Yesterday I offered some high level requirements for making enterprise social business work. In summary you have to integrate the new social tools with work processes and the traditional apps that support these process (see also - Integrating the Interactions with the Transactions and Maybe Enterprise 2.0 Is About the Technology). I am looking forward to the sessions and conversations about the next moves in social busienss at Lotusphere 2102 next week.
Dino Hitchcliffe has gone into much more depth on this topic, as he usually does with useful results, in his post, Social business and enterprise usage: The lessons. He begins with data from the Forrester report I discussed yesterday on the huge growth predicts for enterprise social software, Social Enterprise Apps Redefine Collaboration. He goes on to note that selling licenses (or SaaS subscriptions) does not translate to adoption and usage. He adds that social business is “often perceived as an optional activity and one that’s often not well integrated into how work gets done. Workers already have older (though theoretically less effective) ways of getting work done that they know, understand, and are thoroughly and culturally habituated to.” I do not doubt this and have even been guilty of doing it myself. I confess that I have used email with attachments as a “collaboration and content creation platform” because it is what I am used to and I still do it on occasion.
Dion next goes into more detail on the lessons learned from enterprise social business so far, using the results from the recent McKinsey report as a foundation. I will not repeat all that he writes and urge you to read his original post for the details. However, I want to mention his headlines and provide some thoughts on each.
The first point is that adoption requires sustained effort. This should be obvious since we are talking about a new way of working, not just installing some software from the cloud. However, the hype from some vendors helps to mask this point. The ease of use SaaS apps also can be deceiving. While the traditional systems integration needs may be less, the work process integration remains. For example, there are many new vendors that sit on top of SharePoint that claim to take care of many of the social needs that are not covered in SharePoint. While you can buy instead of build some features you still need to integrate them into work processes. I like the way that IBM has already done some of this integration themselves, rather than relying on third party players, by adding Connections features into other work process oriented applications. Even here there remains some non-technical work to get the tools tied into the work processes.
Next, Dion notes that while having a well connected enterprise is correlated with better operating margins, it is not correlated with being a market leader. McKinsey feels that is because the market leaders are less motivated to change. Dion says this gives the challengers as shot at moving up. It reminds me of the old Avis line: we try harder since we are in second place. Keeping the first point in mind, they will have to try very hard to become a successful social business. The winners will be those who are willing to make this extra effort regardless of their market position.
Dion adds that, “there’s a strong sense that social business will imminently and fundamentally change organizations.” The McKinsey data from last year and this year fuel this assumption (see Enterprise 2.0 Finds Its Pay Day – McKinsey for 2010 and McKinsey: Social Business Software Continues to Improve Organizational Performance for 2011). The assumptions of social business do make sense at a level most competent senior executives can understand. It makss sense that if you can connect the collective intelligence of the organization the business will only get better on many levels. However there is long way from buying into this high level vision and implementing the tactical requirements to make these connections at the operational level.
Dion then closes with the point that, “technology and organizational constraints often hold back social business transformation." This seems just as obvious as the prior point. If you are going to fundamentally change the way the organization does business, there will be opposition. It will come from those threatened by the change but it will also come from simple inertia. This is why many people at recent conferences say, “it is not about the technology.” I think this can be misleading because part of the change is within the technology and the IT department may be a major point of resistance. It is better to say, “it is more than the technology.” I think that is a subtle, but important distinction.