I've seen lots of references about what it means to be a Social Business and why we should care. What has been absent--at least from what I've seen--is a simple list of steps on how to get there. So--funny thing--while preparing my session for IamLUG 2011
, I decided to build a roadmap.
I took what I learned last year working with the Collaboration Agenda
team, I took the principles behind the Social Business message and I came up with four easy steps to becoming a Social Business:
- Emphasize people-to-people interactions,
- Retrofit existing people networks,
- Help people extend their organizational reach,
- Enable the newly created people networks to function.
Based on, literally, hundreds of case studies and customer references I got to work on last year, I can tell you that these four steps can help a company of pretty much any mid-to-large size do two things: Embrace change, and leverage their existing investments to turn themselves into social businesses.
When I talked about this at IamLUG, I got unanimous agreement that these four steps make sense. None of this is out-of-the-world pie-in-the-sky thinking. What's involved in making each one of them happen is good-ole fashion common sense and enough focus to see things through.
Embracing change involves nothing more than acknowledging that your workforce is composes of three basic constituents: people over 50 (I call them "digital immigrants"), people in the 35-to-50 age range (I call us "first-generation digital citizens), and those born after 1980, whom I call "digital natives".
Each group structures their communication channels differently: email and phone for digital immigrants, email and IM for first-generation digital citizens and social media for digital natives, and the interaction patterns they execute to work and communicate are also different: linear patterns that emphasize people-to-information and people-to-process interactions for the first two groups, and people-to-people for the third.
So, as social interaction patterns make their way into the enterprise, it is imperative that we embrace them and take advantage of their efficiency (hence step 1 above). Linear interaction patterns encourage the creation of silos and tend to keep information within close-knit people networks (hence step 2). The key to embracing change resides in shifting behavior away from linear interaction patterns and towards social interaction patterns so people find ways to break away from their silos (step 3). Once that happens and information and ideas flow freely among broader, more diverse people networks, the net result is more business value (step 4).
Leveraging what you have is nothing more than getting more out of your existing technology investments and repurposing some of it to fulfill the new challenges posed by social interaction patterns. If you happen to have IBM technology that's easier to do than if you have closed products based on proprietary architectures. It's true, our stuff is hard to install and configure but that's what allows you to customize it, repurpose it and integrate it with other things. When you have proprietary products that only do one thing the alternative is rip-and-replace.
When your email system does only email it's hard to use it for anything else, isn't it? When email is just one of the many things it can do for you, it's nice to know you don't have to replace it with something else when you need messaging capabilities in addition to specific business functionality.
When you run a UC "platform" based on open standards is nice to know you can surface its capabilities in your business applications as needed. It's also comforting to know that you can extend it to satisfy new business requirements. When you have a UC "product" you're stuck with whatever it can give you at least until the vendor upgrades it and you have to get rid of it to install the new version.
In my next posting I'll dive deep into step 1. Stay tuned.