Monday, February 7, 2011

This will be the decade of social business

Reflecting on the trends of social media including Facebook statistics, I am getting convinced that this decade will be the era of social business.
Till now, the relationship between business and social was used to signify that could fulfill social objectives. Poverty alleviation was the platform, social uplift was the mechanism and Nobel Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus was the poster boy. The Grameen Bank where the borrowers could become shareholders and investors getting their money back over the long term, sans dividends was considered the business model.
With the growth in social media and its use even in political uprising, it has become necessary to redefine the social business concept.
The social business has to embrace social networks (i.e. networks of people with varying ties and relationships) and create business value. Till now, companies have watched the growth surge of Facebook’s numbers and some have used it as a personal platform or considered it as an emerging advertising platform. I think the time has come for companies to rethink about the social platform and see how it can be used to enhance corporate efficiency or build new relationships with various stakeholders of the firm.
At SPJCM’s HR conclave, I presented how social media can be used by HR personnel for their various applications. While the audience predominantly comprising of senior HR professionals were appreciative of the potential of social media, many were skeptical about the results, since they didn’t know how to deploy it or measure the impact.
This is not new. I distinctly remember how E-Business got started during the mid nineties. Several forward looking organizations started pilot initiatives just to understand the relevance and possibilities of E-Business. There was excitement and skepticism. It was only when IBM threw its hat in the ring that E-Business became acceptable to the businesses — both big and small. IBM with its advertising campaign appealed to all businesses to consider web-enabling all their applications, integrating databases and process transactions from customers, suppliers and employees. For a long time, IBM didn’t develop any core technology in E-Business but still managed to garner most of the mindshare.
Following IBM (and perhaps more as a competitive move), Oracle announced the E-Business suite. This became successful as well and both companies rode the E-Business wave for several years to come.
The social business or S-Business is now at an inflexion point. I have seen several point solutions in social CRM, social collaboration suites, Web 2.0 platforms, but I have yet to see a major technology firm make an attempt to grab this space with a complete suite. Even IBM which was successful with its E-Business initiatives seems to be tentative about the S-Business. IBM launched the Lotus Connections recently and seem focused on collaboration.
Learning to work in virtual environments has become the de-facto norm in the globalized world of today. Yet, most organizations miss the synchronicity and the orchestration opportunities as they still operate from a command and control mindset. This has not been possible partly because of trust issues. The S-Business framework which will have relationships as the primary basis may partly offset the impediments. Yet, the mindset change has to happen.
In my view, we have passed the era of mass manufacturing. I see the future to be one of mass and dynamic collaboration and organizations who wake up to this reality will have the competitive advantage.


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