Are ‘social enterprise’ and ‘social business’ terms of the past? Last week, I had the opportunity to present my views on the corporate social maturity model at the Social Media Intelligence Summit organized by the Altamont Group. Some of my views, specifically that if we are successful with social media, the end state will be just called enterprise, and not social enterprise or social business, are quite controversial and I wanted to share my thoughts here as well.
I have been reflecting on this topic for at least a year now, and many people have published their views on this. If you don’t believe me, just google ‘social media maturity model’, I got 1.7 million hits. My fundamental problem however with most of the ones I have seen is this:
Most start at some well-defined state where an organization has developed some (listening) capabilities and end at this nebulous thing called ‘social enterprise’ or ‘social business’.
Yes, I did google ‘social enterprise’ as well, and came up with 249 million hits; that is on top of the 2.9 million hits you get when you google‘ social business’. Based on my experience and beliefs, both of these are fallacies and do not reflect reality.
The over-arching message for me is that social media is a means to an end rather than end in itself. Success in social media is when the entire organization looks at it as a lever to achieve a certain business objective, regardless of whether you are in sales, marketing, product management, or customer service. In my opinion, there is no such thing as social business or social enterprise, the same way there is no such thing as a web business today.
So here are my thoughts: I believe there are four stages in total, and I have tried to capture some of the key differences across each stage.
The first stage (‘Organic’) is where employees in your companies start to experiment, frequently with little or no guidance or objectives, simply because they are intellectually curious or motivated. Many people will call these folks rogue, I personally like to think of them as pioneers or champions.
The second step (‘Enabled’) is where you start to see emerging roles and processes such as the so-called centers-of-excellence.
These first two steps are typically orderly but this is where chaos comes in. In my view, the end state (‘Embedded’) is where social media is just another tactic/channel, or whatever else you want to call it, that is fully embedded in your corporate DNA.
How you get there however varies. I have seen two dominant paths as companies evolve to this state:
The first way is the straight line. Once companies have built some of these enablement capabilities across some functions, they truly integrate social media across all their functions (e.g., sales, marketing, and customer service) with one coherent strategy.
The other way is where companies initially bypass the ‘Integrated’ stage and embed social in some of their functions, such as customer service. They will eventually come back and integrate all the functions but will typically do this later.
The reality is that we have already seen similar major disruptions in the past 20 years, whether it was Business Process Re-engineering (1990), CRM (Siebel, the CRM pioneer was founded in 1993), or the web (Netscape, the first web browser was founded in 1994). At each of these inflection points, we initially got enamored, but eventually moved on. Why should this time be any different? Would the ‘social enterprise’ exist had it not been for the web?
All of this really reminds me of Amara’s Law: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. My opinion is that the sooner we remove the word social media from our vocabulary, the shorter this journey will be.
Of course, this topic is all the more timely given the recent uproar towards Salesforce’s attempt to trademark ‘social enterprise’. I personally believe they should take a page off their playbook and trademark this instead:-)
What do you think? Are my views totally off-the-mark? Am I really missing something? As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.
For those of you that wish to look at my slides, I have embedded them below. They include some more details for each stage and transition to the next.