Prioritizing Social Business Projects: Where Should You Start?

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Don’t miss our next session in the Oracle Social Business Thought Leader Webcast Series later this week on 08/16/2012: 6 Counterintuitive Best Practices for Social Collaboration Adoption featuring John Brunswick 


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As we begin a week looking at Social Collaboration, IDC Analyst, Michael Fauscette provides our first guest post.

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Prioritizing Social Business Projects: Where Should You Start?
Michael Fauscette, GVP, Software Business Solutions, IDC

Companies often ask me where they should start when considering applying social tools and processes to some part of the business. I wish I had a simple answer, but like many business issues, it’s a bit complex and depends on several factors. There are some common pitfalls though, that should be avoided when one starts to evaluate where to invest in social tools and in trying to bring about the subsequent change that must accompany any successful social business initiative.Michael Fauscette

It’s easy, for example, to jump immediately into some customer-facing social business activities, mostly because it seems obvious that it’s important. A lot of the initial use of social tools by businesses was tied to marketing, but that has changed quite a bit over the last three years. Customer-facing projects may very well be the highest priority for your business, but before starting any project there are some things that you need to sort out.

The second pitfall is to get so lost in all of the “cool” social tools, that you lose sight of what you’re trying to do. Believe me, I’m as nerdy as anyone and I love new software and technology in general, but the focus of social business is on changing business culture and behavior, not on new software tools. The technology is simply an enabler to make the change easier and more effective.

So, how do you build a social business strategy? First, you have to commit to doing just that — building a strategy based on what’s happening in your market and your business objectives. Many companies start using social tools in an unconscious way, as a grassroots effort. That’s not necessarily wrong or “bad”; grassroots efforts can often point you to areas in the business where they’ll make a real difference and where the culture is ripe for change. They’re just a part of the growing-up process as a social business. At some point though, the business has to consciously decide to invest in social tools and figure out a strategy.

To build an effective social strategy a business should consider:

  • Market (what is impacting your business)
  • Economy
  • State of your brand (positive or negative)
  • Current workforce dynamics
  • Your competition
  • Market share dynamics
  • What your customers are telling you
  • Etc.
  • Social business objectives (what at your business wants to accomplish)
  • Building a collaborative and knowledge sharing culture
  • Increasing customer engagement
  • Improving brand sentiment
  • Increasing product / service innovation
  • Getting employees more engaged and contributing to the business in a broader fashion
  • Building a partner ecosystem
  • Etc.

These are only a few of the many possible market issues and business objectives; they will vary greatly by business. Once you have an overall strategy you can then build a roadmap and start to target the specific projects that you should do. The above list is prioritized according to the business objectives and the strategy. It’s best to start small and increase participation over time, by the way. Remember that whatever you’re doing with social business, you are changing culture and the way people work, and change is never easy.

There are dozens of use cases for social business, but they tend to fall in a few basic categories:

  • Enterprise social networks
  • Customer experience
  • Innovation management
  • Sales enablement

The most common first projects, at least from my research, tend to be either centered around improving the customers experience, like adding social customer support, or around enterprise social networks.

While there’s no way for me to look into a crystal ball and tell you where to start, I do know that many businesses see significant productivity gains from enterprise social networks, or, in other words, from working to eliminate organizational silos, increase collaboration and increase knowledge sharing. It’s often challenging to be more engaged with your customers when internally you are still operating a business that cannot collaborate and communicate effectively.

Where are you seeing the biggest returns? Leave me some ideas in the comments.

Organic Business Networks - featuring Michael Fauscette, GVP, Software Business Solutions, IDC

To hear more with featured guest speaker, Michael Fauscette, GVP, Software Business Solutions, IDC -  Watch the On-Demand webcast of the Oracle Social Business Thought Leader Webcast Series - “Organic Business Networks: Doing Business in a Hyper-Connected World”

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