On a previous post called The three layers of social business I discussed the importance of understanding a social business as an ecosystem rather than focus only on the technology menu.
As the Social Business Community Group puts in the A CTO’s Guide to Social Business, a social business is:
A social business is an organization that applies social networking tools and culture to business roles, processes and outcomes. A social business enables people to engage productively in a business context through collaboration and interconnecting business activities with social content. The scope of a social business spans across internal organizational boundaries and can extend to partners and customers. A social business monitors and analyzes social data to discover new insights that, when acted on, can drive business advantage, for example faster problem solving, improved customer relations, predicting market opportunities, and improving processes both internal and external. A social business recognizes that people do business with people and optimizes how people interact to accomplish organizational goals.
What is social business alignment?
- Social activity is integrated in business processes across and is supported by social technology;
- Processes need to handle with social interaction at any point at any time, because the customer is driving the process, not the company. A Process that it’s designed on predefined manner will fail to cope with dynamics. Processes must be designed to spark others from the “middle of nowhere” rather than have predefined touch points. A customer maybe dealing with a complain and wants at the same time be informed about invoice settling. If you have difficulty to deal with this, one of the solutions for process design is a business rule based approach where processes focus on what need to be done, describing the available activities that can be performed at a process stage and the rules sit on top not allowing the process to deviate;
- It’s an ecosystem;
- It must have the right social network configuration (process bandwidth should reflect the knowledge dimensions that should support the outcomes customers are willing to be achieved);
- It must have executive commitment and participation (not the sponsorship, actually is the executives putting their hands on the tools as I’ve been told).
2. The platform:
The idea of the platform bellow was developed based on a previous work done by the W3C’s Social Web Headlights Task Force later adopted by the Social Business Community Group I belong , but it was kept in the closet for a while, because the target of these group is to foster standards development based on available technology.
There is no common definition for a social platform. Most of the community work around it focus too much on the technology the platform provides rather on the semantics or meaning of such platform is.
A social platform can be understood as the capability provided to an organization to deploy and manage onto an infrastructure artifacts into the layers that constitutes the platform.
The layers reflect the internal and external social interactions an organization executes regarding the organization environment it belongs and evolve over time. Those interactions that constitute the social practice are driven by technology that best supports the nature of work executed by the people.
The social platform is constituted by three main blocks as bellow illustration and it’s technically agnostic:
- About the Human: Who you are, how you identify yourself and what you pretend to be, the person’s social graph.
- Human Interactions: What you do. How do you express. How you engage. How do you react. Where you belong. What work you execute.
- Search and Analytics: Search for knowledge, gather feedback, get trends, spot patterns, sentiments, learn.
About the human is constituted by:
- Identity: Unique identification attributes about the human.
- Profile: What attributes about the human are available to identify him. Presence status (on-line / off-line …).
- Social Graph: Social network type, network type and network connections around particular domains (may exist different networks for different domains). The communication flow and how people are connected with. People can be connected through some kind of relationship (work with, partner of), but the most importantly is the information flow between the people, i.e. the working practice, information sharing, because is here where action occurs.
- Addressing: Contact details (e-mail, instant messaging … ).
- Reputation: Perceived evaluation taken by members of the social graph.
Human interactions are constituted by:
- Messaging: Conversations can be synchronous or asynchronous around a topic.
- Group dynamics: Communities of interest or practice, interacting around a particular domain.
- Collaboration: Work being carried towards a goal that must be achieved. Work can be structured or unstructured.
- Sharing: Accepting an object to be shared in order others can take action if they want to.
- Reactions: Expressing a feeling about an object , making an opinion or making an evaluation.
Search and analytics is constituted by:
- Search : Find information necessary to gather data to reason, to judge and execute tasks.
- Business Intelligence: Getting and explore data, finding trends, correlation helping people to do better decisions (if they know how to interpret it)
- Mining: Extract data and display it process oriented for business process analysis and improvement.
3. Technology is important but it’s not enough
The problem of focusing on the technology that makes social business happen is it creates a tunnel vision of making it a reality because technology alone does not provide the foundation of creating a full integrated into the organization value chain that includes all the stakeholders.
For example an airline can have a twitter account to broadcast announcements about events like strikes that do not allow the flights to operate properly and that is a plus, but it that twitter account it’s not able to catch important feedback about traveling issues and annoyances of the passengers and integrate that feedback into customer support what is the value of using twitter as a communication tool? By the way I will come back to this issue when I have time to seat and write about it, how UPS is mastering complain handling using social technologies. “Scooping” around it I will like to tell you that in the US, UPS is taking seriously how complains are handled unlike in Portugal where they don’t even let you make it until the next day I received a phone call regarding a complain I sent to the headquarters (strange, I thought I did a complain to the local office!). As you can see even inside of enterprises there is no common foundation what is a social business and most of the times managers are worried in choosing a proper tool to say they use it, is there, and it’s available but it’s not integrated on the value chain (this is a challenge to Enterprise Architects).