Social business goes beyond social networking
To say that Filipinos are social in nature is an understatement. The Philippines ranks very high in terms of social network penetration. According to the recent comscore media metrix report, approximately 90 percent of Internet users in the country are hooked to a social network.
Most Filipinos turn to Facebook, YouTube, Multiply, Friendster, Twitter and other consumer sites. More and more companies employ these tools to communicate rapidly and effectively within their organizations.
For example, Cemex is one of the largest building materials companies in the world, operating in 50 countries with 47,000 employees and generating $14 billion in annual revenue. Cemex wanted to change its culture quickly, so it turned to IBM Connections, a social collaboration tool. Now Cemex’s employees are using Wikis, blogs and discussion forums to virtually share information, opinions, thoughts, experience and best practices in more than 500 “virtual” communities.
New business models
In fact, forward-looking organizations, such as Cemex, are finding out that integrating social networking tools with current business processes can help create new business models.
Businesses that fail to transform themselves into social businesses will be left behind by competitors that embrace social business techniques.
The situation is not unlike the challenges that businesses faced more than a decade ago, when the Internet was evolving from something used only by academics and researchers.
When looking at the lasting results of that period, a few notable large companies—eBay, Amazon and Google—sprouted up during the Internet boom and have since thrived.
However, the reality is that the technologies and the techniques coming out of the dot.com boom fundamentally changed the way enterprise applications were built for the next decade. What changed the most was the way enterprises transformed processes within their organizations.
Fast forward to today and look at what’s going on: We’re in the middle of a social craze. IDC predicts the emerging social platforms category (which includes enterprise social software products) will reach nearly $2 billion by 2014, for a compound annual growth rate of 38.2 percent over five years.
Social networks and social media have helped forge connections while providing new tools for collaboration and access to information. And these tools are finding their way into the workplace as well, with businesses adopting social technology at a rapid pace.
But there’s a big difference between social networking and social business. It’s one thing to create networks of customers, employees or partners. It’s quite another to change the processes that run businesses, to make them truly “social.”
For example, organizations that use social tools are better able to link together their developers or researchers, no matter where they’re located, in order to enable collaborative development across geographic borders or time zones.
Social business is about more than just collaboration, however; it’s about applying “social” technologies to business processes in order to radically improve the way organizations operate.
A social business could put social tools in the hands of human resources teams, enabling them to identify and assess talent and expertise, linking people with the right skills with the right opportunities, when and where they’re needed. HR teams could also tap into social networks to proactively respond to issues before they escalate, fundamentally changing the way they work within an organization, for the better.
To become a true social business, an organization needs to use three technologies:
The first is adoption of social media or social networking tools that enable employees to remain in contact with their network; respond quickly to business opportunities by calling upon the expertise in their network; and discuss and refine new ideas through the dialogue among communities of co-workers, partners and customers.
The second is a next-generation content management system that understands the rules of business. Regulatory compliance still applies if a business is using a social network. Financial services companies and stockbrokers who are communicating with clients still need to conform with US Securities and Exchange Commission or Basel III financial regulatory requirements. Gartner recently said that, by the end of 2013, half of all companies will be forced to produce material from their web sites for regulatory reasons.
Third is use of business analytics, which unlocks the potential of the information that emerges within a social network. Without analytics, the information is just mere data. By using analytics, an organization can start to tag the web pages where the data resides, collect information on how it’s being used. Then decisions can be made on how the systems will evolve, how the network should evolve, and how an organization can start to transform business processes.
The pace and rate of data is exploding exponentially, and 80 percent of this data is unstructured, such as the data from social networks, or conversations among customers on a message board. Fortunately, new types of analytics are helping companies to make good sense of this data.
By tagging the information within the social networks inside and outside of an organization and then applying analytics, businesses can gain insight into things, such as attitude toward a company’s brand or customer preferences. Such insight can provide businesses with the information to make more intelligent business decisions. Without analytics, the data from social business remain unused and “static.”
Creating connections and enabling collaboration through social networking is a great first step, but the real business value comes when an organization can tap into the data generated by these connections and use it to develop new business insights. This is the mark of a true social business.
(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is a member of the MAP board of governors and president and general manager of IBM Philippines, Inc. Feedback at email@example.com. For previous articles, visit <map.org.ph>.)
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