Social Business : what works and how

In short : The IBM Institute for Business Value recently issued a report on social business and the best ways to make it work. Beyond these points, this report will be very useful to built one’s roadmap of the new capabilities they need to develop and what it means in terms of technology.

The IBM Institute for Business Value recently issued a report titled  “The Business of Social Business : what works and how it’s done“. It relies on lots of insights on why we now call social businesses, cases in which there are evidences tangible value has been achieved and proposes a maturity-based roadmap to go through the steps that lead to achieving actual social business practices.

The reports starts with stating a problematic that’s still a troubling true for many people in this industry :

“Getting your 100,000th “Like” on Facebook, or having your latest pearl of wisdom retweeted 200 times an hour is all well and good, but are these activities driving revenue, attracting talent and bridging the collaboration gaps in your organization?”

It reminds we of what I recently wrote on influence. Once a business learned to make noise, engaged their customers, socialized, what do they get as tangible, observable and measurable improvement ? Rabelais once wrote that “Science without conscience ruins the soul” and, in the current context, I’d say “socialization without a productive goal is just ruin”.

So let’s start with IBM’s definition of social business

We define social business as embedding social tools, media, and practices into the ongoing activities of the organization.

A definition that’s not exactly what I would I stated but that can be understandable from a vendor. In my opinion,  making the use of social technologies a part of the definition is more than debatable. On the other hand the “ongoing activities” is key : it’s not about adding new tools and practices over the current organization or managing a social bubble that’s disconnected from operations but integrating practices and tools in day-to-day activities. So even if approach can be smooth and progressive, it’s about a transformation and not transplant or replacement.

That said, the job should not be underestimated. According to IBM, even if 62% of the 1 100 surveyed companies say they’ll increase their investment on social business in the next three years, 75% admit they were unprepared for the cultural change needed. And 66% recognize they still don’t clearly understand all the impact social business will have on their business in the next three years. What confirms we can be seen on the field : businesses start pushing their marketing message on twitter and in the end they redesign their customer service processes, they start a community and it leads to redesign the decision making processes, they implement a social network and it ends with a digital workplace program dealing with all kind of activities and open to external networks. In the end, once a business steps in social business it opens a Pandora Box from which all the hot topics espace, far beyond the scope of collaboration and IT.

That explains another number found in the report : if “social” is seen as an opportunity by most of C-Level people, only 22% of line managers are ready to implement it in their day to day practices. Maybe because as they are closer to day to day operations and organization gears they see the real amount of work to do. One more evidence a specific program for managers is needed.

I’m not going to list all the use cases and key success factors that are listed and explained in the report. On the other hand I strongly advise readers to take time to read the “capabilities” table that comes with each part of the report. For each key use case the report goes deep into the capabilities to develop for a basic use, what leaders do and what are the future trends. That’s very interesting for any reader that will find the roadmap for each of his concerns and the levers to mobilize both on the management and technology side. This is really very important since practitioners will be able to know what their first step should be while being aware of what’s coming next and get prepared to it from the beginning. That’s perfectly in line with what I wrote last summer : rather than adoption strategies, businesses should focus on developing new capabilities.

As we can see today to what extent projects that start with social network implementation end in more ambitious and touchy project that lead businesses to say “ah…if we had known from the start we would have started to work on other streams earlier”, it’s good to have enough insight to build one’s target vision at the very beginning rather being taken by surprise.

Enjoy your reading !