A Social Business Platform, What it Can’t Do…

This post is for those thinking about, beginning, or having issues regarding their company’s Social Business Transformation. 

unmet-expectations

Putting aside the platitudes of expectations heaped among the companies that embrace and strive to become more “Social”, there are some realities bound to the actual Social Business Platform (SBP) that you need to know in terms of managing expectations both upstream and downstream within the organization.

You probably heard of the “Do’s &  Dont’s” regarding Social Business Platforms and Transformations.  Those “Do’s & Dont’s” are focused on the “how” a SBP is designed and deployed, but I want to get more specific and talk about what a SBP CAN’T do for your organization, your people, your business on its own merits, and how you can effectively manage thru them.

I will break these down along 2 major pillars:
1. Organizational & Cultural
2. Technology-Related

Organizational & Cultural Changes:

A Social Business Platform (SBP) CAN’T:

  • Force people to Collaborate, Listen, and Trust
  • Force the changing of entrenched Corporate Stereotypes
  • Force breakdown of negative Information Silos
  • Retain existing Employees and attract new Talent
  • Change the way Strategic Planning is done
  • Guarantee Executional Readiness for Business Transformations
  • Build engaging Online Communities of Practice and Experts
  • Make Business Decisions for you
  • Make you a better employee, manager, or leader
  • Improve Customer Service
  • Improve Organizational Politics
  • Change Company Culture for the better

Technology-Related

A Social Business Platform (SBP) CAN’T:

  • Fix the lack of a structured organizational Knowledge Capturing processes
  • Consolidate your company’s multiple and separate Employee Directories
  • Provide Single-Sign-On (SSO) capabilities to users
  • Fix your company’s lack of Content Management/Retention Policies
  • Replace your company’s Email (both as a platform and collaboration channel)
  • Replace the best practice of implementing a Mobile Device Mgmt. platform for BYOD initiatives
  • Replace EVERY Document Repository already in your company
  • Replace your current Intranet right “out of the box”
  • Reduce Network Bandwidth issues between remote sites, Corporate HQ,  and your company’s datacenter

So in looking at these 2 lists, it is important to remember a SBP by itself is somewhat limited to what it can achieve.  If you do not resolve some of these expectations around Social Business benefits and existing Technology challenges currently within your enterprise, you will find your transformation exceptionally difficult to undertake.

Remember, the “outputs”.  a.k.a. The BENEFITS of the Social Business Transformation depend on the “Inputs”.

I have seen and heard so many claims to what a SBP can do for the company, then sitting thru many Enterprise architecture meetings and requirement gathering efforts, to where Business and IT come to find the actual platform by itself only offers OPPORTUNITIES to improve the company experiences, rationalize specific technologies, and provide positive Business Outcomes.

Organizations must be primed in multiple dimensions before undertaking a Social Business Transformation. Choosing the Social Business Platform is an important element of that transformation, but without the Change Management Program, the SBP will not solve the existing issues prevalent in the enterprise.

A Proper Change Management Program CAN:

  • Align the Social Business Transformation to overarching company strategy.
  • Ongoing Communication & Commitment by Leadership to support the Social Business Transformation.
  • Creation of the necessary Organizational Structures with detailed Roles and Responsibilities in order to support the Social Business Transformation.
  • Create a Communication Strategy to craft a robust and specific message to the segments of the company so each employee understands the “WIIFM” scenarios
  • Build appropriate Steering Committees comprised of business and operational stakeholders so decisions can be taken on how the Social Business Transformation affects current and future business processes.
  • Ensure the Social Business Transformation has “Sustainable Saturation” to permeate multiple phases of the organization to achieve intended effect.
  • Measure the change and adapt where necessary to maintain alignment with company’s strategy and evolving business demands.

Only with a carefully designed, planned, supported, and executed Change Management Program will a company be able to capitalize on the value a Social Business Transformation can provide and positively impact Business Outcomes.

Today’s Social Business, we need “SIMPLE” and all about the “Me”

Social Business Programs have not penetrated the enterprise to many factions outside of Global Marketing and perhaps segments of the IT organization. In fact what aspects of Social Business tenets penetrate, does not remain a sustainable and viable usage over time. Early excitement gives way to frustration and a sense that to be more collaborative, open, sharing requires far too many complex processes, and seemingly lacks focus on the “Me”. My needs, my desires to make work simpler, to be able to “Work out Loud”[1]

SocialBiz_roadsign-1In almost every company, Social Business or Social Collaboration was brought into the enterprise through the IT department. Since IT is seen as an operating function or worse a utility, all new technologies must undergo financial scrutiny to ensure there is a Return on Investment for the efforts. For early Social practitioner such as myself, we were forced to tell a story how Social could provide productivity gains or some other cost cutting effort in order to get business case approvals and have a chance to sell the organizational strategy CxO and various leadership teams.

Thankfully, that has now changed to some degree. With all the press coverage and analysts coverage on the anticipated and recognized value of Social Media inside and outside the enterprise, perceptions for financial ROI as the sole benefit for deploying Social Business programs have slowly evolved.  The leadership in many companies are more willing to invest in Social Software and Social Programs without that explicit ROI.  However Social Software and Social programs have still not penetrated enterprises like many thought would happen by this time.

I think part of that is due to the IT organization leading the charge, and thus Social is thought of as another tool in the arsenal of which too many tools already exists. IT is infamous for solving problems with tools, and not solutions. That argument however is for another post. Smile

In my opinion Social Software Vendors have NOT introduced holistic solution to the enterprise which makes it SIMPLE to collaborate across the entire organization or within smaller groups. Nor have they focused the efforts of the “Me”.

The “Me” is to tailor the Social Platform solution to really make it easy and simple to reach out to “You”, to then expand that to the “We”, and maybe to all of “Us” in terms of providing an easy way to collaborate from the one to the many inside and outside the enterprise.

For a Social Business it all starts with the “Me”

As I have built Social Business Programs, the repeatable observation is that the individual begins the process:

of sharing,

of informing,

of teaching,

of learning,

of collaborating,

of trusting,

of innovating

of working out loud..

I look at this as the “ME”-“YOU”-“WE”-“US” effect Social has in the human process of building and cultivating relationships.

As the individual cannot accomplish much on their own, the “Me” expands to include “You”, helping to build those connections, those emotional ties to the co-worker. As I build the relationship with another individual, I start to share ideas, opinions are formed, reformed, and if the relationship flourishes, trust begins to grow. This can be multiplied over and over throughout many areas of the organization as I build out my network.

The next level expands to include “We”, those of us in the team, or department, or business unit or function. Our building of trust is the key in establishing relationships which become the foundation of a Social Business. Expanding my network to include new persons to which I must build relationships to get work done.  I look to form close working ties in order to accomplish tasks, but still want to build trusting bonds to be able to share my ideas, to inform, teach, learn, and hopefully improve myself and my stature in the organization.

In the “We” stage, leadership is absolutely critical to set the tone for how employees can work together, and how a positive culture is cultivated that rewards sharing, learning, teaching, mentoring and overall acceptance of new ideas.

The co-creation for the “Us” can occur across the enterprise when individual stakeholders feel a level of comfort in espousing their opinions, facts, and points-of-view to internal and external stakeholders. The “Us” looks to build a culture that exhibits rapid and accurate decision-making processes, while leveraging the collective energy and efforts of the organization. Be creating these feedback channels can then be inserted into the co-creation process, this reinforces the “Me” to continually look to improve my value to the company knowing my efforts to improve myself, my peers, and my organization are not going to result in negative reactions and pressures from peers and leadership.

Social is not SIMPLE

In the early days we had several niche vendors selling the concepts of Social Software. Emergent software and technologies that paved the way to building the more well-known vendors we have today; Yammer, Salesforce, Jive, SocialCast, IBM, etc. These vendors have taken the software model to an introductory level and have all done a good job of promoting the ideas that Social Software could provide. We now see the consolidation of social platform vendors being gobbled up by bigger fish to empower their own offerings as the Social Software space matures. These vendors as I said did a good job, but something is still missing. Vendors have been building software, but what they need to build are “Solutions” that provide a simple method to co-create !

Recall how we heard all this talk on how email was going away. How a few companies banned email, how social was better than email (it is!), or how email really depressed the collaboration energies inside companies (it can)…  But no one addressed the obvious…email is easy. Email is a tool that you know exactly what you can do and expect from its use. The fact is Email just works!

So why have the masses not moved on from using email?

Because being Social is NOT SIMPLE!

The sheer amount of social software from vendors is pretty extensive, but the overall ease of which a single employee can simply extract value from socially collaborating with others is still challenging. This can attributed to the lack of standards in how Social Software works, and NOT enough focus on the Social Program’s Solutionin terms of impacting the set of processes necessary to produce collaborative relationships.

Where is the concept of integrating the elements of social into the day-in-the-life processes for the sole worker to solve a problem, aka Social Program Solution? Really focusing on how workers completed tasks, collaborated, shared information in a very simple descriptive way will be the way to bring wide scale adoption and profound use of these Social Programs.

SIMPLE - graphic

I think there is a lack of focus on solving the physical and mental efforts required by individuals to change the way they work. Social Software vendors have missed out on this, but hopefully, vendors are going to be quick to catch-up. They need to make things SIMPLE. 

“Social platforms need to be fully integrated into the employees processes to provide less effort in being collaborative.”

How Social is not SIMPLE today

Why Social is Not Simple

So this has employees asking

What is the deal?” …..”I thought Social technology/platforms was to solve all this finding stuff, being able to reach out to people stuff and make my life easier…?”

“This Is So FrustratingBetter to just send the email in the first cryingasianbabyplace, or maybe just call them on the phone, assuming they answer…Why does IT keep sticking tools out there that don’t work like I need them to?”

So again I have to ask in looking at the above real world scenarios, where is having and using Social Software making anything really that much easier?

From my point of view, email is still the best, fastest, and most secure method to collaborate, even if it has many limitations.

Now don’t just think putting some email plugin is the answer.  I think the ability to be “Social”, sharing information, content, whatever you want to share, comment, post needs to be available from any application, any browser session, anyplace, on any device. For Social to become part of the DNA of the corporate worker, Social needs to be easy, needs to be simple, have almost no boundaries.  Long term changes in behaviors are often accelerated from the path of least resistence…although reward and recognition are just as important.

Making it SIMPLE for “Me”

The time has come for Social Software Vendors to rethink their strategy to make the Social platforms SIMPLE and easy to use, and focusing that simplification for “Me”. Speaking to employees, they continually are frustrated as the communication on how this new way to collaborate would improve their work lives, increase their ability to participate with new ideas, and help the company. After a short time however, the shine is replaced with tarnish as the reality sinks in that this new way to work increases their efforts, can be confusing, and in the end really changes little across the organization.


[1] Bryce Williams, Eli Lilly

Attending without Attending…Enterprise 2.0 Conference 2012 – Day 1

I have always enjoyed attending the E2 conference, whether conducting workshops, sessions, or just as an observer in how companies are undertaking the journey that transforms their companies in how work gets done.  I have often said this transformation is like “herding tigers” and that “these tigers bite” which indicates the core changes necessary to bring about the change needed for an open, sharing, learning organization.  Breaking down the “command-and-control” structures, moving from “management” to “coaching and mentoring” is something that can find great resistance in companies.

This week is the infamous Enterprise 2.0 Conference, which has been held in Boston, MA for the past 4-5 years.  The conference is now all about “Social.” Social Media, Social Business, Social Listening, Social Analytics….you get the idea.  No matter how or what you call it Social has become synonymous with “Learning, Sharing, Trust, Innovation, Information, Mobile, Digital, and now Business.” The latest naming edition of this is today called “Social Business”.

The E2 Conference is where most of the thought leadership and vendors come to demonstrate the maturity of Social initiatives and their respective platforms.  It is where we learn of success and try to learn from mistakes and failures, so we can avoid them in our own Social journey within our respective enterprises.

Tuesday, June 19th was the kickoff key note presentations beginning with Wells Fargo telling their story of social strategy, Nike talking about collaboration and the “journey with no finish line” (great quote), American Airlines speaking on how they are building a mobile application into business value, Fed-Ex talking about Gamification, and ended with Michael Wu presenting a very cool experiment on influencers by using a experimental hashtag “#E2Exp” to capture notes from the conference participants…..NO, I was not even mentioned my friends…I guess I have to wait until the next social experiment to become an “influencer”

In all there were some great moments from the Day 1 Keynotes and Twitter streams.  Here are some quotes I found that I liked:

“Culture eats Strategy for Lunch”  (oldie but a goodie)

“Strategy *does* eventually eat culture. Only if Culture is “cooked” the right way

“Different roles collaborate in different ways.” Must have broad definition of collaboration”

“IMO, Collaboration is just a word…”context” is the definition”

“Your smart phone has more computing power than the whole world in 1950”

“Too much twitter stream to follow…good example of too much of a good thing can equal nothing”

“….and the Quote of the E2Conf so far by Eugene Lee, CEO of Socialtext who tweeted this gem  “Only two industries call their customers users — drug dealers and IT.”

The diversity of attendees at the conference, clearly shows “Social Business” has gone viral into organizations, but many executives, managers, and even employees still are unsure how to tap into or deal with the changes to the culture Social can unleash.  These emergent technologies drive the digitization of information and people, which affects processes.   There are many good points to becoming a Social Business, but there can be many pitfalls to avoid, as the openness of information can expand existing sentiments of retaliation, mistrust, and pessimism into a corporate culture.  It is key for your organization to understand and plot this journey with “no finishing line” (another excellent quote from Day 1) in order to provide true business value and have positive impact on culture.

This year I was unable to attend the E2 Conference, where I had in the past, but this year there were so many backchannel discussions that it made me feel as if I were actually there.  This is the power of social networks, social conversations, and bringing a contextual conversation to people no matter where they are located.

One person who I was tweeting with invited me to contact him and chat offline. In fact, another good friend of mine, Claire Flanagan, who is attending and presenting at the conference asked me after all my tweets, re-tweets, and comments:

That my friends is the power of “Social.”

More to come from E2 Boston…

What “Social…From the Trenches” will be about

Social Trenches touches everything

This blog will be providing viewpoints on how Social Networking, Social Collaboration, Social what-ever-you-want-to-call-it is being received in enterprises, and how the progress is going,

Potential Topics:

1. Social glass ceiling? or necessary insulation? (coming soon)

2. If you become a Social Business, how does that affect your IT Department?

3. Selling in a social world… it is not your daddy’s sales cycle anymore!

4. Social CRM (sCRM)..it is all about the Relationships, or is it?

5. Social ERP, more than just approvals and shipping.

6. “Culture eats Strategy for lunch”  and Culture is very hungry

7. We’re not herding cats: we’re herding tigers..and they bite! (my own saying)