Executive collaboration evangelist at IBM Stuart McRae has used his speaking opportunities at IBM Connect 2013 Lotusphere to clarify the factors that companies will need to address if they are to become socially-empowered businesses.
The fact is that contemporary social media computing trends are being amplified by the proliferating use of mobile devices, cloud computing, analytics on big data and every other form of unstructured data besides.
McRae argues that organisations today need to engage with their consumers in a personalised way and so this means doing so on the consumer's preferred choice of device to create a loyal relationship.
This is instead of the "old way" i.e. where firms were content to commoditise their products and allow an anonymous price comparison site to mediate between them and their customers.
From small acorns
"In many organisations, successful use of social tools is happening today when small groups of employees with a common pain point figure out how to address them by finding a suitable social platform and focusing on their problem, not the tool. While the choice of a poor tool will prevent success, you will not hear about those projects - just the ones that succeed -- and there the selected tool only needs to be 'good enough' for the specific problem in hand," said McRae.
For McRae there are seven pivotal stages, factors and facets of making social enterprise a success and these points may indeed form a checklist that CIOs should now be aiming to target.
The 7 pillars of social enterprise wisdom
#1 - Social enterprise is not a pilot. This is not a rehearsal and firms should realise that the progression to adopt these new tools is an imperative.
#2 - Senior stakeholders (and of course by that we generally mean employees) within the organisation need to buy in to the social enterprise mindset and lead by example. It is not an "option" to use social enterprise tools; it is part of the job.
#3 - Closely linked to point #2 is the stipulation that social enterprise tools must be embedded at the heart of work for every user i.e. social is not something you do AS WELL AS work, social is something you do as part of the WAY YOU WORK at the core.
#4 - We need social enterprise to flourish in an environment where there are no silos of excluded individuals so it must be open to all. The only caveat here is that grouped control of certain discussions where a need for confidentiality arises can still be managed. Everyone from the receptionist (or this may be the CEO's personal executive assistant) to the sales director has to get involved.
#5 - There must be integration with the way people work today i.e. plug ins for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word to allow users to blog or integrate with social channels right from the application that they are already used to using. McRae notes that this is core to IBM's product portfolio in this space.
#6 - The firm must continually monitor and look for obstacles that might impede or slow down social enterprise adoption and eradicate and remove these hindrances when they are identified.
#7 - A social firm will need to create and build communities of champions that record their success and barriers as they journey carry out their own idea generation. Ideas need to pass through a process of (i) suggestion (ii) discussion (iii) voting and (iv) graduation.
NOTE: It's important to remember that outgoing and gregarious sales directors are often excellent EXTERNAL communicators, but very poor when it comes to their INTERNAL messaging. For this reason, the receptionist may win over the sales director in terms of social enterprise champion.
IBM's McRae points out that interestingly, none of the above trends are (necessarily) about technology innovation - they are all about how the business adopts social tools (which, he says, is the meta-trend here).
Closing thoughts and predictions...
"During the 90s we went from >20 different email tools, primarily built for departmental use, often from niche players, and each focussing on differentiating features, to two dominant generic email platforms, which were differentiated by their enterprise-wide scalability, their standards support and the functionality to addressed the core user needs," said McRae.
"I don't think that sort of social platform consolidation will be obvious in the 2013 timescale, but it definitely will be the key trend of the next 5 years, and standards support & integration capabilities will be what differentiates the winning solutions."