Making Social Business Effective<br />The big failure of social business is a lack of integration of social tools into the collaborative workflow. It’s not social business as a concept that’s the problem here. It’s that social must be connected to the day-to-day work that takes place. <br />Most work today is done through existing systems that aren’t very social. If we’re lucky, we can forge a link to a piece of enterprise data from within a social tool, a basic requirement for social collaboration. But more likely we have to manually copy information from the systems of record in order to collaborate on it. Even more likely, the social business environment just becomes a parallel silo that’s not connected to the business and is used for light conversation and status updates instead of meaningful, high value line of business activities.<br />Many large ERP, CRM, and HRM vendors including Oracle, Salesforce, IBM and many others have either added or are otherwise incorporating social layers in their products that can help address this. But this is not necessarily the same as making our businesses fundamentally or more meaningfully social. Such duplication of social tools has its own SILOS issues and ultimately, rolling out social software on its own does not in itself produce results. No, the ladder of social business maturity requires more from us than that.<br />Instead we need to wrap our businesses in social in a more ambient and deeply connected manner. To work, this must be more than for example merely adding threaded conversations to our systems of record. It’s about weaving collaboration into everything we do, efficiently and simply. With recent advances like real, mature, standardized social integration with OpenSocial 2.0 — with widespread support by enterprise software makers for the first time — there’s a genuine opportunity, right now, for us to connect our daily departmental and enterprise-scale work activities en masse to an overall social fabric that enables real change, real results, and real ROI.<br />Technology will never be the full answer to this issue. But whenever we have a means of much more easily putting social in the flow of work we must go well beyond paper strategy and employ them.<br />Social business can become just a fancy chat tool in your organization. Don’t put social business to work. Do you want to unleash untapped worker potential, including cognitive surplus, peer production, and collective intelligence and all the big strategic buzzwords? Then put social business to work. <br />A key issue is to drive engagement and participation in all the integration points it makes available. One of the biggest failures is the lack of workflow integration to drive culture change and that's why a social everywhere strategy is necessary as that is the easiest way to drive culture change. <br />Any progress will require connecting some technology thinking with some business thinking. Specifically, the following tasks have to be executed:<br /><ul><li>The requirement to connect social software with systems of record, productivity applications and the local intranet, etc. This puts social tools where the most important enterprise data is today, and;
The need to move social tools into the Workflow. </li></ul>The first task on social integration with IT systems is one that that has been explored in recent months with social app stores, OpenSocial 2.0, social networking applications, and so on. <br />Because it tends to be technical, discussions on these topics, despite representing some of the most innovative and promising work in a half-decade, have a tiny fraction of the interest by the social business community than the softer yet seemingly more relevant social workflow conversations.<br />Unfortunately, another cause of the low interest in recent social integration advances is because attempts at defining Enterprise 2.0 software standards and technologies have largely been a source of disappointment until recently. The consumer Web runs rings around what the enterprise space is doing in social business, has almost completely defined the space, and will likely continue to do so, though that's starting to change with what IBM, Jive, and a few others are now doing.<br />The point here is that we finally have some increasingly mature, powerful, compelling, and now widely supported solutions for connecting social software with the rest of our IT systems across the enterprise. It's an exciting time but it's one that the technical crowd is mostly focusing on, but largely without considering the larger business focus or workflow.<br />The second task of this discussion involves that the big failure of social business is a lack of integration of social tools into the collaborative workflow. Focusing on the work.<br />It should be fairly clear at this point that the second thread is about what and the first is about how social business tools can have more impact and relevance to our daily work. While social integration and connecting social software to our work are NOT necessarily the same thing, primarily because you can connect social tools to some work processes without any integration, the fact is that much of the work we do today are in systems that are not connected to our social tools. This causes a myriad of problems in adoption and day-to-day use including manually copying data into our social environments, fragmented pictures of business processes that are otherwise narrated in social tools, yet the core context is separately stored in other systems entirely.<br />Discussions on how to integrate social business with our work and IT systems must remain primarily non-technical ones to succeed as a way of thinking about social business design. The design of future business processes should thus probably focus on three major elements of connecting social to workflow via our systems of record:<br /><ul><li>Social apps - Wrap our existing business applications in a social envelope that allows them to interact. This puts our fragmented systems of record into its full social context.
Social embedding - Going to where the work is, social embedding allows us to put sharing, social notifications, and threaded conversations inside existing systems of record. Embedding is a technology that has long been proven on the Web and is similar to what the Facebook Like button has achieved, near ubiquity through simplicity. Many social tools use this technique today, but it must be internalized as an enterprise capability.
Social integration - When wrapping enterprise software and placing it inside our social business platforms or embedding specific social experiences in our enterprise systems don't cut it, the fall back option is traditional integration. This will often be more expensive and time-consuming but can be used when the first two won't work for a given reason.</li></ul>The first two approaches are far more desirable and now widely supported by standardized social technologies that have surfaced in the last year. Applying them can greatly reduce the distance between our business systems and social systems. The challenge is in connecting our business thinking with our social business service delivery.<br />The whole premise of efforts like OpenSocial is that social business activities should not be isolated from the work going on in other applications.<br />Why Is Social Important To Your Organization?<br />Businesses have found themselves trying to rapidly adjust to the market demands. Some of those businesses have found, however, that they are not agile enough and can't adapt as fast as they would like to respond to emerging opportunities. It's time to take action and position your organization for growth as the global economy slowly comes out of its downturn.<br />The following sub-sections describe steps to take to position your company for growth.<br />STEP 1: ACCELERATE INNOVATION - INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY<br />In order to position your organization for growth, we need to understand what are they key areas to focus on. An imperative way to drive growth is to accelerate innovation and ensure that you innovate faster than your competitors. Apple is a great example of this. They've seen huge success in the last 3 years because they've innovated a lot faster than their biggest competitor: Microsoft. While Apple still has a lot of work to do to catch up on market share, their revenue and profit numbers are certainly impressive. Apple has also been able to surpass Microsoft and has become the biggest technology company based on market capitalization.<br />Several surveys result that more than 90% of the CEOs need to restructure the way their organizations work. 5.3 hours are wasted per employee per week due to inefficient processes. Additionally, two hours are spent per employee per day looking for the right information and expertise within an organization.<br />Often times, information within an enterprise lives in silos. Therefore, the usefulness of this information is not maximized across the organization. Many companies have deployed team sites in the hopes that employees would dump their wisdom in these sites. However, each part of the organization, down to the department level, uses different places for document storage. This leads to fragmentation of the corporation as a whole and it means that employees must do a lot more work to individually search across these information silos. Inevitably, this leads to employee frustration and because they can't find the information they need, they need to "re-invent the wheel" and recreate the intellectual capital, which already exists.<br />This is the where social software for the enterprise first comes in. Social software inside the enterprise helps accelerate innovation and increase productivity. <br />STEP 2: RAPIDLY DEVELOP WORKFORCE SKILLS AND CAPABILITIES<br />The major challenges faced by organizations that could prevent growth. One of them is ensuring that the right employees with the right skills are allocated to the right projects. In fact, organizations classified as financial outperformers are 47% more likely to rate themselves as effective in workforce allocation.<br />There are three critical capabilities that need to be provided: developing future leaders, rapidly developing workforce skills and capabilities, and fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration. There are various reasons why they are not able to address:<br />Embedding creativity, agility, and speed, however, won't be easy. A number of boundaries -- functional, cultural, geographical, generational, and informational -- constrain workforce productivity and prevent enterprises from realizing their full potential. Organizations must overcome these borders to address emerging opportunities, whenever, wherever, and however they arise.<br />At the employee level, it's often left up to the employee to do self-training or figure out which courses to take. Companies also struggle to both find and nurture effective future leaders. <br />Social software behind the firewall is the right solution in this case. Whether users decide to blog, write wikis, share files, participate in discussion forums, join/participate in communities, their intellectual capital is captured in one single place: their profile. This profile is fully searchable and discoverable making it easier to identify individuals for the right job. At the same time, employees can effectively learn from each other and discover topics that they may be interested in and even career opportunities that best match their interests, skills, and capabilities. This informal learning (also called social learning in the enterprise) is critical to empower employees to rapidly develop the skills they need for the job they want.<br />STEP 3: BREAK DOWN EXISTING Problems (Silos)<br />For some time now, organizations may have been following knowledge management principles where everything is tightly controlled and centered on documents. Individual business units, departments or divisions may have chosen their own way of collaborating around documents. This often means different technology products sitting disconnected from the rest of the enterprise, and perhaps not even accessible by everyone in the enterprise.<br />Organizations need to develop the infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, culture required to stimulate innovation and enhance operation efficiency and effectiveness. The 2010 Global Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) Study clearly concludes that the best way to achieve this is by encouraging the formation and use of cross-organization communities around strategic business topics, solicit and recognize fresh insights and new thinking from internal and external sources, and create value through the systematic capture and reuse of individual work outcomes.<br />Cultural and organizational silos often compromise the ability of companies to share information across functional boundaries. A senior vice president of HR of a North American company said: "We need to know our stuff and be self-reliant, to solve problems cross-functionally and to fully leverage our talent and ideas".<br />An enterprise-wide social collaboration platform can easily break down organizational and collaboration silos and unite your workforce. It can give your workforce the tools necessary to form and track communities of practices, share and re-use intellectual capital, and lead idea capture. Additionally, it can even break down the barriers between employees and customers. <br />You can't expect to build a Social Business solution and pray to the gods that employees will use it. It just won't work. As stated above, Social Business aims to break down silos, connect employees, and increase productivity and this is only achieved if the employees believe and use the system. Social Business is about leveraging the wisdom of the crowds. Social Business is about leveraging each other's work and ideas. Without people, the system breaks down.<br />Questions to think about:<br />What can I do to engage users on day 1?<br />What can I do to keep users engaged?<br />How can I increase trust in the system?<br />What is the Importance of Social Everywhere?<br />Today's workers are under extreme pressure to meet deadlines. It's unreasonable to expect that they'll have to take the time to learn new tools and figure out ways to incorporate it into their business process. Therefore, it's essential that these new collaboration technologies be weaved into existing business processes. If employees can collaborate from their existing tools without needing to open a browser, sign on, and consume/share content separately then it's more likely that the employees will participate more and rely on it. You want to drive your employees to social software, not away from it.<br />