Today’s series of mini-keynotes at Dreamforce is timely for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that we’ve seen so many examples lately of what happens when organizations embark on social business without much of a plan.
It’s understandable; how do you plan for something that you’ve never done before, and that can change the way you interact with customers, partners, investors, employees and your entire ecosystem?
These questions have been central to the work of my colleague Jeremiah Owyang, who has focused over the past several years on working with the enterprise to define and formalize those roadmaps. Earlier today, he published a new research report, “Social Business Readiness: How Advanced Companies Prepare Internally,” which lays out a great deal of data on how business is integrating social media within the organization and a framework–sort of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–related to social business enablement.
But imagine a world in which every business has organized and prepared for social. Once strategies, processes and technologies are in place, you’ve won about half the battle. The next challenge is seemingly simpler and yet far more formidable: people.
The social business, in which any customer or employee has a voice and the ability to be heard at scale, is massively disruptive to accepted notions of leadership and organizational design. When you as a leader have built your careers on being the person who knows and understands the business, what is the impact when the customer begins to exert real pressure and any employee can contribute ideas? In Charlene Li’s words, “you also need to think about the human, the social aspects of business.”
Adam Brown, Executive Director, Social Media, at Dell is on the front lines of social business enablement; Dell is widely regarded as one of the most–if not the most–advanced companies when it comes to social business. It’s not just a flaming laptop that set this into motion–many companies have had their spectacular embarrassments–it’s an organizational commitment and discipline, and a focus on customer experience, that pushes the definition of what “social” means deep into the business.
Of course, the speed of social business is either dizzying or glacial, depending on where you sit, and the incredible tools–the ones the technology industry imagines, develops and analyzes–no matter how brilliant–are still just tools. “What is the ROI of a piano?,” asks Gary Vaynerchuk. “For me it’s zero. For Elton John, it’s a f***load.” The war we are in now, he says, is about context. It’s about human relationships, not tools and tactics.”
The key theme among the three speakers, finally, is this: as we move to more social business, we’re going to need to figure out how to remake our organizations, no matter how big or small, on a more human scale. “We are living at the beginning of the humanization of business,” says Vaynerchuk. Forget about SEO; your aunt’s thoughts on pasta MATTER.”