McKinsey on social: A few steps forward, the odd step back
Delaney Turner 270003RQ8K Delaney.Turner@ca.ibm.com | | Tags:  lotusphere ibmsoftware social-business
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McKinsey has released its fifth annual survey on companies' use of social tools and tech and the results are decidedly mixed. The good news is that adoption rates and expertise levels have reached "critical scale" at the organizations surveyed. Of the more than 4,000 global respondents, 72 percent reported their companies using at least one social technology; more than 40 percent report using social networking and blogs. Also, industry usage has spread beyond early adopters and leaders Tech and Telecommunications (86 percent), to Manufacturing, Financial Services (64 percent) and Energy (62 percent).
The good: Social technologies boost business outcomes
More importantly, respondents confirmed last year's findings - namely, that social technologies can indeed boost a company's financial performance and market share. Once again, companies reported social technologies lowering communications costs and enabling faster access to knowledge and internal experts across their internal, external and extended (business partner, supplier) stakeholders. The more employees use social technologies in their day-to-day activities, the greater their company's market share and the higher its margins. The companies reporting the greatest gains are the ones McKinsey classified as Fully Networked - those that use social technologies to interact with everyone: employees, customers and partners.
The not so good: Positive outcomes don't always last
The less good news is that sometimes, these gains don't last. Many companies reported decreases in one and sometimes more than one category. More worrisome - at least over the short term - is that some companies actually slid backwards into the survey's Developing group. These companies - the most numerous and least socially sophisticated - reported lower-than-average improvements on all fronts. Also, less than 15 percent of respondents actually progressed to the next tier of social business maturity.
"It appears that it is easier to lose the benefits of social technologies than to become a more networked enterprise, which suggests that significant effort is required to achieve gains at scale," the authors write.
What I think
What are we to make of these findings? I can posit three ideas:
How IBM can help
IBM makes extensive use of social technologies to communicate and collaborate with its employees, customers and partners. As such, we offer a robust social technology portfolio, a wealth of expertise and abundant stories of customer successes. All of these and much more will be yours to discover at Lotusphere 2012 in January.
To learn more before then, I'd invite you to view our Social Business Web site and download either the story of IBM's own transformation into a social business (IDC) or our social business White Paper. You can also do both. You can also read the Fast Company article featuring our own Ethan McCarty entitled Move Over Social Media, Here Comes Social Business. Any of these will help you shape a social business strategy that helps you overcome the obstacles and avoid hiccups that companies typically experience to deliver value over both the short and long terms.
The best is yet to come
The McKinsey report reveals an industry in flux. Despite the mixed results, the authors do conclude on an optimistic note. Most respondents cite culture as the biggest barrier to progress and many respondents expect these barriers to disappear. Looking ahead three to five years, they expect the boundaries among employees, vendors and customers to blur; more teams will be able to organize themselves; data-driven decisions will rise in importance. This can only mean better business outcomes for companies that stick with it.
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