Social in Business: Rubber meet Road

Category strategy social business social software social in business

In this next installment of Social in Business we focus on Strategy.

Hopefully the thesis of this post shouldn’t knock your socks off; in a nutshell, businesses need a social software strategy in order for the social in business to be successful at the firm.

Want to reach the holy grail of an e-mail free working environment? In reality what you’ll likely find, especially if you do the strategy legwork, is that the goal is not getting rid of e-mail. Rather, the goal is to improve e-mail usage so that it is not a drag on productivity. And yes, social tools can help with that. That goal, however, will never be achieved unless the firm puts in place a strategy with plans and guidelines for effectively mitigating e-mail stresses through social tools.

By strategy I mean a well-considered plan for selecting, deploying, managing, and educating users on the technology that will support social working activities. Social software options (e.g., vendors, tools, cloud, on-premise) options can become overwhelming very quickly. A good strategy considers the different options, how the business works, and then gauges success through identifiable metrics and milestones. It also means doing a fair amount of homework on the technology state, corporate governance, internal communications, cost factors, and operational requirements for deploying different options. Assessing this information and building a strategy that addresses these factors of the business not only aids in making decisions but also helps to identify viable solutions and (hopefully) documents the rationale for those decisions.

Why is this necessary? Because, like anything else in business, times and technology change. If the firm knows why it chose something in the first place, and documented what was successful and what failed, it will be a lot easier to modify and keep up with new trends as they come along. For example, knowing why the firm chose an on-premise solution over cloud-based solution is valuable information, especially if the reasons, cost, and rationale for that choice are documented and the plan is clearly defined on paper. It becomes much easier to recalibrate choices or make changes should a compelling reason for one choice become obsolete. Going back to the example, subsequent network upgrades might cloud-based solutions easier to support and more cost effective, hence the firm can quickly revisit the old rationale and decide if it applies any longer.

Strategies also help to communicate to the business and executives the nature of social software and that it takes time for success. Documenting the plan for development, deployment, and success metrics for social in business helps non-technical colleagues understand the cultural and working shifts that come with social software. It becomes much easier for the business to support new technology efforts if they know what to expect and when.

We all know that a good strategy and plan makes life easier with fewer gotchas when it comes to deployment. It can be hard to reign in enthusiasm for something new that will solve the “big” issues, but it’s worth the effort to take the time for strategy. No matter what the strategy is, the firm is better off with one. Even if the strategy is to let things grow organically and ad hoc, at least the consideration of the risks have been addressed, communicated and documented. What’s not to like about that?

Our Social in Business Series

Part 1 - What we are talking about
Part 2 - Build it and they will come (?)
Part 3 - What are we doing here anyway?

About Karen Hobert


Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.


Social in Business: What are we doing here anyway?

Category social business social software enterprise

This is the third post in the Top Dog/Elguji Social in Business blog series. The first post was entitled "Social in Business: What we are talking about" and the second was entitled "Social in Business: Build it and they will come (?)".

Today we focus on Objectives.

So if you’ve followed my blog (or other similar minded bloggers) you’ve likely come across one of my occasional rants about the pitfalls of buying technology for technology’s sake. This is sort of one of those posts in this installment of “Social in Business”, Objective.

It’s hard to pick a technology, even an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink type of technology as social software, if you don’t know what you need it for. Actually one of the drawbacks of technologies that offer many options, such as social software, is that it is the potential answer to many issues. Vendor’s sales and marketing like the Swiss Army Knife utility of social software because they can answer “yes” to many customer needs but it makes things that much harder to for the customer to figure out if it really needs the product or not. More specifically, with so many options it can be very hard to identify which parts of the product offer the most value to customer’s business.

Who knew the toothpick on the Swiss Army knife would end up being so handy? Taking the Swiss Army knife analogy a bit further, today there are many versions of the renowned knife on the market that customer’s really need to know what they want to carry around in their pockets and what is likely to be most useful; corkscrew or none? For me a corkscrew-less version would be virtually useless. And what about the semi-retired boy scout who might benefit more with a Leatherman. It’s all a matter of knowing which features will serve the greatest purpose for the unique needs of the customer. Regardless of which model the customer chooses, they will likely use some tools in the kit more than others depending on their needs.

The same applies when choosing social software for enterprises. Much depends on the firm’s needs and how it operates. In other words, if a firm has a strong hierarchy with lots of structure and formalized ways of completing work its social software needs are likely to be different from a de-centralized, cross-organizational firm that functions in more organic ways. Both are viable organizations but they have very different objectives and expectations for the social software technologies that they employ.

Before picking a specific social software technology, and more specifically a vendor, enterprises should look at the objectives for the technology. If it turns out that there are many objectives, pick the objectives that will provide the most value to the firm. Make these the leading objectives for the technology to solve and focus on how to achieve them. Some may be solved without any technology or simply by improving on existing technologies. But the key idea is that the firm must know what it needs to work on before picking a tool or technology.

Identifying the leading objectives for social software in the enterprise and how to meet them cannot be done in an IT vacuum and must include input from the business and operational sides of the firm. This will ensure greater success and adoption when the business is part of creating the solution. It is vital for enterprises to understand the working culture, needs, and goals for the social technologies they want to deploy prior to choosing which one to buy. Otherwise they might just end up with a giant, expensive brick in their pockets.

About Karen Hobert


Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.


Social in Business: Build it and they will come (?)

Category social business people social software

This is the second post in the Top Dog/Elguji Social in Business blog series. The first post was entitled "Social in Business: What we are talking about". Today we focus on people.

Social - tending or form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others.1

By its very nature, the term social implies people. I particularly like this definition of “social” since it is open-ended enough to us to consider “others” as either people or information. After all, in the world of “social software” what we're really discussing here are technologies that foster relationships between people and other people, people and information, and information with other information. Bottom line is that social in business aims to tap into people and the human factors of how work gets accomplished. This is tricky stuff. There are so many subjective factors that a one-size-fits-all approach to social software in the enterprise is virtually impossible. What we can do is look at best practices and figure out if they support the specific business or process we seek to improve and then apply what makes best sense to succeed.

As noted in our first post, enterprises are moving beyond the "it's just a fad" opinion of social software to cautious optimism and beginning to formulate just what social software would look like at their firm and how it can improve business. The fact that social software in each business can mean different things is probably a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it's great to have many options but on the other hand it means more complexity in figuring out which options to implement first or which things will support the firms needs the best.

Understanding which options to pick means having a good idea on how people at the firm work and what tools will help them do their jobs most effectively. Today that's a moving target. With mobile, consumer tools (e.g., Facebook, Google Plus), globalization, telecommuting, and the changing workforces, not only are the lines blurred between work and personal business but also navigating the matrix of different working styles is becoming more difficult to quantify and address. For example, the fact that I’m siting in a café in downtown LA right now while writing this does not mean I am any more or less effective than if I were sitting at a desk in an office building. In other words firms need to address all of these “human” factors to keep up and make a productive working environment.

Since people are vital to social in business we are seeing HR, Operations, and departments other than IT initiating social in business. This makes a lot of sense, considering that we are talking about working with and impacting the culture of the organization and how it works. It also makes sense that parts of the organization dedicated to its culture and operations are very interested in what happens with social technology. IT has the power to make the enterprise more effective but IT has never been accused of being a social mover or shaker. Rightfully so, IT really should not be in the business of changing corporate working culture; it should be in the business of making sure that people work effectively and securely through the proper use and implementation of tools. IT’s role is to help the human factors side of the business succeed at social in business. This can only be accomplished through planning, implementing, and cooperating with the people parts of the business.

Social software in business isn’t just a matter of “build it and they will come.” Rather, social in business requires first, an understanding of how people work together with others (people and information) to conduct business. Only then can IT implement and create an ecosystem that will support the social business needs most effectively.

1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social

About Karen Hobert


Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.


Social in Business: What we are talking about

Category social business strategy collective intelligence interest cultivation expertise location relationship leverage

For the last 6 months I’ve been having regular discussions with Bruce Elgort on the subject of Social Software in business. Bruce is in the business of helping companies collect and build ideas. The firm he co-founded, Elguji, is, as the web site masthead says, “Helping Companies Innovate” by offering tools (such as its best-selling IdeaJam) that facilitate collaboration to effectively bring new ideas to market. Together we’ve been looking at the ins-an-outs of deploying social media in a business environment and the earmarks of success. Long story short, we decided to put some of our thoughts down in prose and broadcast it to our readers in a series of blog posts on Social in Business.

Just to be clear, you may have read my recent posts about IBM’s Social Business Gambit and my thoughts about IBM’s new social approach to the collaboration and communications market. These posts are not about that, instead, they are focused on approaches and strategies that businesses can develop as they explore social media in the business environment.

Social in Business Today

Enterprise IT is beginning to move into a formulation phase in the evolution of social tools in business. Recent presentations by research analysts (e.g., Gartner, Forester) and vendors (e.g., IBM) are moving from the question of “What is Social?” to the discussion of “Strategies for Social.” This new conversation indicates that customers are looking beyond the fad and considering how social within the organization might impact them.

The perspective is also shifting from external to internal social. If we were to poll most executives on what social is we'd likely get more of an external facing response, such as “brand building” or “customer interfacing”. But as Gartner points out in a recent webinar, “Taking a Strategic Approach Social Media”, there are at least 6 opportunities for what Gartner calls Mass Collaboration by using social inside the business. That list includes:

  • Collective intelligence
  • Expertise location
  • Interest cultivation
  • Relationship leverage
  • Flash coordination
  • Emergent structures

Gartner also notes that oftentimes when a firm engages in social initiatives, the projects typically take advantage of more than one of these opportunities. Rightfully so, once tools are in place for doing one thing they invariably support other activities. The trick is to identify the most valuable opportunities for the firm and foster their success.

The Mission: Build a Strategy

Agility and versatility in IT environment is the new mission of the IT Operations Manager who is becoming more a solutions architect than an implementer. IBM’s last three annual CIO studies note that along with cost savings innovation is a priority for most organizations. So cost saving and innovation are not mutually exclusive. CIOs see IT delivery as having it all. As Bruce asked me how does the director of it operations do it? How do they keep up?

Overall managers, business and IT, need to consider all the options for social in the business and design a strategy to be successful within the parameters of their business. A strategy will help the organization to understand what needs to be done, how to choose the technologies it will deploy, and guide decision-making. In agile companies strategies are organic and evolve informing modifications while the firm’s needs change. Strategies also serve as an anchor for making sound decisions. If certain assumptions and rational were used to make one decision they can likely be used or modified for future decisions.

More to Come…

We’ll be posting more of these types of topics in the upcoming weeks. We hope these blogs will get you thinking more about the things that we are concerned about. We think the tactical and strategic market knowledge of Elguji and Top Dog is a great combination to help you to kick-start your social in business strategies.

About Karen Hobert


Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.


IBM's Louis Richardson - Social Myth Busters Video

Category social business email wikis blogs video ideajam
This video of IBM's Louis Richardson is a must watch and share with your friends and coworkers. Louis is also going to be giving the keynote speech at the "Social Connections" event taking place on 9th December 2011 at Cardiff University in central Cardiff, Wales.



You already own "Social Business" tools. Now use them.

Category social business elguji partners lotus notes domino
Large enterprises are quickly learning to be more "social." Just about every organization has a Facebook Fan page and a Twitter account (if not multiples of each).  Now many of them are looking to take their social media initiatives to that proverbial, "next level". IBM now sees "Social Business" as one of their major business thrusts. Think people, trusted relationships, brands and getting business done. 

They want to be able to have a much more intimate relationship with their customers, potential customers as well as their own employees. For example, getting their input on a new product or service; seeking ideas for ways to improve an existing product or service; etc. Internally, senior management may look to promote a more open work environment and foster honest discussions about company initiatives.

Just the thought of such an undertaking evokes thoughts of an army of silicon valley "social media consultants," countless hours of work and of course a consulting bill to rival the national debt.

The solution for many companies, especially those with an investment in IBM Lotus Notes and Domino could be quite easy, painless, and cost about as much as a few executive briefing from some of the major consulting houses.

Elguji Software has published a brief paper entitled, "The Social Software Platform Your Already Own." 

In it, Elguji outlines how a company's existing IBM Lotus Notes and Domino collaboration platform can be easily transformed into a social business ecosystem that tightly integrate your customer's ideas with your company's infrastructure.

"The Social Software Platform You Already Own" paper can be downloaded at no charge here (PDF).

Explore Elguji case studies, product brochures and product documentation.


Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce - "Social Business Strategies" with Chris Martin and Bruce Elgort

Category vanwa vancouver social business social media
Chris Martin and Bruce Elgort will be presenting "Social Business Strategies" to the Battle Ground Washington Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, March 3rd 2011 at 11:30am.

This presentation will be similar to the one Chris and Bruce gave at the IBM Lotusphere 2011 conference recently held in Orlando, Florida which was well received by several hundred conference attendees. Be forewarned that this presentation is something "totally different" and you should not expect "death by PowerPoint".

We hope to meet many Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon businesses there. See you on the 3rd.


A sneak peak at IdeaJam V1.9 - Idea and Innovation Management Software

Category ideajam news innovation lotus connections ibm social software social business
IdeaJam idea and innovation management software

We thought we would give you a sneak peak at some of the great new features coming in version 1.9 of our IdeaJam idea management and innovation software.
  • An IdeaJam can be switched into "read/view only mode" so that the audience can view ideas, votes and comments but are unable to create new content.
  • An IdeaJam can be set to automatically switch into "read/view mode" on a specified date.
  • When viewing an idea a new chart is available on an idea which shows recent activity against the idea including votes, comments and more.
  • A new role which prohibits participants from creating ideas while allowing the to vote and comment.
  • A new role which prohibits participants from creating comments.
  • A new sidebar widget which displays the list of IdeaSpaces (categories).
  • Participant reputation scores and badges.
  • A new "Moderator" role which allows moderation of all idea spaces without giving them "full admin" rights.
  • Tooltips for voting labels.
  • Month names are now displayed in the local language when viewing ideas and comments.
  • Support for multiple configurable static content pages has been added.
  • Individual charts on the Statistics page can be enabled or disabled.
  • ...and more
Want to learn more about IdeaJam? Start here >