Organizational and cultural issues prevent enterprises from gaining full benefit from social business initiatives, IBM study says.

Debra Donston-Miller, Contributor

November 13, 2012

4 Min Read

The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012 (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

The value of social business products and practices is becoming better recognized by organizations, but many face cultural and organizational issues that limit their ability to take advantage of those new capabilities. That's the word from a new IBM Institute for Business Value study, "The Business of Social Business," based on responses from more than 1,100 individuals and interviews with more than two dozen executives.

According to survey respondents, social business tools are used for promoting events/marketing campaigns (71%), generating sales leads and revenue (51%), product and services support (46%) and direct sales (35%). Respondents said they plan to increase their use of social business in all of these areas in the next two years, with the most significant jumps coming in the areas of lead and revenue generation. Respondents also said that they plan to increase the application of social business technologies and approaches into the day-to-day activities of their workforces, as well as into collaboration with outside customers, vendors and partners.

But all of this doesn't just happen by virtue of establishing presence on external social networks or even by implementing an internal social business platform, the respondents noted.

According to the report, organizations that have experienced the most success in social business approaches have made fundamental changes in the way employees work. Three key issues must be addressed, based on interviews and survey responses:

Companies need to consider how to incorporate social metrics into their traditional enterprises and processes.

IBM's research found that only about 20% of organizations can identify the kinds of key performance indicators that will help them determine the value of social business efforts. The research also found that ROI in social business circles might look different than traditional ROI measures.

"Many of the companies that we interviewed did, at some level, try to quantify their results, but also recognized that trying to justify social approaches based solely on cost savings was not sufficient," stated the report. "Rather, they either undertook pilot projects to demonstrate the hard and soft benefits of social projects and/or ran trials that compared the performance of individuals or groups using social tools against those that did not."

Companies need to understand and manage the risks associated with social business.

Survey respondents and executives interviewed by IBM noted a number of security concerns with social business tools. These included attacks on their brands, legal issues, data security privacy and the unintended disclosure of company information. About a quarter of respondents said their companies have processes in place to address these concerns; about one-third said such efforts are under way; and one-half said they do not have effective processes for dealing with these issues in place.

"Successful companies identify potential exposures, proactively involve the right experts and develop risk management plans," according to the report, authored by the IBM Institute for Business Value's James W. Cortada, Peter J. Korsten and Eric Lesser, who shared the report highlights with The BrainYard. "They think through their problems, understand regulatory drivers and their impact on the organization and ask questions about why a behavior is a risk and how to mitigate it. But, most important, they engage the key functional experts before problems occur, from areas such as HR, legal, IT, communications, finance and risk."

Change management is a critical requirement for embedding successful social business practices in an organization.

Lesser said it was interesting that while about half of respondents indicated that social business efforts had support from the C-suite, less than a quarter believe that execs are actually using the tools or are prepared to use the tools.

To get all stakeholders on board, the report suggests, the following activities are key: get people involved in using the tools, apply traditional change management to support transitions and incorporate social approaches to supporting the change. The report recommends a number of activities for putting these actions into practice, including training and creating opportunities to use social tools, publically applauding social successes, appointing social business champions/experts, and providing support for employees, partners and customers.

How is your company effecting a transition to social? We welcome your insight and suggestions for best practices in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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About the Author(s)

Debra Donston-Miller


Freelance writer Debra Donston-Miller was previously editor of eWEEK and executive editorial manager of eWEEK Labs. She can be reached at [email protected].

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