Social business is not crossing the large enterprise chasm yet. One...

Social business is not crossing the large enterprise chasm yet. One reason may be the internal department that is seeking to build the bridge.

Six firms among the Global 2000 who responded to a survey from the Social Business Council met the criteria of having more than $1 billion in global revenues and returning a complete survey. Although the results of they 10-question survey are limited, they do provide a snapshot into Social Business at large firms.

Currently 59% of social engagement initiatives targeted the entire workforce. In order of importance, the components used on the social platform we're groups, discussion forums, microblogs/activity feeds, status updates, wikis, blogs and ideation. Users we're highly engaged (widely used by the majority of the workforce) at 9% of the firms; and 34% of the companies said a growing number are active and regularly logging in. The largest proportion (37%) reported that only a small percentage of users we're active on the social platform.

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Ease of external collaboration is one benefit of Social Business but only 4% (read: 1 company) has achieved this difficult goal. 45% are planning on such integration (read: sounds interesting) and 51% have no integration plans in place (read: we have a lot more pressing priorities.)

The comments we're illuminating, and familiar to anyone involved in an innovation initiative:

  • Its been more difficult to engage employees than previously assessed!
  • Lots and lots of lurkers but a small percentage of people are brave enough to participate. Middle management is the biggest barrier and the least willing to adopt it or see value in it.
  • Adoption is very slow. Users are having a hard time understanding the value of the initiative for daily work.
  • Change management and investment or resources to handhold the remaining (50%) audience for adoption is not available. I think we are at least 3 years away from complete adoption after being in production for 3 years.

What does it mean?

Dion Hinchcliffe, who analyzed the survey in his column for Enterprise 2.0, perceptively pointed out the two biggest insights from the survey. The first was that 74.5% of the respondents indicated the IT department was responsible for the Social Business platform, followed by 38% who said corporate communications had responsibility. Other responsible departments included innovation (most interesting, and worthy of future study), knowledge management, marketing and HR. (Multiple responses permitted.)

The second insight was the importance of culture. As the survey report pointed out:

The challenge with introducing social collaboration software is not limited to the new technology itself, but rather with introducing new modes of behavior for corporate employees. Early adopters repeatedly emphasize how the cultural aspects of the social collaboration journey are far more rigorous and demand serious attention.

In many ways the two insights are related. They help explain the slow adoption of Social Business despite numerous reports by McKinsey, IBM and others illustrating it's multiple payoffs. IT departments, with their heads-down (and vital) approach to protocols, security, integration and other technical issues, is the last place to understand much less change culture in an organization. The well-documented failures associated with ERP, CRM and other enterprise systems derived less from software failings than from internal cultural resistance. (Ask any sales force what they think of the data entry requirements of CRM systems.) Additionally, overworked IT departments have higher priority projects on their plates, ranging from cloud integration to BYOD (bring your own device) integration. To an IT manager concerned about the next system crash or network breach, the intangible and long-term benefits of social business rank in the same category as peace, love and a solution to the financial crisis.

How you can use this?

Maybe the driver of Social Business is not the IT department, despite the logical technology connection.Consumer companies like P&G and Nestle are turning to experts like social anthropologists and techniques like ethnography (observing consumers in homes and businesses to find out what they actually do, not what they say they do) to gain behavioral and other insights that help improve product development and marketing. Culture has long been overlooked in technological and even business innovation because assumption has always been that if the software works well, employees will work better. That's true if better is defined in terms of productivity, efficiency or accessibility.

But Social Business turns that paradigm on it's head: Employees have to work better in order for the software to work well. In other words, employees must have the collaborative skills, incentives and personal (not organizational) paybacks in order to maximize the usage and network effect of Social Business implementation. Those skills, incentives and paybacks are directly related to an organizations culture. If trust is what gives life to Social Business innovation, then organizational distrust will be it's graveyard.

So the first step toward a Social Business is not a quantitative matrix comparing the relative benefits of solutions from IBM, Jive, Salesforce and others, but rather qualitative insights into an organizations culture. Do employees hit reply all as a defensive CYA tactic? Do employees keep quiet when the boss speaks? Is credit for success shared or hoarded? Are employees more focused on internal processes than external results? Does collaboration consist of nothing more than sitting in meetings together?

If so, the organizational culture needs to change, and that change will undoubtedly be driven by someone outside the IT department.

In other words, the secret sauce of Social Business may not be technology. It may be anthropology.

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Posted in Computer Post Date 12/11/2014






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