Enterprise 2.0 Isn’t About Social Business, It’s Just About Business


Share on LinkedIn

Last night, while flying home from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference – Santa Clara, I thought about all of the sessions I attended, the people I spoke with, the demos I watched, and I kept thinking back to something that Dawn Lacallade said in her presentation on Wednesday afternoon:

“If you want your Enterprise 2.0 efforts to be successful, you have to use words other people understand and care about.”

She went on to say that instead of talking about social media, social business, building communities and why your organization needs to use blogs, wikis, and microblogging, you should be talking about increasing sales, increasing productivity, and cutting costs. If you’re talking with Director of HR, he doesn’t care that you are managing 100 new communities or that 1,000 Yammer messages were posted today. He wants to know if the attrition rates are going down or that new employees are getting acclimated more quickly. For you, building communities might be the goal. For him, those communities don’t mean anything unless they can help him reach his goals.

Paradoxically, sometimes the best way to implement social tools are to not refer to them as social tools. This isn’t a new concept – do a Google search for social media leadership buy-in and you’ll come across thousands of articles and case studies all saying some variation of, “focus on the business objectives, not the tools.”

For Enterprise 2.0 to be successful, we have to take it much further. This about much more than what words to use. It’s about integrating the use of Enterprise 2.0 tools into the actual business. It’s about realizing that these tools are a means to an end, not the end itself. It’s about understanding that a social business community that isn’t tied to actual business goals isn’t sustainable.

In this article, Chris Rasmussen explains how five years after the launch of Intellipedia, there’s still a long way to go to integrate it into the way the Intelligence Community does its work.

The United States Intelligence Community (IC) has made tremendous strides over the last several years with the introduction of a wide range of social software tools such as wikis, blogs, user tagging services, and social networking services for knowledge management and information sharing. Looking back over the last five years there’s little question that “information sharing” has increased across the board and the Web 2.0 tools mentioned above have helped with this moderate cultural shift. We have successfully automated the digital watercooler, created a massive unofficial knowledge base, and improved search by increasing the amount of links, but is this it? Are process gains in informal channels the optimized promise of Web 2.0 at work? What about the official channels? Content exchange is the lowest rung of the collaborative ladder when compared to joint knowledge co-creation in official channels and this has not happened within the IC.

This is where the Enterprise 2.0 industry finds itself today.You’ve brought social tools to your Intranet? You’ve created a dozen active, vibrant communities behind your firewall? That’s great, but don’t go patting yourself on the back too much. Now, let’s drive it deeper into the business. If your goal this year was to bring Enterprise 2.0 to your organization, your goal for next year should be to integrate those tools into one or more of your business units. If you spoke at the this year’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference and talked about community management or your implementation of SharePoint, Newsgator, Yammer, Socialcast, Clearvale or any of the other platforms, next year, I want you to bring a leader from another part of your business who can talk about how he’s used the platforms and the communities to have a tangible impact on his business.

Becoming a Social Business isn’t enough – you also have to become a better business.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Radick
Booz Allen Hamilton
I'm a Lead Associate with Booz Allen Hamilton. I founded and currently lead our Digital Strategy & Social Media practice, and blog about social media, Government 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, and Social Business at "Social Media Strategy" located at www.steveradick.com.


  1. Steve, I attended the E2.0 conference too and left with mixed feelings about the state of “social business.”

    The technology is exciting, to be sure. And I was happy to hear from many vendors that there is more attention being paid to business objectives, and moving beyond the happy talk of more sharing = better performance. Although those slogans were everywhere throughout the expo.

    But there is clearly a long way to go. Social enthusiasts continue to push the technologies and promote “paradigm shifts” and the like, which in my experience doesn’t work past the early adopter stage where the industry is stuck now.

    In the short term, I think more effort should be spent showing how socializing existing applications/processes would drive better business performance. But then, maybe that wouldn’t drive those big E20 platform sales, which is what many of the vendors seem to be after.

  2. Steve and Bob, “YES!” is my immediate response to what I read. Thanks for trying to inject some very obvious common sense into this subject area. I have already passed the boredom stage of hearing social media ‘experts’ and converts rave about how amazing it is when all the time I’m thinking, “…and when are you going to get to the point of having this tool?” As you say, it’s a means to an end, not the end in itself. Admittedly, I’m sure we are all ‘guilty’ of being incredibly interested in our own work (and hope that others will find it just as interesting), but we need to remember that the people we ostensibly set out to serve and assist are interested in their lives and situations improving. Most of the time, in my experience, they largely don’t care how we get there, they just trust that I’ll be competent enough to help them along their way. I find it interesting that communities like Twitter seems to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about itself; a bit like a builder who stands around for hours banging on about how amazing his new power drill is, when all I want is for him/her to actually use the thing.

  3. Bob – I had no idea you were there as well! Would have loved to catch up over a few adult beverages!

    There has to be a good mix – the paradigm shifters have their place and their voice is absolutely needed, but now we have to balance out the theory with the practical. I think we’re getting there, and to the Enterprise 2.0 conference organizers’ credit, they realize that as well. I think the vendors are also realizing that to some extent as most of them have recently hired “Customer Success Managers” and “Community Managers” to help ensure that their tech is actually adopted and used. Two years ago, they just wanted to get your license fee, install it and get out. They’ve learned that it doesn’t really work that way.

  4. John – anytime anyone talks to me about how successful their Enterprise 2.0 community is, I always ask them what the most active groups, phrases, and terms are. Most of the time, the “active and vibrant” community is nothing more than the organization’s social media enthusiasts talking with one another. That’s good to have, absolutely, but it’s a very early step. If you’re going to hold up your online community as a success, show me the acquisition officers all collaborating on an RFP. Show me the recruiters who are talking and sharing best practices. Show me the Training guys who have integrated it into the org’s training classes. I want to see how people other than social media people are using these tools – once you start hearing those use cases is when you start to understand the power of these tools.

  5. John, one might think that access to the Social Web would give access to new ideas and encourage more open thinking.

    Instead, I believe it helps those who already like those ideas to talk to each other, reenforcing the “rightness” of what they believe in a kind of echo chamber. Those that don’t “get it” are expelled for not, well, “getting it.”

    Nowhere is this more prevalent than the social media industry itself, which is soooo excited about the tools that advocates don’t consider that most don’t care about social media itself, but only how it will improve their business or lives.

    For more on this group think problem see Dangers of social groupthink: A case study in Enterprise 2.0, Social CRM and Social Business.

  6. Thanks Bob, have had a look at your link. I see this phenomenon all over the place, it’s good to remain conscious of it as it’s one of the traits of a system. I have experienced what you describe when, in simply posing naive and interested questions to social media folks about its uses and benefits, I am sidelined, as if I’m somehow a heretic for simply asking questions about it.

  7. Steve, sorry we didn’t connect while you were in town. Next time…

    Agree there’s a critical place for visionary thinking and technology. But for these ideas to “cross the chasm” to mainstream adoption they need to appeal to more pragmatic business managers.

    This is the transition I see happening now, but a lot more work is needed. Thanks for your efforts!

  8. Those are great points. I came away from the conference with similar impressions. The Enterprise 2.0 industry seems to have grown up with this fundamental dichotomy:

    Should we build communities around internal collaboration and once those have been successful, create communities that extend to our customers?
    Do we build communities where customer, prospects, employees, and partners are brought together (and have their own spaces) for the success of the customer?

    It seemed that most Enterprise 2.0 professionals and vendors have taken the internal route. Though there are concrete gains to be made by improving internal communication, the time is takes to get internal departments and personalities using the tools may be slowing down the impact on the business goals that are important to senior management.

    My company's software focuses on online customer communities that include internal employee collaboration communities. We’ve found that building community around helping customers become more successful with your products and services keeps the focus of the community on important KPIs and creates tangible business results (using existing metrics) that can be shared throughout the organization.

    I have heard success stories of the internal-first approach and experienced success with the customer-first approach. Though every organization is unique, given a choice, I would address your points by keeping the focus on customer and prospect success first so that the outcomes have a more direct tie to established business metrics. What do you think about an internal-first vs. customer-first approach?

  9. Some of the biggest e2.0 communities are communities that revolve around the subject of e2.0. These communities are not tied to P & L. One of our biggest qualities is also one of our biggest flaws.We have rose colored glasses. We don’t understand why others don’t “see” why the integration of social tools makes perfect sense and yet most of us can only point to our own networks that are NOT tied to profits as examples of how wonderful social tools are.

    That’s like being at Comicon and being dressed like Chewie and thinking that the only weird folks are the one’s who are NOT in costume.

    Some of the largest pro-social media communities are self Congratulatory and John Wenger and Steve are totally accurate when they mention that we need to see how the “others” are using it… I can point to these other people and organizations, but can honestly tell you that adoption is not without a tremendous amount of vetting,pain, trepidation and experimentation that these orgs adopt e2.0 tools. It’s happening but it’s not the same as the “social media” folks playing in 6-12 networks. They have no idea how hard it is to create a sea change like this in large Orgs. They have no idea.

    That doesn’t mean that branded communities don’t make money or contribute to the bottom line, it just means that, just as everyone seems to be in agreement here, the marriage of pragmatism and practice with vision and risk has to be mutually beneficial-but maybe with a prenup.

  10. Marc – whenever anyone tries to talk to me about how successful their E2.0 efforts are, I always ask if their most successful communities are social media-related. That’s fine if they are, but understand that the impact of those communities is minimal when compared to the people who are NOT using the tools. Getting the social media nerds like us using the company Yammer network is one thing – getting HR and Legal using it regularly is another thing entirely.

  11. Joshua, I would tend to agree that focusing on customers first is a better option. Customers are the ultimate source of value in any company.

    That said, I’ve been observing social software vendors for the past few years, and it seems that most decide to focus on either employees or customers because a) they don’t have the resources to do it all, b) they want a clear marketing position or c) their customers are buying mainly for one purpose or the other.

    As a result, few vendors seem interested in helping companies “connect the dots” between internal and external use of social computing. A couple of notable exceptions from my recent visit to the E2.0 conference are Clearvale (Broadvision) and Moxie Software.

    I think buyers should make it a requirement that vendors can support both ecosystems and support the interchange of info where it makes sense. Otherwise, it will be a headache later on when someone figures out that the two types of communities need to communicate.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here