Social business maturity and digital transformation

Social enterprise -- communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing across business silos and departmental boundaries -- is a core part of digital business transformation initiatives. Research from IDC sheds light on this topic.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

In our continuing discussion of digital transformation, we must consider the aspect of communication across departmental silos.

Almost by definition, any organization that undertakes business model change, a key component of digital transformation, must simultaneously find ways to encourage collaboration among various departments that previously did not work together closely. The absence of extensive communication and knowledge sharing leads to bureaucratic-style behavior, reduced efficiency in getting things done, and poor responsiveness when customers change their expectations.

Because communication and collaboration are central to social business, these activities are often part of broader digital transformation initiatives. Fellow ZDNet commentator, Dion Hinchcliffe, explains that many companies do not pay sufficient attention to collaboration as a support for broader transformation efforts:

Ironically, given that the workforce is the single biggest investment that most companies make, actual investment in collaboration tools remains as spotty as ever…. collaboration is still considered a “figure it out yourself” process in most organizations, with limited planning and little training in either better ways of collaborating or education on the technologies themselves.

With this background, let’s review research from IDC that describes a social business maturity model. This IDC framework explains the process by which an organization can gradually integrate social business into its daily activities. Bear in mind, our focus here is on social business as a component of digital transformation. Although many companies sell social business products and tools, right now, we are looking at social business as a support to broader transformation.

Experience matters

IDC’s social business maturity model starts with the premise that workflows and processes related to social business are different depending on the user’s role and relationship to the organization. As shown below, the report identifies customers, employees, and partners as three archetypes, labeled as “experiences”:


Although the language of experiences is rather vague, IDC does offer an explanation (emphasis added):

Customer experience management refers to the entire process relating to the interactions between a customer and the organization that the customer engages with over the lifetime of the relationship.

Employee experience management refers to the interactions of employees across the lifetime of their relationship with a company. It includes the orchestration of internal business processes to create a flow that is planned and architected in a manner that makes the interaction from the employee’s or the job candidate’s side as easy, quick, transparent, positive, and full featured as possible throughout the employment journey as well as the ongoing task of performing their job assignments

Partner experience management refers to the orchestration of interactions partners and suppliers have with other businesses (B2B) to deliver optimized workflow.

Social business maturity

The core of IDC’s maturity model is a series of steps through which a business passes on its way to achieving greater adoption of social business processes and activities. By benchmarking itself, a company can use models like this as a roadmap for determining a path forward.


Digital transformation is a broad concept with ramifications in areas such as business model, culture, and talent management, because undertaking a digital transformation initiative means creating significant change over a sustained period.

Given the breadth of this kind of transformation, isolating components such as social business makes the problem more manageable. For this, models such as IDC’s can be useful when applied systematically and consistently.

Also read:

Social networks, hierarchy, and the illusion of control

NATO Commanding General talks leadership, change, and agility

SAP Jam: Ready for enterprise collaboration

Infor and ‘No Fugly Software’: Design as a competitive weapon

Business transformation and the digital CIO

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