Rob Arnold's Blog

Social Business is About Relationships

02 Aug 2011 | by Rob Arnold
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The concept of "social" is everywhere in consumer markets and after social networking gained immense popularity there social tools have leapt into the enterprise. 

There's a lot of confusion in the market about the difference between social media and social business, which is far from synonymous. A social business strategy can employ social media capabilities, yet integrating or incorporating consumer social media outlets (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) into the professional environment isn't a requirement for social business. Social business software comprises interactive communications applications, provides visibility into resources and content, and orchestrates the flow of information among users, groups and organizations. In this respect, enterprise social software strives to leverage the principles of social media for business purposes.

The shift to become a social business is part of an organization’s larger business transformation plan. It requires a shift in user habits, business culture and practices. It requires a shift from traditional, centralized, unidirectional, top-down corporate communications, reporting and organizational structures.

Whereas traditional enterprise software and business systems are typically structured for specific pre-determined data-driven use cases, enterprise social software encourages each business and user to create their own relationships between data, content and knowledge. These multi-faceted relationships help to break down the silos and flatten the hierarchy of an organization’s information flow.

Social business also requires a critical mass of employee engagement. Successful deployments require that enough relationships exist to remove latency in processes and responsiveness that characterize “traditional” information and reporting hierarchies. The fluid relationships the flexibility and agility to be proactive,  as well as more responsive to both fast and slow moving changes.

Becoming a social business should not entail reinventing the wheel. Like any business transformation plan, becoming a social business is best achieved by leveraging existing assets and resources. By introducing new tools, organizations can bring about new and improved ways of working to support and strengthen existing business processes and goals. Process enhancement is achieved through effective collaboration, streamlined workflows, organized documentation, accessible information and accelerated decision making.

Tools are important (i.e., user follows/networking, groups/communities, profiles, activity streams, wikis, presence, blogs, microblogs, etc.) but social business provides the relationships that can help organizations tackle their foremost challenges of improving access to information, collaboration, customer service, employee engagement, enhancing processes, and driving innovation.