Oracle: Enterprise social must fit corporate culture

Oracle's Group VP of Social Cloud talks about the social enterprise, customers, CRM, and women in STEM.

Social and collaboration software have become deeply ingrained in the fabric of enterprise technology. Both small and large and enterprise vendors have incorporated social and collaboration tools into their products.

Oracle, of course one of the largest enterprise software vendors, has pulled together a suite of offerings collectively known as the Oracle Social Cloud. The suite includes products targeted to social monitoring and engagement, social marketing and campaigns, and internal collaboration.

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Meg Bear (Image courtesy of CXO-Talk)

To gain insight into collaboration and social software, I invited Oracle's Group Vice President for social software, Meg Bear, to be a guest on CXO-Talk. During the conversation, we spoke about a broad set of topics including the impact of social on organizations, the empowered consumer, and even women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).

You can watch the entire 45-minute conversation and read an edited summary of her comments below.

On business outcomes from social

We started with all of the component parts. Bringing all of the component parts together, putting them in with other things that we were already doing. Now, we are at the point where we can start imagining different outcomes as a result of those building blocks finally getting mature enough and available enough, and getting all of the right people involved.

On introducing social into an organization

I think you need to understand where your company's DNA is. Start with understanding what you are working with and where you want to go. But broadly, what I have seen work well is getting some successes on the board, building advocacy internally, and then growing out from there. The key is really defining some good and smart successes upfront, such that you can build on that momentum. In other words, if you build on successes early on that nobody cares about, the probability of other groups thinking it matters to them is very low.

First and foremost, be true to the culture of your organization. Be true to your identity but think about how transparency and the value of the global voice can be part of what you are. People think, "Well, you know I have to share everything." No, if that is not your corporate culture I don't think that is going to work; people will find that off-putting. If it is your corporate culture, you should be able to use the patterns that have been laid out there.

There is benefit for all companies to getting your employees more engaged, getting your ecosystem more engaged, getting your customers more engaged as part of your business plan. It gives you a competitive edge.

Do it in a way that is going to work for your business, because if you are just going through the motions everyone is going to know and it's not going to work. Think about where, within your personal corporate culture, can collaboration and sharing of information and working together give you the biggest benefit. Then think about what that means for your business plan and driving business results.

Also read:

Social business maturity and digital transformation

On the empowered social consumer

The conversation around a given product is impacted, addressed, and amplified by the voice of the customer. There's not really any purchase, whether consumer or business-to-business, that's not driven by a lot of available research and input about that product.

But, the difference is we know more today in the era of social networks. We have more people to hear from, and the ability of information to be amplified and the speed of information has grown. It's easier for me to know what other people think of the products I might buy [and] the general sentiment about different brands.

When things go well, it's easy for me to get new ideas much more quickly; when things go badly, it's easier for me to know about reputational problems much more quickly -- that combination of insight and information with social proof based on what customers are saying amongst each other. That combination is pivotal today.

The arc is so much faster, the intensity is faster, and that ripple effect of information passing around becomes much greater. The combination makes the impact on business interesting and strategic.

On social and the evolution of CRM

Social is the realization of what CRM has always wanted to be. The [social] channel makes possible what was always the intent [of CRM]. You wanted to know more? Well, guess what, people are telling you more. You wanted to do a better job? Well, guess what, you have the opportunity to do a better job than you ever have. You wanted to be authentic and have a relationship? Well guess what, you can do that. [CRM is] the core where we started.

On the limits of data and personalization

We are getting insights out of data about broad themes, but we're also getting insights about individual customers and getting better at knowing how to target.

When you abandon a [shopping] cart and that thing follows you everywhere on the web, it's not just randomly spamming. They're saying, "I think you like these shoes, maybe you should look at these shoes." What they're not saying is, "You already bought them somewhere else, so maybe I'll show you some other kind of shoes." They are still following me around with the same things that maybe I chose not to get, or I gave up on, or already purchased somewhere else.

More broadly, how do I get the system to not be creepy, but more understanding of me; how to serve me better, so it's not just selling me something but building a relationship with me? Everyone is interested in this.

On enterprise startups

My teams were start-ups and my products came through acquisitions. I consider what we are doing as being a startup inside of Oracle. There has never been a better time to be innovative and to be building new products because the big players are ready to work with the little players and the customer really benefits. So, from a technology provider point of view it's a pretty good deal I would say.

Also read:

Entrepreneur Steve Blank on startups, pivots, and corporate innovation

On using data to be customer centric

The idea of customers being the center of business is not new. Business exists to serve the customer and always has. The difference is in the age of digital, customer power has shifted and the customer's voice has become amplified. When you think about how companies can differentiate today and really move forward in this competitive global landscape, customers being at the center becomes a business differentiator, a critical part of how business works.

[Being customer-centric means] bringing the customer together with the business mission and making sure the business isn't just focused on making their operations better but on serving their customer. By understanding, more than ever before, what their customers care about, what their customers are passionate about, and what their customers are interested in as part of that relationship.

It's everything that we think about in social and building an engaging a relationship with your customer. And, everything we've always thought about our business, whether it's B2B or B2C, with advertising and everything that we've always thought about with delivery, coming together and interweaving with that voice of the customer being the foundation. And the voice of the customer as represented in data to help you drive more interesting business analysis -- what's working, what's not working, who are they, where are they.

Also read:

Bridging the gap between brand promise and customer experience

On relations between IT and the business

Today, it is much more a collaborative partnership with the business defining what they want to measure, what they want to do, and IT helping facilitate in a structural way. IT has to be part of that picture to bring value all the way through the organization. You need technology skills, long-term project planning skills, and good data analysis skills. In this particular space of social, they are able to help bring that and make a long-term data story around understanding your customer and driving broad-level change to the organization.

Also read:

IT failures, power shifts, and social media

Enterprise social media: New battleground for CIO influence

On women and STEM

I think tech is a fantastic place for women; I think there is great opportunity. We need more women in the age of digital and the age of social. Social leans feminine and the idea of collaboration is having multiple points of view. As over 50 percent of the population, we should be participating in this important shift in the world.

If people are thinking about how they can be involved and they aren't sure that technology is for women, absolutely you should be here. I feel very strongly in this kind of ebb and flow in how women can become part of the startup scene, how women can be part of the venture scene, and how women become part of the board and the C-suite scene. These are great conversations.

We have a lot of room to grow and the conversations are happening, so be part of it. Women need to be in tech and tech needs women, so definitely don't give up. It's important.

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CXO-Talk brings together prominent executives, authors, and analysts to discuss leadership, transformation, and innovation. Join me and Vala Afshar every Friday for a new episode of CXO-Talk

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