Enterprise 2.0 Isn’t About Social Business, It’s Just About Business

Last night, while flying home from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference – Santa Clara, I thought about all of the sessions I attended, the people I spoke with, the demos I watched, and I kept thinking back to something that Dawn Lacallade said in her presentation on Wednesday afternoon:

“If you want your Enterprise 2.0 efforts to be successful, you have to use words other people understand and care about.”

She went on to say that instead of talking about social media, social business, building communities and why your organization needs to use blogs, wikis, and microblogging, you should be talking about increasing sales, increasing productivity, and cutting costs. If you’re talking with Director of HR, he doesn’t care that you are managing 100 new communities or that 1,000 Yammer messages were posted today. He wants to know if the attrition rates are going down or that new employees are getting acclimated more quickly. For you, building communities might be the goal. For him, those communities don’t mean anything unless they can help him reach his goals.

Paradoxically, sometimes the best way to implement social tools are to not refer to them as social tools. This isn’t a new concept – do a Google search for social media leadership buy-in and you’ll come across thousands of articles and case studies all saying some variation of, “focus on the business objectives, not the tools.”

For Enterprise 2.0 to be successful, we have to take it much further. This about much more than what words to use. It’s about integrating the use of Enterprise 2.0 tools into the actual business. It’s about realizing that these tools are a means to an end, not the end itself. It’s about understanding that a social business community that isn’t tied to actual business goals isn’t sustainable.

In this article, Chris Rasmussen explains how five years after the launch of Intellipedia, there’s still a long way to go to integrate it into the way the Intelligence Community does its work.

The United States Intelligence Community (IC) has made tremendous strides over the last several years with the introduction of a wide range of social software tools such as wikis, blogs, user tagging services, and social networking services for knowledge management and information sharing. Looking back over the last five years there’s little question that “information sharing” has increased across the board and the Web 2.0 tools mentioned above have helped with this moderate cultural shift. We have successfully automated the digital watercooler, created a massive unofficial knowledge base, and improved search by increasing the amount of links, but is this it? Are process gains in informal channels the optimized promise of Web 2.0 at work? What about the official channels? Content exchange is the lowest rung of the collaborative ladder when compared to joint knowledge co-creation in official channels and this has not happened within the IC.

This is where the Enterprise 2.0 industry finds itself today.You’ve brought social tools to your Intranet? You’ve created a dozen active, vibrant communities behind your firewall? That’s great, but don’t go patting yourself on the back too much. Now, let’s drive it deeper into the business. If your goal this year was to bring Enterprise 2.0 to your organization, your goal for next year should be to integrate those tools into one or more of your business units. If you spoke at the this year’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference and talked about community management or your implementation of SharePoint, Newsgator, Yammer, Socialcast, Clearvale or any of the other platforms, next year, I want you to bring a leader from another part of your business who can talk about how he’s used the platforms and the communities to have a tangible impact on his business.

Becoming a Social Business isn’t enough – you also have to become a better business.

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Chris Poirier

I’ve often commented that tools don’t make the process. I think this issue has only been further compounded as the many options for tools have increased and continue to do so. To this end I feel like we’ve lost track of the mission: accomplishing the mission and supporting all of our customers. (Read=Boss, co-worker, actual customer, tax payer, etc.) We don’t need new tools to innovate business, we need solid business practices and processes.

Let me explain: When considering building a bird house most of us probably know how to accomplish this task: Go to Wal-Mart and buy one. But, for those who adventure into their basement and/or garage to actually build something this example is for you. So step one would be to gather what you need to be successful at building your bird house: 1) Some plans 2)Some materials and 3) Some tools. Ultimately, combining all three of these things you will build a bird house and soon birds will be setting up shop and you can feel accomplished. However, most of us also know that it’s how we combine these three items that measures our level of success. 1) Plans need to be for what you actually want to accomplish and simple to understand 2) Materials should last and not create unneeded waste and finally 3) Tools should help you accomplish the task not make it more complicated. (Anyone see where this is going yet?) You then follow the plans, assemble your materials in the right way while using the appropriate tools.

This is simple people:

1) Like building a bird house, you need good plans to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. These are much like our business processes. Lacking solid business processes, you end up building a dog house when all you wanted was a simple place for a blue bird to call home.
2) Materials should be what you need to accomplish the job and should be of good quality. We all want to ensure the work we do lasts and answers the task at hand. If we don’t then we have failed ourselves and our customers by delivering a poor product.
3) And of course tools: Everyone wants the shiny new tool that’s on sale at Home Depot (or Lowes if you like..) but do you need it? Does it help you accomplish your goal or only look pretty, take up space, and cost a lot of money? Does it even do the task you need it to do? Have you ever bought a tool that claimed to do a bunch of things including the ONE thing you need it to do, just to find out it doesn’t even do the task you need all that well let alone the rest of the things it advertised?

So, maybe this is a little hokey..or is it? Often times I feel we are losing sight of our task, our customers, and the end state by the shiny new tool on the shelf that promises to do everything including slice my fresh bread before a meal. Knowing the task and how you are going to accomplish it is most important today along with delivering top quality to your customer whether that customer is your boss, another division, another organization, or what have you. Tools are supposed to help accomplish the tasks and support the process, not BE the process, etc. It’s time we focus on getting things done and producing results by way of using the correct tools for the job. Social media/web2.0/shiny web objects of choice are just that, tools: Some are good for accomplishing the mission, others are just new fancy tools that do too much for their own good.

Focus on the mission, the customers, and the outcomes and allow the appropriate tools fall into place to make the overall experience better. Don’t fall for what every pitchman has for you or what’s on sale at the front of the mega shopping center store this holiday season. Bottom line: Tools, no matter how shiny and awesome they are, should never be the solution, they are only the means to accomplishing the mission.

Steve Radick

“Bottom line: Tools, no matter how shiny and awesome they are, should never be the solution, they are only the means to accomplishing the mission.” – spot on Chris!

Chris Poirier

@steve thanks! I’ve been saying this forever. People have always been far too focused on the “tool”, the “widget”, the “cog”, the “magic bullet” or what have you. It’s the process and how you engage your customers people! If you don’t have a good process in place there isn’t a tool out there that will save you, in fact most tools will only make the problem worse instead of better and then you have a shiny tool that no one uses.