What is Social Business?

The history of internal company communication has hitherto been marked by technology evolution. Think back to the office mail room, the individual pigeon holes, the desk in-trays and office memos and the printed newsletter. After that came the company telephone system, the photocopier, the fax machine, then voicemail and mobile telephony. And following all of the above came probably the biggest shift in internal communication, email with its now dreaded cc to all and email attachment features.

At Intec we firmly believe that Social Business (or Enterprise Collaboration) represents the most radical and significant evolutionary step in Company communication to date. In fact we would happily put ourselves in the camp that says that Social Business is more revolution than evolution. Allow us to explain our thinking.

Despite all the leaps in workplace technology one sobering fact remains:

80% of what any employee knows about their job is held in their head, only 20% is written down (or codified) in any system. (source: Deloitte study)

 

This is the big win on offer with a Social Business platform. Not only does it expose the poverty of the current collaborative tool set, a well deployed Social Business strategy provides the means and the context for employees to record and share that 80% of company (or industry) specific knowledge that they are continuously amassing.

You can be forgiven for thinking at this point – if employees have not shared the bulk of what they know to date, why would that change? To answer this question we need to look outside the company walls at the staggering proliferation and mass adoption of social networks. The range and focus of these networks is extremely varied but three key things they have in common are openness, transparency, and an imaginable willingness of individuals to share what they know. Quite simply, sharing and being acknowledged for it is incredibly empowering and gratifying for people. And for the rest of us, being able to access that knowledge and leveraging it for our own personal agenda is equally valuable. And so the new digital social contract is made.

Whether we are looking at Social Networks like Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Trip Advisor, one thing holds true – contrary to what we have been taught or learnt in our business lives – people like to share what they know. What they have lacked hitherto is the means and context in which to share easily. Digital technology coupled with social networks provide this at scale – welcome to the much talked about and touted, ‘Global Village’. Marshal McLuhan, Canadian philosopher who predicted the internet three decades before it happened, referred to the Global Village as a place where humans who do not necessarily know each other can easily form groups, share knowledge, influence each other and then disperse at speed without any barriers and at virtually zero cost.

When we take his human instinct to share and to be acknowledged for doing so and apply it to a business specific context then something truly amazing and significant starts to happen. The tidal wave of business benefits and business transformation are on a scale not seen before. This really is at the heart of a definition of Social Business – exploiting the tools and the mass adoption success of social networks and bringing that to bear on solving company challenges.

The novel way in which these business benefits manifest themselves is described in the next section.


See IBM What is Social Business report – author Alistair Rennie