Social Business is a production system


In what category should we put things like social business, social collaboration, enterprise 2.0, social CRM and all these new concepts that flourished during the last decade ?

Some consider they are activities. That’s to say things one does, often in addition to work. People share, participate. Sometimes it impacts others’ work, sometimes one can get something in return and impressive amounts of conversations and information are generated, with an impressive potential value but without knowing when, where and how it will be turned into actual value. And today we’re not able to track this value.

For others it’s a philosophy. A way to see markets and the organization of work. There’s something true here : any kind of organization – either in business or society – start from a philosophy. By the philosophy is not enough. In the case of business and even in the case of society, philosphy led to building a system regulating the “game,”, interactions, the role and mission of each player in the system, otherwise philosophy would have stayed an unproductive lounge conversation.

Some people also see it as a lifestyle. People watch, share, care about others, participate, help, let others know what they do and what they could do for others, are positive and curious by nature. That’s a generational approach (Gen Y, Digital Natives) but not only : we can see that the most mature people when it comes to drive change are far from being the youngest. Moreover, the internaut that enters the workplace becomes an employee and this environment change causes a behavior change what make new lifestyles stay in the locker-room.

Last, some consider it’s the consequence of the consumerization of enterprise IT. The characteristics of products and services from the consumer web (user experience, functionalities) are now available in business applications, helping consumer behaviors to spread into the workplace. That’s not exactly true. If the consumerization of IT can’t be discussed, we can also see its limits : people are the slow factor of change and, today, tools are evolving much faster than the ability of users to make the most of them, both from an individual and a collective standpoint.

Le Social Business is a production system

So, what are we talking about.

It’s all about inputs (order, request, need), outputs (deliverable, solutions, ideas), resources (information, knowledge, people), operation models (formal and informal collaboration, cooperation, coordination, decision, processes…).

Production system


Social Business, Enterprise 2.0 etc are nothing more than production systems. A word that we used to keep for manufacturing and is mainly embodied by the Toyota Production System (TPS), but applied to intangible flows and the production of knowledge and services. And what is a production system ? That’s a way to organize work.

What should make us wonder about a couple of things.

First is that implementation is made difficult by the intangible nature of such activities what makes it hard for people to visualize and understand in order to draw the right conclusions.

Second is that Social Business projects seldom aim at changing the organization if work. The purpose is – generally – to change work practices but without changing the organization. What leads to the coexistence of two systems in the enterprise : one formal and official, the other unofficial and optional. Guess which one wins.

We always ear that Social Business, Enterprise 2.0 and anything related to social/collaboration face an adoption issue. That’s wrong. They face issues caused by the organization of work and the organization of work is a shared norm that can be built collectively or not but that, at a given moment, is promulgated and becomes imperative for anyone. So the challenge are in the field of :

The hidden challenge : resource management and allocation

– resource management and allocation

– roles and responsibilities definition

– processes and operation models

– performance management and measurement

Having a work organization model as a target and imagining it will be set up evenly and coherently only by the often chaotic adoption of new technology enabled practices is illusory.

That’s not because the envisioned model aims at empower people, making them more accountable and increasing their ability to take initiatives that its implementation should not be directive. There’s a difference between how the model works and how it has to be managed. As a matter of fact, as we talk a lot about democracy and participation in the workplace, remember that democracy is a system that is imperative, defines everyone’s role as well as the relationships between individuals, between individuals and the authority, comes with control and participation mechanisms. The word ‘democratic process” is often used, what shows that both concepts do not oppose.

Making businesses more learning, agile, creative, switching from push to pull, empowering, delegating, managing differently is easier when the way should happen are specified, described, officialized.

How often do we ear the words production and execution ?

A last question before I end. In such transformation project we often ear the words ; sharing, conversations, communities, communication, participation, serendipity, engagement, adoption etc. That’s a good thing because that’s exactly what businesses lack. But of often do we ear the words : process, execution, delivery, production ? Never. Maybe the big issue is there.