2013 : the dawn of the 3rd social business strategies era

In brief : Social Business have known two eras until now : a first one where an autonomous adoption from users was expected, the second with business driven adoption strategies which was more meaningful in a work context. Now a third one is slowly emerging, consequence of the glass ceiling in which businesses crash into when they try to start change with technologies : it will be about the lower layers of the enterprise structure, what makes a given way of doing things relevant or not in the workplace.

I won’t play the prediction game this year. Most of all because I already shared mine in september in two posts, one about practices, the other on technologies. On the other hand I think that social business strategies will take a new turn and change nature. It will lead to a new way to embrace social projects in a few clear-sighted organization before it becomes mainstream…in 2014. But don’t mislead ourselves : if the effects will take time to be seen, the work needs to start right now.

So we’re entering the 3rd era of Social Business or, to be more precise, of the convergence of work models and technologies.

What were the two previous ones ?

The limit of user and business driven approaches

1st era : the adoption era.

You surely remind of it. This era roughly lasted from 2005 to 2009. At the beginning no one even uses the words enterprise 2.0 or Social Business. It’s only about implementing tools descending from the consumer web, often in a quite untidy way led by end users. The success of such shadow projects has been noticed, and lots of business started to try to deploy these tools in more top down fashion while refusing to start real change programs. This was the time of the “build it and they will come” thinking. After a short period, businesses realized that users won’t come and started to launch adoption program. Nothing is done to change work and the way things are done but employees are asked to adopt new tools and behaviors. They’re asked to enter a kind of social bubble that’s disconnected from the actual work and organization that don’t change.

On the “external” field, nothing special. Businesses start blogs, expecting audience and comments. Some bolder ones start to involve their communities in their ideation process.

 

2nd era : the business era

Asking employees to assume 100% of the change on their own to or, at then end, seeing them use tools at the periphery of word and not for directly productive activities was not acceptable. So businesses started more business driven approaches to Social Business. The first step was to build usage scenarios on work routines. It’s been a big step ahead in terms of meaning and it sometimes led organizations to question not only the way they should use the tools but also the way people worked. The second step started two years ago and is beginning to bear fruits right now : it’s the integration of business processes, activities and software in the social sphere instead of asking users to bridge the gap by themselves.

The external side is also getting more professional. Businesses understand that internauts/customers don’t expect them to use social channels to operate in the same way they used to on old online media. They also understand that social channels are shared ones and are not the exclusive property of communicators but can be shared by any department in the organization when it comes to trigger synergies with the outside world : customer service, HR, innovation…

Now that this trend has started it’s going to spread and become mainstream and that will it to the end of software-focused strategies. Anything that can be integrated will be (if it makes sense), social networks are going to melt into a more global and comprehensive environment and it will be time to tackle the last step. Since it will be less and less easy to blame tools for adoption failure, it will force businesses to tackle what really matters : the context in which tools are used.

Why providing employees with a world-class work platforms while they’re not able to make the most of it because such or such way or working are not acceptable or tolerable ? So the story will continue where it should have started if organizations did not insist on using technology to solve issues that are human.

The urgency of a systemic approach

So the 3rd era will be : the era of systems.

Employees are at the core of the organization system. Regardless to their own wills and leanings, what they’ll decide to do at a given moment is not the result of their own will but of a couple of parameters that will made any action relevant or not. As a matter of fact, in the workplace, any action should be relevant to both its purpose and the organization system.

Real worklife is often more visious. Most of times, the relevancy of an action to its purpose matters less than its relevancy to the system. It leads to what we can see everyday : somebody knows he should should something in a certain way to get the expected result and…will do the opposite to stay compliant.

In short, if Social Business emerged (no matter some still say the contrary) on technology-focused projects, it will strengthen and go up a gear through action on :

- strategy : what’s a strategic plan worth when disruption is the norm and adaptability and the ability to catch market transitions more important than the plan itself. When adaptability is the plan.

- Talents and skills : what kind of people are needed, how to hire them, develop them, make the internal talent offer match business need. How are talent allocated to a given activity because having the right people is useless until they can be leveraged where and when it’s needed. Is a future a real-time internal talent-market ?

- Leadership ; “in real life” or digital, what’s its new nature, how to embody it and make the transition ?

- Behaviors : what are the required behavioral skills in such a context, how to identify them and…stop hiring people who are exactly the opposite for the only reason they have a great CV. What posture should the company adopt towards customers, employees, partners…

- Processus : how to make them agile and flexible, embed human creativity in their design and execution ?

- Values : what should they be and which consequences to draw from them ?

- Structure : how to make hierarchy and networks work together, adapt command and reporting structures ?

- …. to be continued.

-…

This would mean both the end and the success of “social” : back to basics and enterprise transformation based on meaning, coherence and logics and not under the pressure of techno-activists or dreamers.

As a matter of fact I don’t believe there’s either a social or not social way to address the above points. There’s only a logical one, based on the context businesses operate and compete in. And if the answers is social, then everybody will know and understand why.

Another consequence : a big change in change management programs that will move upstream (strategic consulting) while they’ve been dedicated to tool acceptance for nearly a decade.

Enjoy 2013 !

Après avoir tout misé sur les utilisateurs puis les métiers, les stratégies Social Business devront enfin passer par une approche systémique de l’entreprise