What is social business? Even the experts don't agree. I'm generally pragmatic about these things--whatever term and definition works for an organization is the right term. However, because we need to refer to this trend succinctly, there is an argument of sorts over what to call it. At last glance, it seems the term "social business" is winning--led by Dachis Group, Jive Software, and Lotus.
If social business is the goal, the strategy and tactics break out in the following way:
Strategy: To make organizations more humane, adaptive, and resilient in order to increase revenue through relevance and reduce costs through crowdsourcing.
This strategy is then implemented through a variety of tactics:
Process: "Socializing" a process means that it becomes interactive and iterative, with many constituent groups throughout the process, and more dependent on collective actions to succeed.
Management: Community management is the discipline of ensuring that communities are productive. In this context, communities are collections of individuals who are bound by need or interest rather than authority or hierarchy, which is why a new approach to management is needed.
Technology: This includes social Media, SCRM, Enterprise 2.0/enterprise social platforms, co-innovation tools, or any of a host of emerging social technologies aimed at specific business processes.
These tactics are applied to a specific business operations context--such as to outbound marketing, sales, collaboration, recruiting, professional development, or market research--to achieve the desired results.
Understanding how to socialize a process is a good place to start. Here are some specific things to think about:
-- What decision points within a process could benefit from more information or a wider perspective? Communities can be effective for real-time research and feedback.
-- Where is there risk in a workflow? Using crowdsourcing to identify potential risks at that point is a great use of social technologies.
-- Does a specific process need to be confidential? If not, make the deliverables visible and searchable in order to orchestrate a serendipitous event with a customer or a colleague or an influencer who may know something quite relevant that you don't know they know.
Within the group of individuals participating in a process, publish status updates and emails to a networked environment. This will reduce the need for status meetings and misunderstandings between various team members.
-- What points in the process do results need to be communicated? Doing this in a networked space where the information is easy to share and highlight will help spread the information quickly to more people.
Socializing a process is about opening up communication flows into and out of the process so that risks and opportunities can be identified and addressed more quickly. Social processes are quite fluid and can make people who are used to sequential processes uncomfortable because work isn't "completed" before it's available for comment. If not well managed, that can lead to an endless iteration or confusion about when something should be communicated more broadly. If done well, misdirection and mistakes are caught before much time is invested, status meetings are reduced and eliminated, the final output is more thoroughly vetted, and communication happens more quickly when milestones are reached.
Planning for a social workflow before you apply tools and management techniques to it will reduce the risk of failure and give you a solid understanding of where better information flow will reduce your risk overall and contribute to efficiency. In my next column, I'll cover how management approaches need to adapt to optimize the effectiveness of social processes in support of a social business strategy.
Rachel Happe (@rhappe) is a co-founder and principal at the Community Roundtable, a peer network for social media, community, and social business leaders. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-271-4574.