Social enterprise: Real or fiction?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | February 27, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Dion Hinchcliffe calls social media in the workplace "viable and valuable", while Dennis Howlett dismisses it as laughable, even ridiculous. Join the debate!

Dion Hinchcliffe

Dion Hinchcliffe

Real

or

Fiction

Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett

Best Argument: Real

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What's the impact on average employees?

    If the social enterprise movement looks inevitable---real or perceived---what's the impact on how people are managed and evaluated?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Different flavors of social employee management

    The 360 degree performance review will likely get more real-time and participative. As analytics can continuously provide an instant and integrated picture of an employee's performance by examining their reputation scores, contributions, and feedback in social environments, we'll likely lose the yearly or quarterly performance review altogether. Everyone can get a sense of their work by looking at a social dashboard of performance that has the sum of their positive and negative feedback, sentiment, and desires for improvement. That's longer term however as social feedback mechanisms (leaderboards, Like buttons, etc.) find their way into all sorts of enterprise content and systems. For now, social HRM tools from companies are enabling more socially-powered management tools for employee performance, although some startups are already beginning to offer the more advanced capabilities I describe above.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Depends

    We have far too many layers of so called management whose only interest is in maintaining the status quo. I can think of one large organisation right now where the leadership knows what it needs to do in order to rejuvenate its business but is hamstrung by layers of jobsworth time punchers. We've arrived at a place where responsibility is subordinated to automation of increasingly inflexible processes. Changing that requires radical surgery and as we know, that type of surgery only ever happens when life is threatened. That is a principle reason why I am concerned at the arguments around guerilla tactics and the like. They simply dont fit the way most enterprise is set up. Until those things change then we have no real way of knowing how people will be managed. We can guess but that isn't helpful IMO. Dion's argument doesn't change that. If anything it encourages popularity contests rather than real evaluation. Those are inherently dangerous.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Feature or product?

    Salesforce.com's most recent quarter shows the power of bundling social with other products (Service Cloud etc.). Is social enterprise software destined to be a feature or will it be a standalone product?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Yes, both.

    The tools themselves will come and go, improve and get merged into one another. I don't see one company ever offering the one global social environment that provides what every company needs. While I do expect that the big vendors will attempt to roll giant social enterprise suites together with social collaboration, social marketing, social CRM, social supply chain, etc. I think that many organizations will end up going with the individual platforms that have successfully created community (which is the hard part) for them within their part of the business. There will be a lot of one feature solutions as well, that will be used to fill in the gaps. In other words, there is and will be a wide variety of social enterprise solutions in scope and nature.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Does it?

    Dion is bound to hand wave at this as an example of social goodness but he'd be mistaken. Salesforce.com's most recent results may look stellar but I think they speak far more to CEO Benioff's ability to deliver a believable evangelical message. Plus of course there is always the small fact that in his reporting, Larry Dignan was able to point to some accounting shifts that tell a different story. The question points to a fundamental problem that has largely been overlooked. If we are to believe in this idea of the 'social enterprise' then the current state of play implies that very few organisations want to pay for it. Chatter started out at $50/month quickly crashing to $0. SAP can't sell Streamwork - it struggles to give it away. Jive and Yammer between them represent a pitiful market at $100 million combined revenue. That says it all to me. If organisations don't want to pay then should we not be asking ourselves why? In my view the notion that social software can be a stand alone solution makes no sense. We spend most of our time trying to figure out how to deal with exceptions. Social tools can help us but only to the extent they reside inside the processes we are trying to heft and which also serve as learning for the future. Therefore I see more promise in tools like SAP Sales OnDemand where the notion of an activity stream is baked into the solution rather than something I have to go find elsewhere. But it is only a start.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks for joining us

    Dion and Dennis will post their closing arguments tomorrow and I will declare a winner on Thursday. Between now and then, don't forget to cast your vote and jump into the discussion below to post your thoughts on this topic.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    And keep the debate going!

    Thanks for all the great comments here and for attending. I'll respond to the specific items Dennis brought up in my follow up post and/or closing arguments. Meanwhile, keep up the conversation below!

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Data leakage

    What about security? How do you keep key data from being leaked?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Important, but no longer a real obstacle

    Security can be a genuine challenge with social, as it is with almost every digital communication technology. The Chief Security Officer will worry endlessly about data spills, especially in social media, where people share a lot more information than in other digital environments. In reality, however, there are a good number of powerful enterprise social media security tools that are readily available and work well from my discussions with companies that have implemented them. While a few incidents of concern can be found, if this wasn't manageable, we'd hear a lot more stories about problems. For now anyway, while I don't recommend companies be complacent, there isn't cause for concern at the moment for enterprises moving to social if they take appropriate precautions.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Not going to happen

    If we allow people to act with rewarded responsibility then they will do the right thing. That's natural. The problem is that we seem to be working increasingly harder to make it difficult for anyone to take responsibility without dire consequences. This comes back to my central argument - without the appropriate structures (and culture) in place, this fails in the long run. I don't think that's been adequately addressed. Instead, we have consultants running around answering the wrong questions. When the right questions turn up then what was excitement suddenly cools. IT has an important role here and so it is inevitable that security becomes a topic. I'm not convinced that many of the toolmakers have given this adequate consideration as they build out.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Corporate data in social

    What's the role of corporate data (all that goodness in ERP systems) in the social enterprise?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Connect them together meaningfully!

    It's my view, and that of many others, that our systems of record should be connected to our systems of engagement. Why is it that in e-mail we talk about the business process but keep all the data for that process in another system entirely? They should be connected together so that the process has the full context with all the data and collaboration, whether that's ERP, CRM, etc. This is the important conversation that's been brewing the last year about how to situate social directly into the flow of work. There's been good progress on addressing this with things like OpenSocial and other standards-based approaches. It will lead to better accuracy (no copying and pasting info from the transaction system into the social system so that people can collaborate on it), even higher adoption, and additional performance improvements.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Massive

    Massively important where it provides context to activity and the unstructured data that supports why something happened in the way it did. We use ERP data to measure performance in multiple ways. That's not going to change for as long as financial analysts demand profit and loss accounts and for as long as boards are fixated with keeping the Street happy - which of course doesn't fit with the fluffy 'social' stuff.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What about different roles?

    What corporate roles are best suited for the social enterprise collaboration approach? What roles just don't mesh?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Finding the home for social...

    This is a question that I'm asked perhaps most frequently: Who is in charge of transforming the organization into a social enterprise? Typically it's kept in the social media committee (a triumvirate of IT, HR, and Legal) but who aren't very familiar with the business itself. Often there are change champions on the ground but they often don't have budget, influence, or mandate. In the end, the line of business often jumps in and starts implementing social in their corner of the business so they can get things done. There is frequently talk these days of a Chief Community Officer or Social Business Architect. However, there seems to be no clear home for social yet. For now, it seems to be moving into social media centers of excellence, a term I don't like, but that's what's happening. I've talked more about the the roles of the social enterprise here on ZDNet: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hinchcliffe/who-should-be-in-charge-of-enterprise-20/1434

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Anyone for tennis

    I'll answer this the other way around. In theory there isn't much that could not benefit from this approach. We all know the anecdotal stories of Doris in the typing pool who comes up with a great idea and becomes the corporate hero. My sense is that HR should have a much greater role because they are the ones who are primarily managing the work lives of all the people inside an enterprise. The problem is that so many HR departments are armpit deep in hiring, firing, governance, payroll that adding this into their workload would be very much a case of overburdening a section of the business that is already under incredible strain. There are some moves towards socialising some of their activities but it is baby steps right now. Curiously, I see a firm role for the finance heads. They are increasingly being asked to 'be' part of the business and are learning how to acquire the language of business. They are the ones who can explain why this or that decision has x,y,z financial implications. But I would say that - I"m a CFO type... Dion's answer brings up a point that talks directly to failure. If everyone's responsible, nothing coherent and/or sustainable gets done.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Is it all about speed?

    A few years ago, Cisco's John Chambers talked about how Cisco used social tools to close the Webex acquisition in a fraction of the time it took to do deals before the company had social tools (see: http://tek.io/xKzApT). Is speed the biggest ROI factor for the social enterprise?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's certainly a benefit of social, but there are other important ones too.

    Speed is definitely a factor but so is getting the right answer. This is the famous 'weak ties' research that has been cited by Andrew McAfee and others; we often get better information when we reach outside the echo chamber. Social tools can sometimes be accused of assisting in the echo chamber because they are such powerful amplifiers of ideas. However, they are natural facilitators of diverse points of view as well, and that can lead to better information and results. Without the culture change however, not-invented-here syndrome can squander some of these benefits. Clay Shirky perhaps said it best, "It's not data overload, it's filter failure."

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Only one but could be good enough

    Speed matters but only to the extent that it can materially assist processes that are in flight. It requires context. If it means time to value is improved so that business velocity accelerates then I'm good with that measure. But - it has significant downsides, not least the pressure it puts to perform in real time. You can have wonderful send/response mechanisms but if they're not supported in the background by action then it is counterproductive. You don't get any of that from Chatter etc.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Using social tools inside the company

    Alright, let's switch our focus to how social is or isn't going to transform corporate culture for the better. What are the social tools that companies are using inside the enterprise to streamline communications, provide better visibility across different groups, and flatten the organization? How valuable is it?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's people first, supported by the right technology.

    The companies I talk to these days are increasingly feeling surrounded by social tools. There are customer communities, employee microblogs, social intranets, Social CRM, enterprise social networks, social CMS/DMS, social innovation, Facebook, Twitter, and much more. They usually already have Chatter, Yammer, Socialcast, SharePoint competing for adoption as well. Worse, many traditional software vendors are adding social layers -- or at least social features -- to their existing products to improve sharing and collaboration. All of these hold the potential to help the organization transform its corporate culture. But not by themselves. Left to their own designs, the participants in enterprise social tools will end up self-organizing and using them to satisfy their own ends, or finding them unproductive and leave for greener social pastures. This is where it's useful to mix the top-down leadership needs -- the management by objective that so many talk about -- with full engagement of the communities within enterprise social environments. Backed by community management, which is a key capability that is used to support, nurture, and guide communities to desired goals, and now you begin to have a receipt for culture change. Thus, culture is always about people, and culture change is ultimately facilitated by people who are enabled by supporting technology, in this case social tools. Is culture change valuable? If you think your organization can perform significantly better than it presently is, then yes. This is how to calibrate and orient an entire organization to function better with less impedance, more knowledge, and deeper insight. Admittedly, this is a short-hand view, the reality is that culture change is almost always hard, messy, and full of inconvenient truths. However, social enterprises seem to have a better chance to get past these problems faster, with better and wider co-creation of new ways of working. The benefits are there to be had.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Wrong question

    This is a wrong trousers question. If you don't get alignment around an understanding of what this does to the business, then even the most gorgeous tools on the planet will not save your soon to be extinct project. Sameer Patel: http://www.pretzellogic.org/blog/2012/02/27/social-business-facts-and-fiction/ notes that a recent Altimeter report "illustrates just how insufficient the progress has been for general purpose social business in the enterprise. And when you benchmark the technology category of social business software (that includes employee, customer and partner engagement) against say CRM, or BI or ERP, its even more striking how nascent the sector is compared to its predecessors." If that's what Altimeter is finding - and they are all over social - then... Oliver Marks notes: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/collaboration/tomorrows-world-vs-todays-problems/2348 "Today???s reality is that in the rapidly changing formal hierarchy of enterprises, including the growing numbers of contingent workers, many people have no idea what the true objectives of their employer are. Another famous Drucker quote: ???Management by objective works - if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don???t???. This continues to be a significant barrier to collaboration at scale across enterprises (which some would call ???Social Enterprise??? in the current fashion season)." Then there is the ever present issue of IT governance. Yammer may come in through the back door but it gets tossed out the front just as quickly. So much for guerilla tactics.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The ROI of being social

    In his opening statement, Dion noted that social enterprises are more profitable. What elements of the social enterprise would realistically drive the top and bottom lines? Apple doesn't have a Twitter account and seems to do just fine. Is that an anomaly?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    There are many ways to be social. Twitter is just one way.

    First, it's important to understand that a social enterprise can be comprised of many potential aspects, from crowdsourcing product design to supporting customers via social networks or accelerating work processes via internal social tools. For instance, the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, is famously critical of social media and thinks it's an inappropriate focus by itself, yet his company has stood out as using Twitter particularly effectively. While Apple may not use Twitter and has stumbled in creating its own product-based social network, it's been highly effective in other social channels. For instance, they've long used early versions of social media to great effect, particularly discussion forums for customer service and product ideas. Perhaps more importantly, Apple's fan base has itself used social networks with considerable success to drive mindshare and project the brand virally around the world. This is what it means to be a successful social enterprise: To enlist all possible participants to collaborate wherever it needs to happen to achieve objectives of value. In terms of what specifically drives the top line, a lot of research has been conducted to determine this by the likes of McKinsey, IBM, Deloitte, Dachis Group (disclaimer: I work for them), Frost and Sullivan, and many others. As an example, SAP discovered a few years ago that its complex product line would often stump customers who couldn't tell if a given product from the company would meet their needs in their particular circumstance. This led to a slow and costly sales and support process. Ultimately they found a solution in their now 2 million user strong SAP Community Network, a social network that puts customers directly in sustained contact with each other to determine if products really will work as advertised and to support each other in unique shared situations. SAP currently cites this as strategic for driving growth and revenue, among a host of other benefits. Social enterprises also typically have significantly higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, leading to more repeat business. For this reason and numerous others, virtually all statistical studies have shown that social enterprises have higher top line revenue. For bottom line benefits, since most large companies are dominated by knowledge workers and their communication overhead, anything that reduces the friction of information flow and decision making is likely to shorten process cycles. This includes lower travel and communication costs, increased access to expertise, decreases in operational costs, faster customer care processes, and so on. Almost all of these benefits are in the doubt digit percentages. The days of those unsure of the benefits of being social are gone and we see plenty of ROI studies. While the mileage for organizations will vary based on whether they already have a collaborative culture, are technology-friendly, and how serious their take their transition, the benefits are well-documented. Perhaps the most important observation here is that while large IT projects tend to have a very high failure rate in general, I find that social enterprise efforts do better than average in terms of project success. Apologies for the long answer but this is a vital and often misunderstood topic. For those that want more specific examples, I've explored the details of high-impact case studies like SAP in a new book, Social Business By Design, that I recently finished writing with co-author Peter Kim.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Show me the money

    There is precious little evidence of *sustained* top line driving examples of social working. Dell is often held up as a great example of a social enterprise with some 6,000 people engaged. They missed their last quarter in exactly the area where I understand that social is supposed to have the greatest impact. Despite relentless cost cutting, we still have trillions of dollars caught up in supply chains. HP fell foul because of supply chain problems. If you look at Apple, among many things it does right, it has figured out how to both industrialise and optimise the supply chain in ways that others can only imagine. That is a far more powerful message than slapping a social layer on a business pig. But - remember it took a near death experience to create the conditions under which Jobs could come in and reform the business. Look at what he did along the way- he got rid of managers. He also established a line of products for which people are prepared to pay a premium - nothing social there, simply tapping into execution excellence in a way no other company has gotten close to achieving. Do that and all this yap goes away in a heartbeat. BTW - what SAP says about the impact of SCN and what it really does are not necessarily the same. SCN's prime objective is to helps keep support costs down. (Disclosure: I was an SAP contributor and SAP Mentor 2007-11)

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Managing social strategy

    At the very least, companies need to manage their external social media strategy, right? What kinds of tools should companies be using to manage, monitor, and measure the effectiveness of their outward-facing social strategy?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Right, even if you're a non-believer

    Social is happening to your organization whether you're ready or not. Consequently, managing social is a hot topic at the moment, as enterprises climb the maturity curve. While a social enterprise is as much about people and a new mindset for working together collaboratively (and not just a bag of flashy technology), organizations must have solid supporting tools that make participation in social channels easy and safe. It's a boring but important topic: From a management perspective, tools that enforce policy, archive records, check compliance against laws and regulations, and ensure the security, identity, and safety of participates are all important. This has been true of other advances in Internet communication and it's even more so given the deeper cross-border connections inherent in the social enterprise. From monitoring and measurement perspective, there are now far too many tools to keep track of and their capabilities evolve all the time. These range from social analytics to full on business intelligence platforms designed for all aspects of the social enterprise. Right now, I'm recommending that organizations experiment but not build capability.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Not effective or of limited effectiveness?

    If we need to manage then Dion's argument about guerilla tactics flies out the window or gets relegated to something that is more structured. That doesn't fit well with the general direction Dion would have us go. I notice GAP and others fleeing Facebook which will likely miss Q1 numbers. Need I say more? Someone is clearly realising that tying traditional broadcast advertising to a social networking tool may get you a ton of fans but if they're nearly valueless then why pay the advertising tax? The good news is that such tools as exist (Dion knows this far better than I) are demonstrating the paucity of putting lipstick on a pig.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The external side

    Let's talk about the external part first. What are the risks and rewards of having this controlled strictly by the marketing department versus taking a more guerrilla approach?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Get ready for less control...

    On the plus side, marketing has the spirit of experimentation and often more familiarity with social media than the rest of the organization, not to mention the fungible budget to try different approaches until they get it right. The benefits of such centralization is usually more control and focus, while the risks are that by failing to engage the broader organization, their efforts will lack access to the many foot soldiers needed for broader social engagement. It's also ensures poorer organizational priority and alignment with other departments like sales, customer care, operations, etc. that will ultimately limit strategic results. An effective social enterprise is well organized across its many functions -- and not just marketing -- to engage in and drive positive outcomes in the relevant social channels. In any case, it's virtually impossible, nor is it really desirable to, to limit the external aspect of the social enterprise to social marketing. Even though some organizations try to sharply limit what their workers can do in social media, it's by getting everyone socially connected to each other in productive ways that improve what we do that should be the focus. One thing I do know, however, is that the guerrilla approach will happen regardless. The fundamental principle of social media is that anyone can participate. By "strictly controlling" the use of social media, an organization inherently limits what makes it special and powerful. The best organizations actively encourage their workers to engage with each other and the world and give them clear guidance on how best to do it for benefits of the customer, the marketplace, and the business itself.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Marketing? Sheesh...

    This is mostly PR flackery supported by ineffective marketing which doesn't have a great track record of being demonstrably - ie measurably successful. Check what happened with RIM today (via Twitter): Why is RIM touting "gaming and social" tools for developers, when at the same time their marketing tagline is "tools, not toys"? The only good thing I can think to say about that is at least someone doesn't believe their own BS. If the social enterprise is to be a reality then it has to have sustainably strategic intent. I see a series of ad hoc vague initiatives aimed at benefiting the status of people looking for something to prove rather than a well thought through way of transforming their business. That wont work in the long term. Dion's opening rebuttal remarks serve to prove that point.

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Defining "social enterprise"

    So you two couldn't be farther apart on the social enterprise issue, which will make this a lively debate. Let's start by defining what we mean by social enterprise. Can we agree that there are two pieces to this -- how a company uses social media to engage directly with customers versus how it uses social tools to improve communications internally? Is that a useful distinction?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's the socially connected company.

    When we talk about the social enterprise, we are generally referring to the deliberate transition of an organization to newer and better methods of accomplishing their work by applying the community model of social media. Far more than a mere "Facebook for the enterprise", I regularly encounter stories of companies applying social tools in way that are not only novel but truly high impact, even inspired, such as genuine breakthroughs in improving customer service, worker collaboration, and marketing/customer engagement. To become a more social enterprise typically means that a business intentionally makes its processes more shared, participative, and reusable -- and therefore more intrinsically valuable -- by basing them on what's known as peer production. For example, this means that any stakeholder in a social work activity can choose to join in and improve the outcome. Or they can just engage in unstructured work conversation aimed at business activities. Or more easily find and engage with people who know what they need to know. The result is that workers, partners, and customers are involved in richer and more robust relationships that are more deeply engaging and collaborative. Most of us realize that social networks have become central to how people communicate with each other and the companies that matter to them. We can now see that organizations that successfully embrace social technology, processes, and attitudes can benefit greatly; from better-engaged customers to better-connected employee networks that drive very real financial performance, operational efficiencies, and innovation. In other words, social enterprises just seem to run better as the people involved in them are better connected. As social enterprises, many believe -- and the evidence increasingly bears out -- that social enterprises simply have a better chance to leverage connectedness to achieve their strategic goals. As for the internal and external aspects of social enterprises, it can be a useful distinction indeed, but increasingly many realize it's an artificial distinction: While many activities in the social enterprise are only worker-to-worker or worker-customer, all combinations are important and requires the strategy, tools, and processes to enable them. Many organizations are starting to realize they should support all the relevant modes of interaction in a more combined and consistent strategy. So I disagree with Dennis, social enterprises are very far from being a "fashion construct." Every day, organizations around the world are achieving tangible benefits from moving to more social modes of getting work done.

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Wearing the wrong trousers

    Wikipedia defines: A social enterprise is an organization that applies business strategies to achieving philanthropic goals. Social enterprises can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit. But that's not what we see in the public discourse. Instead we see a mish mash of 'stuff' where whomever wants to flog a new technology that is vaguely marketing/sales related requires a 'social something' attached to it. The more cool and outlandish it sounds the better. Net-net, we have a plethora of shiny new toys that are confusing the market and making it difficult for people to start understanding what this means. We are victims of our propensity to see tech as fashion driven. It is counterproductive and confusing. We have to start from baseline thinking about what it means to be a 21st century business. Does that mean we should be looking at flatter organizations? That's Sig Rinde's argument for more purposeful and profitable business: http://blog.thingamy.com/sigs_blog/2012/02/let-the-managers-go.html - The problem there is that it's a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas even though it might mean we have people who are more accountable and prepared to advocate for great ideas rather than have them managed into obscurity. Hands up all those who wants to do that in a recession?

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mic check

    Are both of my debaters online?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Yes.

    I'm here!

    Dion Hinchcliffe

    I am for Real

    Yo!

    In the cage

    Dennis Howlett

    I am for Fiction

Talkback

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  • The Social Enterprise is REAL!

    While Dennis is right about the intent of organizations, he downplays THE key point. Companies are ultimately composed of people. People with their own perspectives, talents and approaches to problems. The Social Enterprise embraces this fact to help companies deliver more bottom line for their shareholders.

    Look at how rapidly social media has overtaken email usage. Chances are employees in your company spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like than on email. And when your employees are online, is it on their PCs, or on mobile devices (company provided OR personal)? So shouldn't companies recognize and embrace this? Shouldn't productivity transition to methods and technologies that employees - and customers - are more comfortable with? And if so, wouldn't it be better if the tools to enable this allowed users to reach broader and deeper in their company than before to find people who can help solve problems or address customer issues?

    This is just the start of what the Social Enterprise is all about. It is not just a "management construct", it is a recognition that our fundamental work processes, communication and collaboration methods and even technology have changed.

    There is far more to the argument for the reality of the Social Enterprise... relationship development for salespeople, aiding customers who no longer consider contacting the manufacturer when they have a product question/concern/problem/complaint. Taking advantage of social technology to provide access to company info in productive ways never possible before. Managing a brand in the world of Social media (when a brand today is not what your COMPANY says it is, but what your CUSTOMERS do). Even socially enabling products so users get more benefit from them.

    The Social Enterprise is all this and more. It is Real. It is Here. It is Now.
    ahanin
    Reply Vote I'm for Real
    • Facts?

      You make the classic mistake so many others do - not bringing facts to the table and especially not facts related to the enterprise. Precision matters.
      dahowlett
      Reply Vote I'm for Fiction
      • Interesting response

        I found your "argument" to be a loosely-connected stream of alternatively anecdotal and oversimplistic vagueness. Your overall thesis seems to be "I don't see how this can work" which of course is evidence of nothing. Nary a fact in sight.

        Social media are conduits for conversation. They are increasingly-important conduits that people throughout the enterprise need to learn how to master for the simple reason that their customers want them to do so. Soon that this is even a question will seem as stupid as asking if people really need to know how to use a telephone.
        RationalGuy
        Reply Vote I'm for Real
      • Responding to RationalGuy

        No one is debating the social channels, just how business support those.

        Social Business is not real, nor will it ever be, since you cannot base a business decision (and move the entire business to work in a different way) based on a set of channels (unless you have a new product that relies on those channels, 900-numbers come to mind).

        Bring arguments about the value of Facebook and Social Channels and we can talk, else you are just pushing the hype that "customers want it thus we have to do it". Customers want everything faster, cheaper (if not free), and easier -- your job in business (if you want to remain in business) is to make the decisions between what they want and what brings value to everyone (customer and organization).

        Show me value, not "this is the same as the telephone" arguments. If you are saying that you have to build your business around social channels as we have built it around the telephone -- i don't know any business that simply operates because of a telephone is there --- it is just a tool. Same as email, sharepoint (or similar) and many others. Businesses have not been doomed for not having them as long as the basics of business remain.

        Businesses are about inventing, designing, building, marketing, selling, delivering, and supporting products and services -- nothing more (maybe I forgot a couple, you get the idea). Show me any one business that cannot do any of those functions without the new social channels and I will concede that they are mandatory.

        I will show you, in exchange, that any business today can do what they do without social channels and if they choose to implement them it is not because "they will perish without them" but rather because it makes business sense (regardless of whether customers want them or not).
        Esteban.Kolsky
        Reply Vote I'm for Fiction
      • Evolution

        Esteban.Kolsky:

        Take two identical companies, one with a vibrant and active social media strategy and one without. All things being equal, the social business (so long as the effort is not too costly -- and social media activity is dirt cheap) will do better in the marketplace than the anti-social business.

        Nobody is saying that it is impossible for a business to exist unless is does all of its business over social media channels (or any of its business). The point is not that it's possible for businesses to exist even today without telephones. It's that all things being equal, the business that has better means and strategies to reach out to its customers and suppliers will outcompete those that don't.

        The same arguments you make against the need for social media were made in the 90s against the need for e-commerce on the web. There are plenty of examples of businesses that thrive even today without a basic web presence let alone a social media one. But pointing to those examples doesn't give you license to dismiss the general necessity of the web in modern business. In how many industries did its equivalent to Gateway get crushed under the heel of its Dell? Or its Borders under its Amazon?

        Social connections between businesses and customers is more vital than ever. Who can deny that the crux of the success of Apple stores is in the fact that their new approach to retail provides such intimate social contact between the business and its customers? Keep the store setup with the same product interaction, but remove the greeters, floor workers and Geniuses and you get Best Buy with nice marble floors.

        It's plain to see that social media channels offer cheap and effective interaction with customers and all things being equal, the businesses that master them will outcompete the businesses that don't.
        RationalGuy
        Reply Vote I'm for Real
    • I would call email a form of social media, in fact . . .

      "Look at how rapidly social media has overtaken email usage."

      And to be honest, I'd say email is one of the first forms of social media.
      CobraA1
      Reply Vote I'm for Real
  • Hummm . . .

    One thing I would like to see in all businesses is better communication, especially with the top levels of the organization. Often there's so many layers in the hierarchy that it's baffling how they make decisions.

    Not to mention the top of many organizations focuses too much on technological toys rather than the situation on the ground. Dashboards and "big data" are interesting from a technology standpoint, but TV shows like "Undercover Boss" show the real dangers of staying in an ivory tower and not paying attention to the ground level.

    Technology can be used to create the ivory tower or break it down. I vote break it down - I want managers to be online, communicating, and engaged with the rest of the organization and its customers. I don't want to see them hiding behind dashboards and widgets and statistics and "big data."

    That being said - is "social media" the solution to the communications problems to businesses? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe there's another solution out there. So I think I'll stay undecided for this one.
    CobraA1
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • Communication is King

      CobraA1, your are absolutely right. What I've seen is that when the C-Suite gets involved with Social Enterprise, the organization flattens. Check out what has happened at companies like Dell, Symantec, and even Salesforce itself. CEO involvement has allowed for information to flow MORE freely, and break down the walls.
      ahanin
      Reply Vote I'm for Real
      • But

        ...at least in the case of Dell (the most recent I've seen) it hasn't helped the bottom line. Unless someone can tell me it has defended what's left of it? That's what matters. The rest is fluff.
        dahowlett
        Reply Vote I'm for Fiction
      • re: dahowlett

        "...at least in the case of Dell (the most recent I've seen) it hasn't helped the bottom line."

        I'm unaware of Dell's exact situation, but I will say that we're in a pretty early stage at this point. I don't think we've quite figured it out yet.

        "Unless someone can tell me it has defended what's left of it?"

        Uh, what? I'm not sure I follow what you are saying here. The first use of the word "it" seems to have no context, and the sentence structure seems to be missing something.
        CobraA1
        Reply Vote I'm for Real