Mark P McDonald of Gartner says becoming a social organisation is a true source of competitive advantage for networked enterprises."Anything you can do can be copied, your organisation, your structure," says McDonald, group vice president, head of research at Gartner Executive Programmes. "There is only one thing that can't be copied and is truly unique -- it is you, all of your peers, your customers, your suppliers, all the interaction and information between them."The social organisation has the ability to take that energy and amplify corporate performance." Three things, he says, define a social organisation -- it targets social media to important business purposes; achieves otherwise impossible results by facilitating productive mass collaboration; and uses this collaboration to repeatedly tap into the collective genius of the employees, partners and customers.The next opportunity for networked enterprises will be to use social technology to solve complex problems, says Andrew Rowsell Jones, vice president and research director at Gartner."Social media is not the endgame," he says. "How can I use social media to do interesting things?"It could be a "potentially disrupting idea," says Rowsell-Jones, as he advances the idea of a "purpose-driven social media strategy". "What problem is social media trying to solve? Always start with this," he states. "Does it make economic sense? What additional capabilities can social media provide?" He cites the case of Cisco, which used social media to create a network of engineers and architects. The approach was to consolidate their information sources and create a community learning site. The technology company saw an increase in Cisco certified professionals, revenue and profit.Early adoptersASB Bank is in the frontline among New Zealand enterprises that have transitioned into the social enterprise arena.Anna Curzon, general manager internet banking, says ASB came into social media early, through its Twitter and Facebook sites. Based on the feedback they were getting, they realised that using the technology can go beyond marketing and extend into engaging with the customers "at a time and place that suits them". Curzon has a core group of about 40 people reporting to her across New Zealand and works with the technology team which is headed by Russell Jones, chief operations officer. She says that it is critical to have a "stellar technology partner" when the enterprise uses social technologies for business. "While we may be in different divisions, actually we are one virtual team because they are part of our planning and strategy processes. We are very much running the business collectively.She says that when they visited customers to ask them for feedback or are doing user testing, they will invite a developer or business analyst to join them. "It is important that they come with us from the very beginning of the idea, the initiation, right through to execution because if they are listening with us, what customers are saying, intuitively they will be much faster when they come to execute and cut the code for us."She says social media is the best way to get customer feedback. "Often, we will check out what might be a great comment or not so great comment. Our social media team says it is a great gift to them because they have the opportunity to respond back."She says suggestions on functionality or a new service are categorised and help to prioritise the development of internet and mobile banking. "It was getting that collective intelligence and making things better together."Curzon says before ASB's Android app was launched, her team talked to a number of people throughout New Zealand through videoconferencing. "We gave them the opportunity to download our app, play with it and give us feedback through video," she says. "It was great because they were sitting in their homes or at work and pulling out their screen to show us what we were talking about."Curzon says ASB was the first to open a branch on Facebook. "It gives us an opportunity to be where our customers are," she says. "When 1.5 million [people in] New Zealand [are] on social media and on average [they are] spending around 25 minutes, it really is important for us to be there."We also had the backing of a group of customers that we knew really wanted this service and were very engaged with the thought of having to do banking through the likes of Facebook."Asked for lessons learned from the experience, she says, "It is very important to understand from a customer perspective. "To build a community on Facebook or Twitter, you have got to earn the right to be in people's feeds and that means you need to respect that and tread carefully. You are only going to communicate something when it is relevant and timely and it is going to have an impact or value for them."As it is, she says, ASB is continuously on the lookout for new platforms. ASB was the first to bank to establish a presence on Google plus in New Zealand, she says. "We were the first to be there because it is a place where our customers are and it is the place for us to communicate with our customers."Social is a window to an organisation and so you have got to be prepared to be yourself. Be honest, admit mistakes, ask [for] feedback," she says. "I would also recommend that because of that reason, that people use internal employees to drive the social enterprise because it has to be part of your internal culture."Support from the topChris Quin does not see social media as a marketing tool per se. "I think of it as a communication tool. They are different things," says the Gen-i CEO. "Our Facebook presence and our website presence is about providing solutions, service information and case studies so people can go to these places and understand who we are, what we do and how might engage with them."Quin sends out his own Twitter messages and there is a corporate Twitter that is used as a communication device. "You understand that whenever you use it, it is very public. I approach it in the same way I approach a conversation in a private meeting, in a bar, in a public address."The technology side of social media is not particularly hard, he says. You just got to have some basic policies in place that will allow people to use internet based services like Facebook and Twitter. "Everything else, really, you have to think about in a similar way to the way you think about all of your communications and the way you engage with customers."He says the benefits of enterprise use of Twitter were clearly demonstrated during the Canterbury earthquakes. "The simple driver behind that was that most people couldn't get to a network connection but they could get on to an internet connection. Facebook and Twitter really took off as business tools during those times because that was how we communicated to our customers and to our staff."He remembers the first earthquake in Canterbury in 2010. Within four minutes he got a call on the company's crisis escalation system. "I had my work email and various things I use to understand what is going on, a second laptop running Twitter." "Twitter was telling me what was going on, what was working, what wasn't. I was able to see things like electricity company updates or they were able to send updates to me and to our customers. We were able to respond to people directly."It was a mass communication tool where you have a conversation with your audience. Second, it was very current and very relevant because there were people on the ground tweeting."Management policy is critical, says Quin. "You have got to be clear you have decided to be present in social media and allow your people to use it. You may have to have a simple policy on who is allowed to speak on behalf of the company. For enterprises, "I think it is important to make it two-way. You can't send out messages and not get a response. You have got to be in communication with people." He says enterprises should also make sure Twitter messages are getting picked up and they respond in the same way they respond to a phone call. "People can have valuable interactions over social media and create great outcomes for the business."Breaking down boundariesAndy Shields, group IT manager at Beca, highlights the role of IT in developing a collaborative culture using technology. The engineering and consultancy firm has 17 offices locally and across the region, including China. The company's upcoming move to new headquarters in central Auckland provided the impetus to provide technology that will allow its own staff and those of the other companies to work together using a range of technologies, says Shields. "We have taken into account in our new premises a lot around the collaborative nature of our business. We are a people business; we spend a lot of time working in teams. Different parts of our organisation have to come together maybe for a period of six weeks," he explains.When working on a specific project, we made sure the new building has provisions for these types of things, he says. "There are collaborative spaces where people can come together work together and then disperse and go back to their own desks." At the same time, the firm can bring its customers and partners to the building to work on these collaborative spaces. This is important for Beca, he says, as its projects involve collaboration with different companies including competitors, and usually involve consultants.He says that because the company is using Microsoft Lync across the organisation, it is able to run voice and video wireless circuits. "There are a number of different ways you can collaborate, a number of different technologies you can use," says Shields. On the potential of enterprise social media, he says, "We are watching what Microsoft is doing with Skype, but part of our trying to present ourselves [as] easy to [work with] in the outside world is going to involve a lot of social media."He says these could be around Twitter or as simple as texting. "The challenge for a project in some of the social media is, how do you capture a lot of the information on the project?" In a Facebook page for a project, for example, "How do you filter out what is relevant and what is not relevant?"Beca has a wiki but only for internal use. "Our business is built on relationships with our partners and those relationships are extremely important," he says. So for IT, making it easy for Beca to do business with partners is a main business driver."We want customers to say where do we go to find a partner who is easy and transparent and open and do not have the usual [technology] boundaries?""We want to be device agnostic. We want people to be able to bringing their own devices using their iPad and tablet both BYOD or issue by the company. We in IT don't want to have to really care what the device is. Our goal is to protect the data, not protect the device." When the device is lost, Beca can wipe out the corporate information using a technology that sits on the device like a "virtual bubble".He says the firm makes use of what he calls 'team view sites'. This becomes the document repository and the central location for employees so they can share information. "If they are Lync-enabled, they can see presence awareness that allows them to effectively work in a virtual environment." Filter social conversations The successful social enterprise has the technology, processes to break data down into insight and ability to respond, says Vincent Cotte, product marketing executive of SAS.The digital landscape today includes business content like blogs, and interactive content like Flickr and YouTube. "Social media is the new water cooler with a twist -- the transcripts are now splashed on a billboard 24x7x365 so the stakes are higher."The key, he says, is to create business processes whereby information from social media is translated into action. An area where enterprises can start is customer service. "Enable your customer service teams to reply. Find the right person for the right action," he advises. "Customer complaints should be funnelled to a customer care centre. An identified need can be routed to a sales contact." "How do you filter out irrelevant conversation and focus on the real stuff? How do you mine and cluster that information into something useful? There is nothing worse than producing insight and not getting it to work and derive business value from it." Cotte says data is growing and enterprises need to step up to make sense of this data and embrace opportunities for the business and departments. "We need to embrace these new mediums in order to answer our traditional questions."There is an opportunity for data scientists in this arena, he says. "These conversations have always happened. They have just been face to face conversations around the water cooler. Now we can track it, we can aggregate it, we can combine it with information we already have about our customer base to help us prioritise."The key thing for CIOs is to look at whether the enterprise has the ability to manage the increase in data. Second, is the ability to analyse the data, both unstructured and structured, and to look at phrases and sentiments. The need to understand sentiment and tone of conversations out there is important, he says. The third is putting in the technology and the processes to be able to respond. "All of the insights in the world is not going to allow you to make a difference. Having the ability to have workflows, ability to prioritise work and get it to the right person at the right time is key in making sure you can make an impact to those metrics and you need to understand the business metrics that you are affecting," says Cotte.Tony Armfield, vice president, enterprise sales at Salesforce.com, says a lot of companies start on the social enterprise route by getting an awareness of what is going on in the social context. This leads to a more external focus, moving from monitoring to engaging with the customers and creating a social profile of their customers.Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the parent company of ASB, for instance, launched IdeaBank where the concept of crowdsourcing is applied on what banking should look like.He says "social speed" is critical as the bank had only weeks to implement the concept and deploy these to millions of customers. In the case of CAB, people gave a "thumbs up or thumbs down" on ideas so the bank knows which ideas resonate with the customer base.For CIOs in social enterprises, it comes back to the basic premise of a CIO understanding what a business is trying to achieve and then searching out and promoting that IT is going to help them, he says. "Innovative CIOs today are assessing those solutions and understanding these solutions need to be implemented in a very agile and very rapid return on investment manner.'"Beyond 'watch and see'John Roberts, research vice president Asia Pacific in Gartner CIO Research, says there has been a "fairly conservative approach" from most organisations in the region with enterprise use for social media.CIOs are in a "watch and see" stance, he says. "There is this explosion in the amount of digital technologies available and yet for many CIOs, their fundamental objective always remains making sure the lights stay on."At the same time, he says CIOs themselves have to become users of the technology. Most organisations would have early adopters to new technology and he knows one CIO who has been tapping the knowledge of this cohort. "He made it a habit of once a month sitting down with one of the younger generation [staff] and talking to them about how they are communicating."He says there is a realisation some people use email as the "last resort" when communicating. "Most people want immediate interaction and that is the benefit of social media, it has become more of a collaboration tool," observes Roberts.He has seen organisations looking at niche areas where it makes sense to use social media. One such area is safety. "It needs to be something so important to the organisation that people will want to share quickly," he says. "All of these technologies, they don't change things. People change things because they decided it makes life easier, better for them."He says CIOs need to support experiments using social technology in parts of the organisation. There is, however, no blanket directive to become a social organisation. "In many respects, organisations are already social organisations -- sometimes we confuse the technology with the way people interact with each other." There is already a lot of social interaction, or instance, around a lunch table, at a conference table."The challenge is, what is the business benefit of having another means of communications?"For Roberts, a more important question is, "Does everybody in the organisation have the right information? And the answer to that is often 'no'. There is information everywhere but never in the form I want.""CIOs right now are feeling the pressure of trying to advance on many fronts," he says. In the meantime, they are still coping with complex legacy applications, and complex and growing infrastructure.Adding to this is their need to prepare for a future workforce that can meet the needs of the evolving enterprise technology. "What we are seeing in all of this is a move from the back office type of technology development into far more focus on the user interface and those skill sets are often not inside the IT organisation."Roberts compares this to the time when the web emerged and the shift was from traditional programming skills to web based skills. "This is the next wave of that technology development," he says. "For many IT organisations, right now is the time they do need to think about what new skills they need within their IT organisations to be able to play in these areas; because if they don't, people will go elsewhere." Developing a social media leadership strategyGartner lists five action areas CIOs can take in the next 12 months. The social business is changing rapidly, so make sure to review and update them regularly, advise Gartner analysts John Mahoney and John P Roberts:• Get involved personally in social media. Ensure you are personally visible and present in the systems to understand how they work, lead others to participate and build personal credibility. • Ensure sponsored social media initiatives focus on specific objectives that matter to the enterprise. Every initiative should be designed to advance a business-value metric, such as customer retention or staff productivity.• Review and develop IT governance to build communities of practice for social media across the enterprise. Make clear the aim is effective management of information and "flexible exploitation" of communication, not control of technology.• Make social media part of your larger enterprise information architecture. Develop tools and processes to harness collective intelligence.• Develop a strategy that includes the definition of the audience and participants. Include level of engagement desired and how the organisation will benefit from social media. Source: Gartner
Divina Paredes is editor of CIO New Zealand. Follow her on Twitter @divinap and @cio_nz.