03/14/2012

Social in Business: Rubber meet Road

Tags: 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_hobert.png

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.

02/20/2012

Social in Business: What we are talking about

Tags: 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_hobert.png

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.