.  After my presentation, visual business thinker Dave Gray explored his latest ideas around The Connected Company, which takes the viewpoint that businesses can’t be treated as machines, as much as some try to, but treated for what they are: organic entities. Dave’s thinking has been enumerated in detail in The Connected Company and the backstory including his research and citations. As always, Dave is thought provoking and profound in his insights. It will be common, in my opinion, for management theory to look more like Dave’s ideas with innovations like work pods and less about hierarchy, org charts, and out-dated, mechanistic business process “optimization”.

I urge you to set aside a bit of time to absorb the great ideas and lessons learned continued in the videos and slides below.  I hope to see you at one of our Summit locations next year, to be announced soon.

You can view the full set of videos and presentations from 2011 Sydney Social Business Summit here:

Peter’s slides can be found here.

Martin’s slides can be found here.

Kevin’s slides can be found here.

Anne’s slides can be found here.

Dion’s slides can be found here.

Cai’s slides can be found here.

Janelle’s slides can be found here.

Didier’s slides can be found here.

Social Business Strategy: The CIO Shortlist

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On and off over the last year on ebizQ, in an ongoing series for large enterprise CIOs, I’ve been exploring how social business has begun overtaking the ongoing transition to digital business in many companies. The majority of large organizations have been investing in their digital business capabilities for over a decade now with varying degrees of success. Now a whole new generation of technologies and macro trends has emerged recently that is driving major changes in the way organizations operate, with social media underlying or influencing many of them. As companies begin strategically positioning social media in their business — which is now often referred to as social business — it’s essential to balance the needs of the traditional large enterprise, such as shared coordination and compliance, with the increasingly compelling need to innovate and modernize to stay relevant in a today’s rapidly evolving marketplace.

To further highlight that the key to successful social business transformation requires careful balance (and matching strategy), a great post this week by Cap Gemini’s CTO Andy Mulholland, underscored the critical points in this conversation for CIOs:

“Most organizations are looking at a very dangerous situation where even if they turn a blind eye to edge-based activities by business managers around opportunities that don’t need to be integrated to, or delivered from, core enterprise IT there are still two obvious big issues that will inevitably end up damaging the enterprise.

The first is a loss of leverage from the overall strength of the enterprise in terms of experience and knowledge. A successful move in one area won’t be recognized and rapidly implemented in other areas to multiply the benefits, or worse unsuccessful ideas will get repeated adding to the cost and time wasted. That’s where the need to really address the combination of social networking, collaboration, knowledge management and business information is required, and yes, it is a radical task, and yes, currently it is a battle between centralized traditional management and new younger business managers, but it’s key!”

- The CIO is trapped between the CEO wanting innovation and the CFO needing compliance

The discussions around this issue, specifically how to move edge innovation in areas like social business into the core of the enterprise, is a concern that’s been discussed for a couple of years now. While approaches such as emergent enterprise architecture have been proposed, the reality is that major moves by the business must be driven, supported, and resourced by the organization’s leaders. The question is whether the way forward past the issues Andy cites above is known, particularly since social business transformation will ultimately be making everything social that can be social. This is pushing organizations towards new types of organization-level strategies such as JP Rangaswami’s “design for the loss of control” mantra.

The CIO in the Driver Seat: Strategically Enabling Social Business

Given the tension between these two, where should CIOs take their organization? That’s the difficult question, given that CIOs can only have so many top priorities. Yet the move to social business is increasingly among them as organizations attempt to improve global collaboration, access enterprise knowledge faster and better, and engage with customers and the marketplace far more effectively than in the past.

So, I’ve culled from my conversations with business and IT leaders in 2011 this CIO shortlist of social business strategy imperatives. Obviously the transition to social business applies to all IT and business leaders, but 2011 has certainly been the year where this conversation has moved into the corner office.

The Social Business Strategy CIO Shortlist

  1. Organize for social business. Defining the roles, operating models, resources, and solution portfolio will be key to reign in the increasingly competing, diverse, and local social media activities within and across organization’s today. Centralizing coordination and support into a social business unit will also address head-on the issue that Andy brought up of innovating on the edge and moving the successes to the rest of the organization. I’ve previously explored the issues in getting an organization ready, decreasing the madness, and gaining economies of scale while still enabling the grassroots action that makes social more effective and productive than older point-to-point approaches. As I explored this week, most important will be gaining an understanding of the opportunities that social business models offer while building competencies in them. Organizing will need to be an enterprise-wide activity and an internal social community is a great way to draw the entire organization into the planning.
  2. Cultivate social business as a strategic IT capability. The tools and technologies of social business are important prerequisites for success. While cultural, organizational, and behavioral change will be harder, it can’t be done without a supporting and enabling infrastructure. This means knitting together and keeping updated the organization’s social business stack, which will increasingly be the loosely coupled backbone through which communication, collaboration, workflow, and business intelligence will flow as worker and customer activity streams are connected together. The CIO’s job? Ensuring that a coherent social business stack is developed and maintained instead of a hodgepodge of local solutions that won’t fit together at an enterprise-level. It also sometimes means empowering local solutions when they work better, as long as they can find a way to reconcile with the rest of the organization, ala CoIT. Skip ahead when possible to the leading edge, which include social app stores and social business intelligence. Finally, lest we forget Andy’s point, it’s also about making the social business capability fully compliant as well.
  3. Transition to new systems of engagement. Across the business, in marketing, sales, product development, customer care, and operations, there is a need to improve communication and collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. Social systems of engagement are increasingly augmenting systems of record, often by wrapping a more social intranet around existing IT service delivery points. Because this is all about business value, systems of engagement should be connected directly to the organization’s emerging social business models including Social CRM, social media marketing, etc. Along the way, don’t lose sight of the fact that systems of engagement aren’t just the social applications, just like IT systems aren’t an entire business solution; it’s all about the full context including processes, support, change management, and especially the social fabric of the organization, the people.
  4. Identify and focus on the high impact aspects of social business. While ROI accumulates continuously in social systems, with every interaction in a social business ecosystem leaving behind value in open, reusable manner, some areas have more value than others. In particular, measurement, analytics, and business intelligence provides some of the most strategic returns at the enterprise level, provided that it’s applied and there’s a closed feedback loop (managers actually look at the dashboards, reports, trends, and insights and take action based on what they see). One of the things I hear the most from managers and executives is that they’d like to spot trends in their business as soon as they happen, while there’s time to get out ahead of the situation. This is possible in the open information and shared knowledge inherent in social business systems of engagement, particularly when they’re connected to systems of record (i.e. the sales system is connected to the enterprise social network, the ambient buzz from which can identify upcoming deals, issues with existing clients, etc.)
  5. “Ungovern” social business. At the leading edge of management theory is the concept of much more loosely integrated work groups that are empowered to work much more autonomously than before. These are Dave Gray’s work pods, based on results from market leaders such as Xerox, Procter & Gamble, AT&T, and 3M, or Ruslan Kogan and The Rise of Unorganizations (link thanks to Andy Mulholland). In this same way, governance itself is becoming a distributed and more open function as well. As business delivery channels and IT service delivery models seemingly proliferate without end, it requires a much more decentralized model to keep in line with concerns and objectives at an enterprise level. In this content, successful governance of social business will look more like work pods charged with the task and less like central committees that slow down the works.

Of course there’s lots more that could be added to this list, but keeping it short and sweet is essential to have the focus on what’s most important. For now, the CIOs I speak with are mostly not looking this comprehensively at social business. No, unfortunately, legacy baggage tends to demand most of their attention and it makes IT leadership largely focused on the past, rather than the future. But as I pointed out in the series, this is a time ripe with opportunity for IT to be a business driver like never before in the history of the industry. In the end, I would now make the modest proposal that the CIOs that can find a way to invest in their future and consequently social business strategy, rolling digital strategy into it, will likely be significantly better off than the other way around. I invite your comments and observations in comments below for discussion.

For additional background, please read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the Social Business and Next-Generation CIO Series.

Moving Beyond Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement

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When we look back at the first decade of the 21st century, it will be obvious that a few momentous changes in the business and computing landscape occurred. Of these, one of the most profound has been a decreasing emphasis on systems of record and the move towards what are called systems of engagement. Over the last 30 years, information technology has transformed the business landscape by capturing, structuring, and automated a growing percentage of the information that our businesses require to operate. This has offered a multitude of benefits to the organizations that have heavily invested in IT, not the least that information technology has been the one area where world class companies typically invest more than average performers. This is in contrast to finance, HR, or procurement, where the best companies usually spend far less than middle-of-the-road companies.

However, in the last decade, a few industry observers have noted seemingly diminishing returns on the strategic value of technology to drive additional business value. In fact, towards the turn of the millennium, debates raged on whether IT had become just another commodity (or not) while the the gap continued to grow between companies applying IT well in terms of business performance and those who weren’t. As I pointed out in a recent post on organizing for social business, that the productivity gap looms ever larger. In a closely related trend, my colleague, well known business thinker Dave Gray, has been exploring how companies, becoming ever more global and conglomerated, experience dramatic productivity drops as they grow. This paints a discouraging picture for companies that have either not become digital natives or are dealing with the intense communication and collaboration overhead of today’s massive organizations: Better business performance is increasingly harder to come by as the easiest opportunities are seized.

How The Social Web and Internet Are Changing Business

How The Social Web and Internet Are Changing Business: Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement

The reality is, however, that the vast majority of large organizations have been direct beneficiaries of decades of IT investment. To date, the bulk of that investment has been in a category of IT sometimes known as systems of record. These are the well-known bread-and-butter applications (and their databases) that run our firms and contain the business records, electronic documents, and countless other information artifacts that we use to conduct the routine minutia of daily business. It’s safe to say that most firms would go out of business without the data within and automated capabilities of their systems of record. But systems of record are increasingly 1) becoming commoditized by SaaS and the cloud and 2) most organizations have reached the carrying capacity of the approach: There’s very little left to store and automate that isn’t already. So where are new business gains to be had?

Systems of record have matured to the point where there’s only a little strategic advantage to having your own unique capability. Instead, the discussion on strategic technology has shifted to the other 40% of what businesses in industrialized nations do: Knowledge work. These are highly variable, dynamic, and increasingly fast-moving processes that focus on the higher order activities of a business. Knowledge work involves high levels of communication and collaboration amongst the most valuable workers a company possesses. They are also represented in the most strategic activities taking place within an organization.

Thus, using technology to enable knowledge work as a strategic capability has sparked a growing interest in improving what are increasingly known as systems of engagement. As a key part of this, the rise of social media in the middle of the last decade has done a lot to change the global focus on how we look at communication and collaboration between knowledge workers. A corresponding change came when technology innovation and rate of change in the marketplace began to outpace what most organizations could adapt to. This has led to the aforementioned generational shifts in focus, and in certain early instances industry disruption, in the way we apply technology to business problems. Witness what open source has done to commercial software or what the Internet has done to traditional media (music, TV, movies, newspapers, electronic gaming, etc.) to get a sense of what is now also happening to the information technology and communication industries today.

The Shift from Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement

For enterprises, ground zero for the transition to systems of engagement in many companies often centers around any pending update of the corporate intranet. Even today in most organizations, the intranet is much more of a system of record than it is a system of engagement. This is beginning to change and we can clearly see it in discussions that members have in the Social Business Council and in the initiatives that they are taking, which I’ll explore in coming months.

What’s also clear about the changes taking place in businesses today is that systems of record are not going away. They’re a critical element of our business infrastructure and have their rightful place. Instead, we’ve discovered how we’ve often overestimated them and their ability to provide us with the tools to empower the most valuable and highest leverage aspects of our organizations. Watching what’s been possible on the Web, we’ve learned that we’ve correspondingly under-emphasized the ability to enable and transform the most important element of business today: How we as humans can best work together to create value and achieve objectives. In last year’s survey of the social business landscape, I explored in detail the many emerging ways this is changing in the large and how enterprises are generally behind the times as the consumer world creates and proves out powerful new ways of tapping into and unleashing human potential. Enterprise 2.0, in the form of internal social networks and other models, are just the beginning here.

New systems of engagement are now receiving considerable attention in the forms of online communities, crowdsourcing, Social CRM, open APIs, and many other means as a way to connect customers and business partners together to achieve useful outcomes with the most cost-effectiveness and largest result. From just one recent example of many of this trend, this week Gartner reported thatwithin five years we expect that community peer-to-peer support projects will supplement or replace Tier 1 contact center support in more than 40 percent of top 1,000 companies with a contact center.” Social systems of engagement have already become the primary way that we communicate in our personal lives and this is also happening for businesses.

In recent conversations around how IT is changing, it’s been clear that this is part of a larger trend, part of it the move from push to pull systems, part of the move from the center to the edge, but all of it shows how networks and simple, freeform, emergent tools can enable much bigger results than the transactional systems of old. If you are investing in strategic new technologies today to drive your business forward, I believe this is one of the most important investments you can make at this time. Make no mistake, however, that this is very much an unfolding story and we’re all learning from watching the leaders. But as I’ve covered here and many times in the past, it’s a change that very few organizations will be able to skip and survive.

I’ll be exploring systems of engagement in more detail as part of my Why Social Business Is Different series. Stay tuned.

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