The word "social" is everywhere these days -- there's social CRM, social collaboration, social BPM, social marketing, social analytics, and social business.
Whether or not the word is being used consistently, one thing is clear: today's business models are going through another fundamental transformation. Much like the earlier transition from bricks-and-mortar to e-business, this movement has its own risks and benefits. It is based on more inclusive engagement, internally and externally. For some, it may require a culture shift. But those who do not consider social business as part their strategic plan will get left behind.
What Is Social Business?
Before social business became a common term, there were earlier attempts to identify related trends as Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. But those terms now more closely represent some of the means for creating social business rather than the concept itself.
[ Keeping up with the real-time nature of social business is one of its biggest challenges. Read more at Few Enterprises Move At The Speed Of Social. ]
Finding a commonly used definition for social business is not easy, as vendors also bring their own interpretations. It helps to define a socially enabled process, which is the basis of a social business model and which combines people-centric and task-centric activities within a specific business process.
This integration between people-centric (social platforms) and task-centric (traditional business) processes is the heart of any social business system.
Here is my definition: Social business is an operational model for organizations to increase business value by enabling engagement of all its constituents (internal or external) and making more informed decisions based on that engagement.
Social Business Environment
There can be number of integration points between social platforms and traditional business systems. The "integration layer" is the key enabling factor, which can be provided either by using a vendor software or a custom solution.
The market space for social business is still dynamic, as indicated by recent acquisitions such as Salesforce with Radian6 and BuddyMedia; Oracle with Collective Intellect; and Microsoft with Yammer. While pre-integrated solutions are becoming common, the level of integration and scope vary. For example, a number of vendors have delivered a high degree of unification of social platform capabilities with traditional enterprise collaboration suites. In other domains, social data/process capabilities are being introduced more selectively (as in CRM, BPM, marketing, social media monitoring and analytics).
Business organizations are definitely investing to take advantage of social software, but in order to fully realize benefits they need to be familiar with integration methods of "social containers." Unfortunately, these critical aspects of integration are usually overlooked and least understood.