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Wednesday, 4 January 2012
What Is A Social Business?
What is the point of social business? Have you been trying to figure it out? If you were asking that question from a corporate standpoint, you’d say: oh, to reap the benefits of social media inside the enterprise. If you were an NGO you’d say, actually it’s to raise capability levels across the globe.
I had an interesting conversation today with Malcolm Frank, strategy chief at Cognizant, on the first of those.
The problem is, while we’re on the cusp of the most significant process redesign in 20 years, we haven’t got close to a consensus on what social business means. Come to that do we know how to initiate the changes to get us there, and are we even articulating the benefits properly?Malcolm sees in 2012 an echo of 1993 when theWintel application stack began taking over enterprise processes. Social business is about to do the same, he says. We’re all primed for significant long term business process redesign.
There are four quick takeaways from my discussion with Malcolm that I thought were worth sharing. There will be more.
# 1. Creating better business processes
A lot of the discussion of social business is over-focused on issues like social media and collaboration. Yet the main point is to identify those business processes that will benefit from a social application or improved social interaction. It’s not about social media, it is about identifying business processes that you can render faster, cheaper, better.
#2. Changing knowledge-based processes
Business proceses are too often designed as if they take place only in the physical world, using a factory or assembly line analogy. But physical and virtual worlds are converging. And many business processes are knowledge-based, end-to-end. They don’t need a physical world analogy. Break out of it by identifying knowledge-based processes and by raising awareness of this analogy default.
# 3. Creating deeper relationships
A lot of companies are stuck in the trap of thinking it is. The very term social implies a move back to human level interaction. In fact it can mean designing processes that raise the level of intimacy between the company and the customer but that doesn’t have to be face to face and most often is not. Think Amazon. In retail ffor example, social is finding ways of knowing your best customers the minute they walk into your territory, rather than at the till, and giving them all the tools it takes to get the most out of their visit. That might not mean face-to-face contact. It does mean enabling them to use social tools, for example to do price comparison.
#4. A rational decision process
Of all four points the first is the easiest to absorb but the fourth might be the most important.Companies are making decisions based on this premise: social tools are better than non-social so buy a social platform. And avoiding the difficult one: how do we reengineer the business (I would say how do we re-imagine it)?
Companies have become poor decision makers and that can’t have happened by design. A fifth point would be to front up on this one. Are your decision processes driven by your platform vendors or by really knowing how you business will function in a more socially supplemented environment?