Social Business trends from the Social Business Forum 2014 in Milan

The Social Business Forum that took place on July 1st and 2nd in Milan was a good occasion to have a quick but deep overview of the state of the art in social business and in the use of social and digital technologies by businesses.

Quick wrap-up of what was “In” and “Out”.

Out : the internal/external divide

That’s a good evolution of this conference which first edition happened in 2008 and was, at the beginning, mainly focused on internal collaboration. Unlike others it managed to evolve year after year, building bridges between internal and external matters to finally merge them. What exactly reflects the reality of business today. All the people speaking on customer relationship and marketing highlighted the need to be coherent inside and to align culture and processes. And all the people speaking on internal matters highlighted the importance of the customer who is actually driving the change.




In : employees and managers

Adoption is still a matter but less important than it used to be. Nearly everyone understands that’s it’s about enabling and empowering people, not seducing and exhorting. With a specific point on managers that can’t be kept apart from initiatives that used to focus on field employees, hoping that success will go bottom-up. Despite of the flat and egalitarian nature of the digital enterprise, managers must be addressed as managers and not as simple users. I’ll discuss this point in a future post on the excellent book “The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work” which authors, Cheryl and Mark Burgess, gave a very insightful presentation in Milan, backed with many sound cases.

Out : community management

Either internally or externally speaking, community management is not the leading concern anymore. Not because it has become obsolete but because businesses finally realized that it was not the only matter to deal with. In the case of external facing project we can suppose that the growing importance of monitoring, data and conversation analysis solutions have repositioned community managers on other roles. From an internal perspective we’re far from the time when enterprise social networks were able to do nothing but community management. Today, the field of possible is much wider and the potential use cases are more numerous. That said, I’m sure that we’ll continue a to experience the downsides of yesterday’s marketing discourses for a while since things really change in the trenches.

In : data

Whether businesses need to understand their external environment or understand how things really work internally, there won’t be any digital transformation without a massive use of data. It’s a major field of digital transformation. But businesses are still struggling at understanding what is their potential, how to use them and set the right technical and human environment to exploit them. If we’ve heard for yeas that collaboration was the biggest source of value for businesses it’s now sure that data are about to replace it.

Out : engagement

The topic matters but it has totally disappeared from slides and conversations this year. Either about customers or employees. Oversight ? Normalization ? End of a buzzword ? We’ll see.

In : customers

There’s no surprise in seeing marketing cases and speeches focusing on customers but – and it was high time – more of discourses related to internal matters were also strongly tied to customers. Customers are leading the change, putting business under pressure. They are the goal of everything, what is nothing but an update of Drucker’s words.

quote-there-is-only-one-valid-definition-of-a-business-purpose-to-create-a-customer-peter-druckerI’ll just add that creating customers is not everything. Serving them matters too.

Out : enterprise social networks

The times where 80% of a conference was dedicated to explaining what enterprise social networks are and how to drive employee adoptions are over. Certainly because with time and failures it lost it “magic stick” status. Then because what’s at stake is to transform business models and organizations to create environment when technology makes sense. Then because the range of the ongoing transformations has widened a lot so enterprise social networks are only a small piece of a large puzzle. Seeing exhibitors with lots of different products ranging from enterprise social networks to CRM, including video based collaboraton, says a lot of the transformation of the digital workplace.

In : digital environments

Less enterprise social networks but more digital environments. To be understood in many ways. The environment that supports the customer experience, the one for business specific activities, the internal collaboration one, how everything melts and interacts…as well as the organizational context in which it happens.

In : human resources

Winning return or ephemeral come-back ? Future will tell. But HR are back on stage. Not a surprise since everybody understood the importance of culture and behaviors. That’s, of course, a chance for HR to join the digital party but we’ll see in a future post that the risk of missing the party is still very high. HR won’t transform operations but have to build the founding blocks that will help to think, design and deliver business transformation well.

In : digital transformation

That was not supposed to be the theme of the conference but the word appeared to be the common point of most presentations. Transformation, not adoption. The future of businesses, in the digital era will be conditioned by the evolution of their structures to support and deliver new business models that are already at work around us and that “legacy” business will have to adopt. If digital has been the accelerator that showed the limits of current organizations, the response will be organization, technology being only the tool that will support it. To read more on this point, I recommend reading the note Lee Bryant wrote on his blog, based on his presentation.

As for the presentation I gave…it will be the topic of a future post, next week.

Thanks to the Open Knowledge team for having put this great conference together.sbf14_openknowledge

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

Recent posts