In an article last year for the Sales Ops Council, I introduced the idea of the "invisible social enterprise," how employees are already using social networks to create real business value often without the knowledge of the executive team.
Things have changed a lot over the past year: Salesforce.com chose "Social Enterprise" as the theme for their Dreamforce 2011 conference, Google recently released their Google+ social network to enterprise customers, and more companies are using public social networks like Twitter as formal marketing and support channels to their customers.
Today, most executives have not only heard of the social enterprise, they're feeling compelled to make their enterprise, well.....social:
Sales Operations hold the keys to one of the immediate business cases for the social enterprise: hyper sales productivity. By extending knowledge sharing beyond the walls of the sales organization, collaboration platforms like Chatter and Jive can radically transform the sales process and make the entire company an extended sales team.
Marketing is living and breathing social; most Chief Marketing Officers are already masters of leveraging tools like Facebook and LinkedIn for their company's brand and getting a broader reach to potential customers. The next step? Taking pure social aggregation and sentiment analysis from tools like Radian6 and making the results actionable, creating a dialog with customers versus just listening to them.
IT will generally love or hate the social enterprise, depending on whether they see it as a complement or a threat to an existing Microsoft SharePoint investment. Many Chief Information Officers made a huge investment in SharePoint in the late 2000's, based on the business case for enterprise document management and collaboration. So any new social platform must be perceived as extending SharePoint.... or IT will likely try to quash it.
HR is getting more engaged with social as it becomes a critical employee retention tool, as the demographics of enterprise companies shift and Gen X and Millennials take leadership roles, bringing with them the expectations of a socially-connected generation. This has spawned its own suite of social technologies like Rypple for social performance management.
The challenge for creating an enterprise-wide social strategy is aligning these viewpoints into a unified approach that is both tangible and actionable.
Impossible? I don't think so - the first step is taking the invisible and making it visible. And the next step? Making social a priority at the executive suite. And then? Build the business cases that transcend any single group and truly make the enterprise-wide case for social.
Photo by Rob DiCaterino