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Get Social or Get Lost? How the move to social is changing IT May 3, 2013

Posted by kristinamensch in Modern IT.

Human beings are social creatures. History has shown us that human beings have always had the need to express themselves and communicate their stories, ideas, and opinions with each other. Many advances in technology have enabled human communication and knowledge sharing over vast distances, but none have reached as many people in as short of a time as social computing. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s report The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies, social site Twitter reached 50 million users after 9 months [10]. Comparatively, it took Facebook 1 year, the Internet 3 years, Television 13 years, and Radio 38 years to meet this user milestone. In October 2011, 1.2 billion global users visited a social networking site [1]. In a world where 1 out of every 5 minutes online are spent on social sites we cannot underestimate the power of value of social computing. As the world embraces social networking and social media as a valid and valuable forms of communication, so too must businesses. According to the HootSuite whitepaper, Organize Your Social Business, 79% of companies surveyed currently use or are planning a social media strategy and 40% of CEOs are looking toward social media initiatives to produce business value [6].

According to IBM, social business “embeds social tools, media, and practices into the ongoing activities of the organization – enabling individuals to connect and share information and insights more effectively with others, both inside and outside the organization” [7]. Any person active on social media sites is able to see that companies representing many different industries have an active presence on these sites. These companies have been successfully using social media to reach consumers with advertising and marketing materials, customer support, and even recruiting. These first attempts at integrating social media with business are a good start and are providing important value to organizations. Social maturity, however, would include implementing an enterprise wide social strategy that is monitored and maintained to provide business value in all aspects of business not just the initial adoption use cases of sales and marketing. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that there is a potential added business value of over $1 trillion over the entire business enterprise that can be reached through social business [10]. Companies must plan and prepare a social strategy to keep up with the quickly evolving social world.

Over the last generation, technological advances have changed the way people handle technology, consume data, and live with – or cannot live without – technology. As workers become more tech savvy and demanding of technologies they use in their personal life in the work environment the traditional role of IT is changing. Traditionally IT has been responsible for the automation of business processes and management of business data and technology infrastructure and it has done its job very well. Businesses have invested heavily in IT in general and are now seeing a plateau in the returns from this investment. Many commodity applications are taking place of in-house applications for daily business task management and business technology is moving from “systems of record” to “systems of engagement” [4]. Systems of record represent the classic business process applications. These highly structured systems are transactional, reliable, slow to change, and represent the core of the business and its data. Technological advances, the consumerisation of IT, and the increased business cycle have altered the traditional business system model. Systems of engagement, on the other hand, are adaptable, loosely structure, variable and dynamic. To ensure a solid future, IT departments must shift their focus toward systems of engagement, collaboration, and communication between internal and external customers. Social business is one of these systems.

According to the IMB, 54% of companies say that the Marketing department owns social [9]. This idea is born from the fact that marketing is using social media and technology more than any other group in many organizations. As more departments (sales, human resources, and product development) begin to see the usefulness in engaging in the social media landscape they will want to have a social identity too. The IT department must insert themselves into the social business discussion early on to prevent the employees on the ground from investing in a social platform without thinking about security, data analysis, integration, and an organizational vision. IT must take the initiative to identify areas where social technology can be of value and collaborate with other departments to create a unified social vision. IT departments within large organizations can be slow moving and a bottleneck to the implementation of the newest technologies. In order to stay relevant in the changing business world IT has to remove the barriers that involved in typical IT projects and decrease the time to market for social applications. . Organizations need a single vision and strategy that is controlled and monitored by an interdisciplinary team in a social command center of sorts and IT needs to be a part of this.

Social, big data, and analytics go hand in hand. Social computing produces a vast and varied data footprint. Big data has been developed to handle this kind of variable, unstructured data and analytics are being developed and deployed to find patterns and make sense of the data that social users leave behind. Without advances in big data capabilities and the specialization of statistical and analytical careers social business would be impossible. The value that social business can provide is a direct result of the data management and analysis provided by these emerging IT fields [5]. Analysis is becoming increasingly important to distill the myriad of social data to actionable intelligence. No social business strategy or vision would get anywhere without deep discussion about the role of big data and analytics – it simply would not exist without them.

Social business is an evolving technological solution. The collaborative, communicative, and sharing nature of the social environment can benefit greatly from implementation along side a cloud solution. Cloud solutions provide organizations with easily scalable infrastructure and resources that can be utilized to pilot social initiatives and analyze social data [8]. The nature of cloud computing can provide small to midsized organizations an economic approach to social business. Business technology providers like IBM and Jive are providing social business PaaS solutions for organizations even today. Out of the box solutions like these or others may provide an organization a good option for social business implementation.

Cisco estimates that by the end of 2013 the number of connected mobile devices will exceed the total world population [2]. This increase in mobile devices will impact the scope and reach of social computing. Mobile technologies have combined with the mobile web to create a generation of users that are always connected to information and each other. Social computing has flourished in the mobile environment. Consumers are used to having a constant connection between themselves and the world with their mobile devices – using them for social networking, micro-blogging, sharing photos, and otherwise documenting their lives. Social and mobile have a symbiotic relationship that is changing the way that companies do business. Consumers and employees want to be able to access social business solutions any time, anywhere, and on any device. For companies developing a social business strategy they must consider how it will translate to and from the mobile environment.

Corporate culture can have a large impact, both positive and negative, on social business. Enterprise social solutions strive to create a collaborative, communicative, and sharing work environment. These implementations can struggle if they are not properly launched, utilized, and championed by workers. Changing the way that organizations traditionally communicate and collaborate can take time (and incentives) to take hold. When moving from a ‘need to know’ to a ‘need to share’ organization, managers and highly knowledgeable workers might balk at the information sharing and transparency that a truly social organization should have [3]. The move from striving for individual acclaim to group acclaim will need much support. A social business solution is more than engaging consumers on social media websites. It is vision for embracing new technologies and empowering employees to find business value where they can. Social business is a solution that can succeed with a solid, incremental, supported implementation.

Social computing has the potential to effect real change in the way that companies conduct business both internally and externally. As consumers and organizations share more social information, products and services will be altered or created to better meet the needs of today’s consumer. Enterprise social business has the capability of removing the barriers that stand between divisions, departments, and locations of organizations to create a truly collaborative work environment. Social business solutions, thanks to big data and analytics, can provide information needed for just in time sourcing, manufacturing, and delivery. The speed and scale at which social media can reach consumers can limit risks in the case of a product recall or other dangerous situations. It is easy to see the numerous ways that social computing can benefit consumers and employees and it is important to realize that with collaboration, communication, and sharing modern IT will be an invaluable part of this vision.

Works Cited
[1] Aquino, Carmela. “It’s a Social World: A Global Look at Social Networking – comScore, Inc.” comScore. January 6, 2012. http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/It_s_a_Social_World_A_Global_Look_at_Social_Networking (accessed May 3, 2013).

[2] Cisco. “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017.” Cisco. February 6, 2013. http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/white_paper_c11-520862.html (accessed May 3, 201).

[3] Clearvale. 7 Steps to Achieving a Successful Enterprise Social Network. Whitepaper, Redwood City: BroadVision, Inc, 2012.

[4] Hinchcliffe, Dion. “Moving Beyond Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement.” Dachis Group. June 8, 2011. http://dachisgroup.com/2011/06/moving-beyond-systems-of-record-to-systems-of-engagement/ (accessed May 1, 2013).

[5] Hinchcliffe, DIon. “Why Big Data Will Deliver ROI For Social Business – Social Business.” Information Week. August 6, 2012. http://www.informationweek.com/social-business/news/strategy/why-big-data-will-deliver-roi-for-social/240004969?pgno=1 (accessed May 1, 2013).

[6] HootSuite Enterprise. Organize Your Social Business: The Executive’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media. Whitepaper, HootSuite Media, Inc.

[7] IBM Institute of Business Value. The Business of Social Business. Whitepaper, Somers: IBM Cororpation, 2012.

[8] IBM Software. Become a Social Business in the Cloud. Whitepaper, Cambridge: IBM Corporation, 2012.

[9]IBM Software. Social Media Analytics – Making Customer Insights Actionable. Whitepaper, IBM, Ottawa: IBM Coropration, 2011.

[10]McKinsey Global Institute. The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies. Industry Report, Seoul: McKinsey & Company, 2012.



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