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Flattening the World

Businesses Adopt Social Tools to Improve Effectiveness and Efficiency


Sandy Carter’s job as social business evangelist is to help teach IBM’s clients about the value of adopting social networking into their business models.
Photography by Matt Carr

Making the Transition

It’s clear that social business isn’t just a trend. Why, then, do some organizations have such difficulty making the transition? Carter thinks it’s because becoming a social business isn’t just about technology; it requires change management and transformation, she explains.

“My favorite saying is ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch.’ If you’ve got the strategy right and you’ve got the IT right but your culture isn’t accepting of people sharing information, and you’re not comfortable with a lack of hierarchy or a customer coming and telling you what your product should look like, you can’t become a social business because your culture isn’t ready to receive that part of the puzzle,” Carter says.

Sometimes the decision to adopt social attributes comes from the top down. Other times it comes from elsewhere in an organization. CEOs often see how social networking can improve their competitiveness and decide to embed it in their business processes. Sometimes one division of a company will decide to pilot a social project. Once the pilot succeeds, other divisions get excited and want to jump on board. Carter has seen both approaches succeed.

Once the decision to move to social networking has been made, IBM recommends a six-step process:

  1. Develop a social agenda—Examine the organization’s goals and culture. In order for a social initiative—or any business initiative—to succeed, it must be measured against a business goal. At this point, a company must also make sure its goals and culture are aligned.

  2. Establish trust—Social is a relationship, and the basis and grounding of every relationship is trust. “How does that company develop trust and how can it take that trust model online?” Carter asks.

  3. Engage employees and/or customers—Deciding how you want to engage internally with employees and externally with customers is vital to the process.

  4. Examine your processes—Which portions of your business can derive the most benefit from social? “We’ll look at the processes and see where social could have the most benefit that fits with culture, fits with the trust model and emphasizes that company’s differentiation,” she says.

  5. Risk management—It’s impossible to eliminate risk with social. Instead, an organization must develop a risk-management model as “you always have risk when people are talking about you,” Carter adds. “You can’t control that.”

  6. Analytics—What are the listening and responding devices and tools that you want to evaluate and leverage for success? What are you measuring?

‘Culture eats strategy for lunch.’

Evelyn Hoover is the content director of IBM Systems magazine. She can be reached at ehoover@msptechmedia.com.



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