The State of Social in the Enterprise

A guest post by Meg Bear, Vice President, Oracle Cloud Social Platform

As part of my role in the Cloud Social Platform at Oracle, I have the privilege to talk to lots of our customers, analysts, and prospects across the globe. Some are social enthusiasts and some are social skeptics and most are somewhere in between. I thought it would be smart to summarize what I saw in 2012 as I expect this to continue to evolve quickly.

Every business has some social initiative happening

  • Even the most “socially disinterested” groups I have met, acknowledge that there are social initiatives going on at their companies.
  • In almost every case, social initiatives are organizationally siloed.
  • Rarely do social strategies have well-defined success criteria, and most are considered to be pilot-level activities.
  • Even the most sophisticated social strategies yield (at best) a single business value from a given investment.
  • Most organizational ownership and leadership is assumed rather than organizationally mandated.

Social as a cultural phenomenon

  • It is becoming clear to me that social is developing not only its own language, but its own set of cultural norms.
  • While there are absolutely regional cultural sensitivities to consider when thinking about social – it’s not sufficient to only understand the local culture. You must also understand the localized social culture where localized could be less regional and more topical.
  • Often the most confident points of view are least informed/accurate. This might be true for all topics, but I’m finding it especially true for the business of social. Being sure of what does and does not happen in the world of social is a fool’s errand. Those who know the most about the business of social are the most humbled by the idea of trying to understand or control this phenomenon.
  • Social is about the lurkers, not just the participants. Even those who are anti-social are likely lurking in some form or fashion.
  • Social demographics suggest that while there is a slightly higher female participation, there is no evidence that social is exclusively owned or valued by digital natives.

Some things to think about:

  • The vision Oracle has for a comprehensive social strategy is not just about technology. It is about allowing organizations to leverage the new way people work in a way that gets additive business leverage out of a common technology investment. This means that we will become additively more valuable for organizations as they progress in their social evolution.
  • Social has surprising applicability to traditional business processes and use cases. As time progresses, we will begin to see things that appear far away from the social realm becoming linked to social initiatives. R&D, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) are all parts of the business that appear to be very far away from things such as sharing instagram photos on Facebook. And yet, the innovation that make photo sharing easier will become a key building block for operational efficiency in business. Any function that requires communication, people, and efficient access to information will be impacted by social.
  • The social shift is not just about technology or flattening the global playing field. It is also about a new definition of power and a new series of organizational roles and responsibilities. Watching how global organizations work through this kind of shift is going to be interesting. Similar to how other major communications shifts (telephone, email, fax, mobile) both created and removed jobs from the economy (anyone seen a secretarial pool lately?), social will have a comparable impact on organizational roles and responsibilities. Many ambitious and smart people are already betting on social as their way to distinguish their career.
  • The acceleration rate of social is staggering, seriously. Even to those of us who have enjoyed the benefits of Moore’s law for decades, it is like nothing we have ever seen. This is not just a U.S. phenomenon either. China, Russia and Japan all have very impressive local social networks. While U.S.-based social networks are gaining global adoption, there are still a very large number of regional and topical social networks that are in the mix and growing.

In the end, social networks are an interesting mix of cultural, behavioral, and technological evolution. This is not just changing how we waste time, it is changing us and it is just beginning.

Or as Heraclitus said around 500 BC, nothing endures but change.

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