Tag Archives: social business

Scaling Social Business for the Real World

Dion Hitchcliffe has offered some very useful advice through his post, How To Scale Social Business For The Real World. He notes that the means to interact with customers have greatly expanded with the advent of social business.

However, it is not simply more channels, but qualitatively different types of channels.

The first major difference he writes about is the movement from containing engagement to enabling it. Dion writes about these new social channels, “Unlike the old narrowcast venues of phone and email, they are much more open, public, and participatory. They’re also less linear, harder to control, quite a bit messier, and significantly larger in size by any number of measures, including number of people, simultaneity (how many people talking at once), length of conversation, and complexity of conversation.”

This has created a quandary for some old-school types and an opportunity for those who recognize it.

The issue reminds me of the farmer in Nova Scotia who told me, “the weather is bad but if you like bad weather, it is good.” In this case customer communication has gotten complex and messy but it if you like complex and messy for the expanded options then this is a good thing. You just need to recognize and take advantage of it.

Dion explored some cases in his new book Social Business By Design and I recommend looking at it.

He writes that you need a clear strategy and effective leadership balanced by an evolving and adaptable plan for dealing with fast-emerging new engagement technologies.

To be successful, Dion writes that you need a continuous evolution of engagement within the organization. There are several characteristics. First, everyone in the organization needs to be fluent in engagement, even the many who only do customer engagement on a very part time basis. Second, you need to have workers dedicated to engagement such as community managers.

As my Merced Group partner, Catherine Shinners has written, the role of community manager has greatly risen in importance in the new world of social business. Third, you need a centralized listening capability and support for specialized de-centralization. Finally, the engagement process needs to match the organization. He adds that tools are not a strategy but they are vital for success.

I certainly agree with all these points. I would add one more that is certainly implicit in what Dion writes. You need an information architecture to support this engagement.

This architecture needs to be driven by the strategy, but it is a separate step that applies the strategy to technology.

One of the keystones of this architecture is the ability to share content across the multiple tool sets that are now available and are actively used with organizations. This is why we at AppFusions focus on application integrations.

For example,

  • is your issue tracking tool integrated with your collaboration tools to both share information across systems and better monitor and manage product management and customer feature requests?
  • Can you effectively mitigate potential risks and make the most of customer feedback opportunities?
  • Are your document management systems containing your fixed documents integrated with your issue tracking or collaboration systems, or are you still sending ad hoc attachments via email?
  • How about instant messaging – seems to make logical sense to launch instant message chats directly in context with your issue tracking or collaboration system where the conversation details are being tracked.
  • … and many more system to system questions where mixed data, workflow, or communications make sense.

To support these efforts, AppFusions has created integration connectors for Atlassian’s JIRA, the issue tracking tool used by 85% of the Fortune 500, and Confluence to such other commonly deployed Enterprise collaboration and content management tools, such as as JiveIBM Connections, and IBM SametimeBox, iRiseAlfresco, Google Docs, DropBox.

We are continuing to build more platform add-on application integrations to support our “connected enterprise vision” and help organizations better handle the new school approach to customer engagement that Dion describes.

McKinsey Projects Business Value of Social Business at a Trillion Annually

For the third year in a row, McKinsey has offered us some interesting and thought provoking data on the business impact of social media, both inside and outside the enterprise.  In 2010 they reported, Enterprise 2.0 finds Its Payday. Similar results were found in 2011. In both cases, they found significant quantified benefits from the business use of social media.

Now they offer new research, The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies. They found, “that social technologies, when used within and across enterprises, have the potential to raise the productivity of the high-skill knowledge workers that are critical to performance and growth in the 21st century by 20 to 25 percent.”

It is these knowledge workers that are producing an increasing amount of value within the enterprise and have long passed tangible assets as the main source of wealth for organizations (see  (see Daum’s Intangible Assets and Value Creation).

When I refer to “knowledge workers”, I am referring to all types in a typical corporation – from the technical writers, the web masters, corporate bloggers, and even engineering and product management that work transparently, documenting their visions, requirements, and efforts in shared organizational collaboration systems.

However, McKinsey also notes that businesses are not yet fully taking advantage of this potential for new wealth. The consumer Web led the way with social technologies and these tools are now being widely adopted for business use across industries. McKinsey found that by 2011, “72 percent of companies surveyed reported using social technologies in their businesses and 90 percent of those users reported that they are seeing benefits.”

In this early stage of mass adoption, McKinsey notes that, “businesses have only just begun to understand how to create value with these new tools.”

This is not unusual for a new disruptive technology. They estimate this potential to be more than $1 trillion annually. The opportunity is by no means limited to the market facing uses that have led adoption, such as Facebook and Twitter collaborations that sparked the trends, and showed how the value can be further proliferated and realized across an organization’s value chain.

I find productivity enhancements beyond marketing to be some of the more transformative aspects of social technologies, as they do not simply change they way we market, but fundamentally change the way we work.

Technology, via the Web, has made us more social, increasing the connections between people. This has affected individuals, extended families, and even whole societies, as several revolutions have been realized through the use of social media. Now the potential to make businesses more social offers the same transformative potential. McKinsey noted a number of years ago that the value within enterprises lies more in the interactions between people than the transactions.

This is even more true today, as intangible assets account for an increasing amount of corporate wealth. They offer several specific ways this wealth could occur. First, there is increasing customer engagement and harvesting of customer insights. This extends to crowd-sourcing new ideas and products, as well as providing better communication and collaboration with business partners.

Diving further inside the enterprise the socialization of business lowers barriers between functional silos, and even redraws “the boundaries of the enterprise to bring in additional knowledge and expertise in extended networked enterprises” while extending the capabilities and reach of highly skilled workers.

McKinsey notes that the potential is almost limitless as “almost any human interaction that can be conducted electronically can be made “social,” but only a fraction of the potential uses have been developed (e.g., online content sharing). Today, only 5 percent of all communications and content use in the United States takes place on social networks.”

They add that “social” is a feature, not a product so social features can be applied to almost any technology that involves interactions between people. Social technologies provide a means for employees, partners, and customers to publish, share, and consume content within a group. In doing this, the social tools create a record of interactions and/or connections that can serve a variety of uses.

McKinsey estimates that over 60% of the value creation opportunity offered by social technologies lies in improving communications and collaboration within and across enterprises. However, obtaining such gains – that could be as high as a 25% productivity improvement – requires significant transformations in management practices, organizational behavior, as deployed platforms and integrations.

A large part of this requires treating workers as people and not as tasks or assets. The network mentality needs to be based on both technical and behavioral transformation in order to create the truly networked enterprise. Creating a sense of trust is one foundation for this change as discussed on this blog (see Doing Well by Doing Good: Humanizing the Enterprise).

The McKinsey report offers ten concrete ways to generate the trillion in increased annual wealth including:

  • deriving customer insights,
  • co-creating products,
  • distributing business processes,
  • offering enhanced customer support, and,
  • improving collaboration and communication to better match talent to tasks.

I would add to also share insights, and focus the collective intelligence of the enterprise on all aspects of the business. There is much more in the report.

One of the foundations for the increased social nature of technology is the ability for applications to share content. Application integration is a cornerstone of this new wealth creation. This is one of the driving principles at AppFusions, as we develop faster and more efficient ways to enable application integration with our partners’ collaboration technologies to better build the networked enterprise that McKinsey describes.

McKinsey concludes that “the benefits of social technologies will likely outweigh the risks for most companies. Organizations that fail to invest in understanding social technologies will be at greater risk of having their business models disrupted by social technologies.”

It is a matter of either riding the wave or being ridden over by those that harness this new means to make better use of human potential to create value. Obviously, we agree.


Open Social Provides Standards to Help Put Social Software to Work

In 2011, customers spent $767.4 million on social software globally, and will spend almost $4.5 billion in 2016, according to IDC. That is a better than 40% growth. However, one of the factors that could work to slow down the momentum, is the involvement needed from IT departments to deploy and integrate the software. Dion Hitchcliffe, address one critical means to address this integration issue in his post, Enterprise Social Networks Need Open Standards.

Dion writes, “social media in general has proliferated so extensively now that there are often a half dozen or more social apps that we use every day in our personal lives, in the workplace, or both. But they usually have quite limited interoperability when it comes to our identities, data integration, and inter-social network user experience. Thus, our work in them is fragmented and siloed, limiting their reach and value. Standards would greatly help with this.” I could not agree more.

He goes on to note that with the rise of the app store, IT will move more into on-demand and disposable world. This will make the shelf-life of applications shorter. There must be a way to “easily and simply achieve continuity as the social foundation beneath us shifts and changes.

Open standards make it possible to swap out obsolete and outdated social components, move our data over as necessary, and keep working with as little disruption as possible.” Dion also points the need for social software to be part of the enterprise application architecture and connect with traditional work apps in a central way.

Two platforms diving in deep with the OpenSocial technology are Jive and IBM. Mark Weitzel is Director, Platform & Ecosystem, Jive Software and President, OpenSocial Foundation. He spoke at this year’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston on a panel, Designing Social Applications, with AppFusions, Ellen Feaheny and others. Mark said that one of the key things Jive recognized early on is the need for a real component model for the delivery of SaaS based apps.

Mark feels that OpenSocial is the best thing out there for this purpose. It is standards based. They put a market infrastructure around this so you can pick an app and get it installed right away like an iPhone app. OpenSocial also allows for IT controls in case you need to take out an app that is a problem.

Mark said they wanted to invoke apps within Jive in an easy way wherever you are and put it into the flow within the activity stream.  For example, AppFusions has created an OpenSocial-based JIRA in Jive integration. OpenSocial is now in the cloud version of Jive and will be coming to the on premise version by the end of the year.

I also spoke earlier with IBM’s Suzanne Livingston, Senior Product Manager for Connections. She said that the common underlying theme in the recent moves for Connections is the movement from providing a suite of applications to having Connections becoming a comprehensive social business platform with tighter integration.

One of the enablers of this tighter integration is the use of Connections with the OpenSocial Foundation, a standards board that IBM and other firms such as Microsoft, Google, Atlassian, and Jive collaboratively develop or utilize. Here is the list of OpenSocial adopters.

Wikipedia defines the OpenSocial Platform as a “public specification that defines a component hosting environment (container) and a set of common application programming interfaces (APIs) for web-based applications.” This effort is designed to give social tools the ability to work together, a wise move.

One of the major advances on the social platform evolution is the enhancement of the activity stream. I really applaud this move as I see the activity stream becoming the glue that holds the social enterprise together and make it run efficiently. To this end IBM has made its Connections activity stream open to third party apps. For example, an approval request from an SAP application can be placed into the activity stream and acted upon without leaving the activity stream.

Another example is AppFusions’ JIRA+ Enterprise Activity in IBM Connections integration, enabling integrated streams from any system integrated with JIRA — such as Box, UserVoice, Google Docs, Confluence, and any other system, to be streamed into IBM Connections. This is the type of capability that will truly enable the connected enterprise.

IBM has contributed this embedded experience capability into the OpenSocial Foundation so others can use it. So to be more specific you can take an item from a backend system, such as the SAP tracking order I mentioned, and place it into a side bar within a Connections activity stream. There it can be worked on and the results sent back to the backend system without the user actually having to go there.

The capability has opened doors for IBM to make stronger connections with other members of OpenSocial, such as Atlassian. AppFusions has partnered with IBM to create integrations between IBM Sametime with both Altassion’s JIRA tracking application and Confuence.

Open standards is a topic I have written about extensively on my Portals and KM blog and I certainly support all of Dion’s points, as well as the moves by Jive and IBM. I see open standards as one of the critical success factors for social software to enable social business and Open Social provides an effective means to address this issue.