The word “social business” is thrown around almost as much as the catch phrase “The Cloud”.  But what makes me want to stab pencils through my ears (so I don’t have to listen to  the rest of the conversation) is when the social business conversation focuses on technology or just social tools like Facebook.In a recent white paper titled “Social Business: Patterns in achieving social business success”, IBM defines social business and the benefits as:

“An organization whose culture and systems encourage networks of people to create business value. Social businesses connect individuals, so they can rapidly share information, knowledge and ideas by having conversations and publishing informal content. They analyze social content from multiple channels and sources, in addition to structured data, to gain insights from both external and internal stakeholders. When those things happen, innovation and business execution rates increase, better decisions are made, and customers and employees are more engaged and satisfied. Social businesses enjoy lower operating costs, faster speed-to-market, improved customer and employee engagement, and increased profitability”.

Yes technology helps facilitate conversation and connects employees, but if the culture doesn’t encourage transparency, embrace working across departments (no silos), and empowers employees to take ownership in the business (solutions and problems)  technology will not realize the benefits expected or maybe none at all.. When this happens decision makers are gun shy and it becomes an uphill battle to transform into a social business. Once the words are uttered again, executives will send you out of the board room, to the intern, who is now your boss managing the social media accounts 🙂 Culture controls the enterprise Some companies feel social will magically change the culture to an open innovative company. Other companies fear adding social will make employees behave badly or do less work. One of my favorite quotes addressing these perspectives is “Social doesn’t transform your culture.  It reveals your culture.” Dion Hinchcliffe calls company culture the corporate immune system. He says:

“Culture is a shared set of norms, practices, customs, expectations, and habits that have formed around and perpetuate how a company works and operates. While company culture is great at making the business function as expected and helps foster continuity and order, it’s also astonishingly good at killing off attempted changes to the system; undesirable and desirable both.”

I’ve seen a company I worked for evolve over the years. The culture changed drastically, now embracing an open culture. Yes, there’s still bumps in the road, but the stories from employees around the water cooler about being  reprimanded for raising issues, are now  stories of  encouragement and empowerment, dealing with the issue and make a positive difference for the company. Because the culture became more transparent and embraced employees as the experts they are,  employees were willing to explore social tools and embrace social business to listen, share, collaborate, innovate, and ask the hard questions. In the past some employees hesitated to raise an issue in a meeting, no less, document it in writing on a discussion board or Yammer. Now the same employees are using social tools or integrating social business into their business areas. It’s critical to have the right company culture before a company can start seeing the transformation to a social business.  We’re in the post-industrial era where the hierarchical structure is being blown away for a networked model of management. Why is this? Because if companies don’t they will move too slow, not hear their employees or customers, innovate less and die. How to become a social business?

  1. Change your culture by working with executives and managers
  2. Get buy in from the top
  3. Create a Social Enterprise Board consisting of employees from across the company
  4. Map your social business strategy to real business goals across the company
  5. Find advocates across the enterprise
  6. Start small, learn, tweak
  7. Share successes
  8. Repeat

Assess your culture I found this chart on the “Social Media to Social Business” Blog. It’s a great way to evaluate where your culture is and what you want it to be. With these results you can work on a plan to change your culture, then during this process slowly implement your strategy and tactics for a social business outlined above.cultureWhat are your successes or challenges striving to become a social business? I would love to find samples of Social Strategies as well.

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