Enterprise 2.0 and Social Media: Improving Your Processes vs. Changing Them

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If I told you I could change and revolutionize the way your company collaborates internally and builds relationships with its customers via new tools and technologies, would you be interested?

What if I told you that I could improve the way your company collaborates internally and builds relationships with its customers through new technologies and tools?

If you were an executive at a large or mid-sized company, which would you prefer (or would want to hear)?

The first option means that you are going to have make drastic changes to your organization while abandoning methodologies and processes in exchange for new ones. The second option means that your company does not need to make drastic changes while abandoning the way it operates. Instead, the company is going to use new tools, technologies, and strategies to fit in with its current processes and methodologies. Do you see what I’m getting at here?

The goal of enterprise 2.0 or social media isn’t to change and revamp the way companies operate. The goal should be to improve how companies operate. Here’s a basic example. If you take a look at your company sales process, for example it might look something like this:

Are Twitter or Jive going to revamp this process? There might be some changes along the way but for the most part, the process will remain the same. What changes are some of the tactics. For example, you might use Twitter or LinkedIn to establish a relationship and identify a need, but that process is still in place. Part of a successful strategy is really understanding how the company processes and operations work and then plugging in new tools and strategies to help improve those processes and operations.

I’m in the process of reviewing how a client trains and works with its account executives through a selling framework to drive business. The processes that the client has in place are solid, however there is no integration with new social technologies that can help drastically improve the way the client operates and trains its new account executives.

You won’t find a single executive whose pain point is “I need a whole new way to do X.” Pain points revolve around improving and making things better. It’s a lot easier to improve than it is to revolutionize.

Now imagine you’re that executive again. Do you want something revolutionary or something that can improve and make your company more efficient?

11 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Jacob – wow I can’t believe this is you. Sure people love to hear “it’s all OK – just a tiny bit of a tweak here and there and you are good to go”. But that is the fabric of yesteryears management style. Listen to Indra Nooyi (CEO of Pepsi Co), John Chambers (CEO of Cisco), Richard Branson (CEO of Virgin), Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce.com)… They are all change agents for a massive shift. Yes they can say that because they are not hunting consulting engagements to help make the necessary adjustments. But I guess the 1950 Flower Power – No worry, be happy, is probably not helping people. As you know I was consulting one of the global enterprises and the CHANGE was hard, is hard and will remain to be hard. But only that is the fabric of leadership – make it F****** happening. (excuse my language)

    I wholeheartedly agree it need to be an EVOLUTION, because that is the most natural way of progress and development. But every once in a while that evolution is so massive that it surely feels more like a revolution – the social business construct is one of them.

    But hey – this is just me 🙂 ha ha ha

    Good post

    Axel
    http://xeesm.com/AxelS

  2. Jacob,

    As I learned all too well by watching my kids grow up, the distance between a laugh and a cry is razor thin. My point is that change is change, people do not really like it very much; it will hurt, take work and we will both laugh and cry…

    I disagree with the diagram, and the idea that technology will drive the change at all. It is a cultural shift which needs to take place, and of course there is some supporting technology that will help along the way. Remember, “People, Process, Technology”, in that order.

    Tackling your diagram, that particular process ‘Sales’ will undergo a major shift, it has to – I am not sure where point one is on your diagram – but the first step is NOT establishing a relationship – the first step is establishing trust and credibility. As for the rest, it is a longer story. The short version is that the objective is to create buyers, not sell. That is a pretty dramatic change, is it revolution, not sure – but is laughing all that different from crying?

    Change needs to be cultural first, that is the hard part.

    Mitch Lieberman
    http://twitter.com/mjayliebs

  3. It’s fashionable to say that technology doesn’t drive change. I’ve said so many times, and that statement can be found dozens or maybe hundreds of times on this site.

    But is that really true?

    If by “technology” we mean garden variety enterprise software (CRM, ERP, etc.), then we have a fair amount of research that suggests strategy, people and processes are the main drivers in successful projects, with technology acting as a “necessary but not sufficient” enabler in many cases.

    But truly disruptive technology can in fact drive change. And social media may very well be one that does. It’s tipped the balance of power to consumers already. Could it do the same for employees in enterprises? I don’t know, but the power of collaboration is amazing, and as we’ve learned in the PC era, you can’t keep shiny new tools from people for very long.

    What’s different about social media is the amplifying effect of networked people. It’s not just about automating a person, department or process.

    We may look back and say that social media did in fact drive change in the same way that cars, the US interstate highway system or the PC changed the way we live and work.

    Will simply installing some “Enterprise 2.0” application drive change in a company? Probably not, unless management is behind it. But in a broader sense, social media will force the organization to change just to keep up with other businesses that work more collaboratively. Because that’s where people will want to work in the future.

    Hmmmm, so maybe it is about people after all.

  4. Bob,

    I think we agree more than disagree. I should have been more specific with my response. The technology on the outside can certainly be a change agent, and as you describe it absolutely is changing things. But, that is (in my mind) more of the customer driving change by their culture, thus we would need to respond in kind to alter our culture to adapt.

    The point I was trying to drive is more that inserting technology into the Enterprise (Jive or Twitter) will not serve as the change agent without a culture shift to make it worthwhile. For example, what benefit does anyone have internally for using one of these tools? If C-level folks make it worthwhile (like Twelpforce) then it is ‘cool’ to use it.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

    Mitch Lieberman
    http://twitter.com/mjayliebs

  5. Mitch I think we’re saying pretty much the same thing.

    But I do feel it’s simplistic to say that:
    a. technology will drive change
    b. culture will drive change

    My observation is that people and technology have a complex, nonlinear relationship. It’s not just about drivers and enablers. They affect each other.

    In some cases disruptive tech can spark change that will eventually result in a new culture. Social media may be one of those technologies. In others, new leadership can drive a cultural change that will adopt new tools. In this case, tech serves an enabling role.

    Unfortunately, vendors tend to pitch every tools as game changing. And consultants pitch new management approaches the same way. It’s just different versions of the same self-serving hype.

    What I’m suggesting is that there is an interaction and feedback process at work here between technology and people. I just feel we should keep an open mind that sometimes technology really does matter, and in other cases people make all the difference.

  6. I hate to sound like a broken record–or broken MP3 player, whatever. But here I go again, because I think I have to.

    The sales process model you have shown isn’t new or astonishing. It makes assumptions, which are OK. Mitch has questioned one of them, whether Step One is really establishing a relationship. Good question, and one that I don’t know the answer to, because I don’t think the answer is the same for every business. And even if it were, how would you define that activity? All that is beside the point.

    The question you are asking, whether it’s more advantageous for an organization to change and revolutionize or improve isn’t the issue, especially when it comes to sales. It’s a false choice. Why get tied up in knots trying to answer it? The core question is “how will my selling strategy enable my business strategy?” (see my February 3rd blog The Problem You Solve Depends Mightily on the Questions You Ask.)

    For some companies like IBM, answering that question required a major shift in sales strategy and tactics to adapt to massive forces in the industry. Fortunately, the company didn’t examine the challenge by wondering whether to nudge or gut their sales processes. They gutted. So be it. If they didn’t, they might have ended up like Digital or Wang.

  7. A course I took lately debated this matter: whether technology drives cultural change (technological determinism), or whether it simply opens doors that people go through when they’re ready. It took Facebook sixteen months to gain its first one million users, and the most recent one million came on board in only eleven days.

    The debate doesn’t lend itself to black and white viewpoints, but that measurement suggests technology’s role is more the latter.

  8. Hi Axel,

    i’m not saying that it needs to be a tiny tweak here and there. What I am saying is that new tools and technologies shouldn’t be designed to completely change the way a company operates. Instead they need to fit in with existing methodologies. Yes there are some changes that need to take place. In the example above for sales, the process stays virtually the same but the details change. Hope that makes sense.

  9. The diagram is just one that I found online as an example to illustrate a process. I’m not saying that technology will be the driving force of change. What I’m saying is that instead of trying to tell companies about a revolution that needs to happen in business we should be telling them how technology can improve business. The post isn’t about the diagram (you can insert any image you want there). The point is that once you have any process in place, technology isn’t going to change that process it’s going to help it.

  10. Again, the issue here isn’t with the diagram at all, it was just some random image I plucked from the net. Readers seem to be missing the point of the post which is that instead of trying to convince companies that new tools are going to change the way they do business, we need to convince companies that new tools are going to allow them to keep their current processes while improving them. Processes exist from a methodological/cultural standpoint that ingrain values, experiences, and best practices. This doesn’t change.

  11. It seems to me that progress can appear revolutionary or evolutionary, partly driven by the vantage point of the observer, and that for meaningful change to last it has to embrace both technology and culture.

    To Bob’s point, the habit of both technologists and cultural engineers to pronounce every new initiative as game changing is as irritating as it is self-serving, and ultimately unhelpful to making real progress.

    I’d draw inspiration from Darwin. An accumulation of changes – both invisible and visible, subtle and profound, and some with little immediate obvious impact – can become significant when changes in the environment create opportunity.

    I wonder if we might be in the throes of a mass extinction event that will displace some of our traditional ways of thinking about the selling process and replace it with perspectives that are more in tune with the changes that are already happening to buying behaviour.

    Bob Apollo | Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners
    http://www.inflexion-point.com

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