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Preparing for the inevitable - the social enterprise

Preparing for the inevitable - the social enterprise

Pointers for managing the shift discussed at Cloudforce 2012.

The move to become a social enterprise – where the concepts of social computing are embedded in the way the organisation operates – is inevitable, says John Brand, vice president at analyst firm Forrester. Organisations are thinking about the social enterprise as part of the way they do business, not a marketing-only function, says Brand at the recent Cloudforce 2012 event in Sydney.

Brand says the shift involves enterprises moving from internally focused collaboration, which is about connecting employees, to more “externally aware” connections that include supply chain partners,and product development partners.

“In the social world, it is about the ecosystem, it is about connecting communities” that also change rapidly, he says.

There are many paths to take to become a social enterprise, but a lot of organisations find it is difficult for to choose the right approach, says Brand. He says implementing social technology without planning for change “is an oxymoron”.

Brand says the move to become a social enterprise is likewise driven by mobility and the bring your own device trend, with the rise of a mobile workforce and younger generation used to working in a particular style.

Brand says “one of the surprises” is seeing some early adopters from government. An example is a case worker in the field using paper and pen but also using chat tools to see what conversations people have about the case. “It is mixing channels and capturing follow on conversations,” says Brand.

Andy Lark, chief marketing and online officer of Commonwealth Bank, echoes the view of Brand about the factors driving the company to become more social. The reality is when you look at employees coming into the workforce today they are bringing their own devices and their own network to work, says Lark. “Increasingly they want to collaborate and work in the same way they live their life."

Vanessa Thompson, research manager for enterprise collaboration and social solutions at IDC, says in the move to the social enterprise, it is critical for the CIO to “understand what tools they [users] want and what they are comfortable using at home and then translating that into the work environment.”

“It is more an understanding, being aware of what is being used by employees but also how business processes can be augmented by social process and social workflow.” This could be time to market or responding faster, connecting employees that may be disparate or making business processes more accessible to a number of people.

There is also the need to look at the breadth of the roles across the enterprise, whether there are a lot of field workers or knowledge workers, and how they will collaborate around people, content or data, she says.

Rob Begg, vice president, Radian6 marketing for Salesforce, says social enterprises are “more data driven” rather than being “run on anecdotes or gut feel”.

Begg says a number of organisations start the road to social through marketing or in customer service. “Before you do a campaign, you listen to conversations broadly on people purchasing homes [as an example], what's important to them and adopt your marketing.”

Marketers use focus groups and at the same time create “real time focus groups” on Twitter. “You know more about your audience before you engage,” he says.

Twitter, on the other hand, is a “real time platform” for customer service, and a prime example for this would be among airlines.

“Social media is living, breathing, moving piece of data,” says Begg. “It is a type of big data and getting bigger and bigger.”

In a video shown at the conference, Kimberly Clark CIO Ramon Baez says the social enterprise allows them to have a different discussion with customers. “We get instantaneous feedback across the globe," he says.

Divina Paredes attended the Cloudforce Sydney 2012 as a guest of Salesforce.com

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