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

Tags: 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

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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.