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.


IdeaJam V1.9.1 is now available

Category ideajam news evaluation
IdeaJam idea and innovation management software

We are happy to announce that IdeaJam V1.9.1 is now available for download. Elguji customers with active maintenance and support agreements can download this version at http://elguji.com/download. The release notes for IdeaJam V1.9.1 are also available.

We also have evaluation versions of IdeaJam V1.9.1 also available. Interested? Drop me an email or feel free to fill out this short form.


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.