Monthly Archives: March 2011

Picking an Entry Point into Social Business

At the recent Lotusphere 2011 conference, IBM emphatically promoted its vision for Social Business.  While the conference has been blogged about in many places, we’d like to focus on one particular component of the IBM argument for Social Business, namely that of choosing an entry point into Social Business.

Throughout several of the keynote addresses and other sessions, IBM described the need for businesses to choose an entry point into Social Business.   While admitting that “there are many other potential entry points,” IBM’s top three areas are:

  1. Customer Service/Marketing
  2. Product or Service Development/Operational Effectiveness
  3. [Operations/] Human Resources (Operations was omitted from several of the presentations)

While these three areas indeed make sense (as blogged about here), it is important to understand that the choice selected even among these three options is a direct reflection of a business’ key assumptions and its strategy for becoming a Social Business.

When contemplating the choice, ask yourself if you are looking to become a social business on the outside of your organization, on the inside, or both?  While many businesses see value in customer outreach and marketing that comes from having an externally facing social presence, it was refreshing to hear IBM emphasize at Lotusphere the benefits of meeting a business’ internal social business needs.

Externally focused social media and social business efforts are really nothing new.  But the recognition of the potential value of becoming an “internal” Social Business is a much more recent phenomenon.  In the end, businesses are social entities.   Each person in the business is a member of multiple social networks both internal and external to the organization.  Every member of the business team has unique social connections inside and outside of the organization.

What would happen if a business (or a team within a business) could tap into the entire spectrum of social networks to identify the expertise needed to complete business goals?  What would happen if a project manager could “see” the entire social network of her team and leverage those rich connections to better communicate with the greater business community at large?  There are a significant number of internal processes and operations where the visibility and awareness created by social technologies can be brought to bear to deliver real business value.

Getting back to the top three entry points…

IBM identified Customer Service/Marketing – a typical value proposition on the external side – as number one.  This is not surprising given the general acceptance of externally focused Social Business.  Social CRM is in fact a good vehicle for transforming the traditional customer acquisition and marketing channel from a push-based, interruption heavy, broadcasting model to an interactive model of openness and trust between a business and its existing and potential customers.  But really this is just “another” channel for surfacing a shift in marketing focus that is already well established.

We see the real value of creating a Social Business as further pushing the envelop of what social can do for business by fully engaging both internal and external facing processes – entry points #2 and #3 in IBM’s list.  Our next post will focus on the bang for the buck that comes when businesses morph into Social Businesses using this approach.

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Article on IBM’s strategy on Activity Streams

In a follow up to our post on Ambient Awareness, Forbes has an article on Activity streams, and IBM’s strategy on them.  (Activity streams are the operationalization of Social Business Apps ambient awareness.)

The article in Forbes stresses the “surprise” that can occur in Activity Streams (although “serendipitous” seems to be the term most utilized “out there” in the blogosphere).  This concept of surprise or serendipitous awareness is exactly the kind of effect that ambient awareness builds.  However, what is missing from the article is the concept that it’s not just the “ah ha” surprise of one post that a user sees that is important.  Rather, it’s is the cumulative impact of hundreds (or thousands) of small pieces of information, some important, some trivial, that over time build into social networks the kind of “ESP” described in our previous post.

Another important thing in this article is the fact that IBM is embracing open standards for Activity streams (as is Trilog Group, our sponsor).  To really get the full effect of social business, platform vendors like IBM have to make their platforms very open standards friendly.