Moving Towards a Social Business

by Joe on March 17, 2011

I think that each of us come across books, stories, articles, whitepapers or posts that leave a lasting impression.  Sometimes an idea resonates with us immediately, other times the idea needs to simmer in the background before we have the “a-ha” moment.  I love the feeling of excitement when I connect the dots and I can see the whole picture. This post is about two such moments (out of many, many others).

The Past

Many moons ago I came across two interesting bloggers, Peter Kim and Jeremiah Owyang.  Peter was at Forrester and Jeremiah joined Forrester shortly after I discovered his blog. I found their posts and research reports to be eye opening and I was soon hooked on to the possibilities of social marketing.   One day in January 2009 Peter wrote a post about moving past social marketing into social business as well as introducing his new company, Dachis Group.  The premise or promise of social business is to leverage social technologies to create new processes, business models and methods for connecting and collaborating.  Wow. Here is someone suggesting that organizations should consider re-engineering how they do what they do using social technologies and concepts. Pretty radical notion at the time considering the general reluctance to do social marketing. I suggest social business is still a radical idea that is slowly gaining more visibility.

In April 2009 Jeremiah Owyang published a report about the Five Eras of the Social Web. There five overlapping eras show how people and technologies allow for the acceleration of social connections and commerce. When the report was written there was no single widely used unifying technology to manage all of your online identities or carry your social connections tween networks. I wrote a post in June 2009 suggesting people use OpenID as that identity technology instead of Facebook Connect since OpenID offers a higher degree of privacy and control. Guess no one listened.

You may be thinking, “what is the connection between these two somewhat different posts?” I was working at an enterprise software company that provided both collaboration and identity management software when I read these posts. I sat in my cube reflecting on the internal culture of the company, the adoption of the collaboration tools, the complexity of managing identities and the groundswell of social media, wondering how these shifts in marketing and commerce would evolve. I believed that organizations would become “social” through and through. I did not know how or when.

The Present

Here we are almost two years later. The Five Eras are coming to fruition albeit a bit later and lasting longer than predicted. Facebook Connect is everywhere giving Facebook (and those that pay for access) unprecedented access to personal data. People depend on social technologies to accomplish every day tasks and are forming into communities that share common interests or causes. Organizations in turn are scrambling to engage external individuals and communities and they are also trying to figure out how to change the internal structure to support the external demands. Yes, organizations are leveraging “social” to do more than marketing but are they changing their existing internal structure and culture to be aligned to changing external demands? I would anecdotally say not yet. So what should organizations do to remain competitive and relevant in the coming years?

The answers lie within the concepts of Social Business. Michael Brito writes that a “social business is built upon three pillars – people, process and technology” (classic pillars I might add). Within these three pillars are topics such as organizational models, culture, internal communications, governance, technology and so on. I like the framework he is using to help organizations work through the process to becoming a social business.

One topic he did not cover in the post but I am sure will be in his upcoming book deals with communities. I believe that communities are a foundational element to a social business. The communities internal to the organization have to be aligned to the needs, wants and desires of the external communities. I am definitely going to explore how communities fit into a social business so stay tuned.

In the meantime feel free to to share any resources or case studies of organizations that are making the shift to a “social business”.

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