As Chief Executives, our primary goal is a smarter, faster, more fluid business. We know that better decisions, executed more quickly across the organization mean more efficient operations, happier customers and higher profits. In chasing this ideal state, we have come to lean more and more heavily on our Chief Information Officers and their IT teams.
Ironically, the proliferation of IT systems has created massive organizational barriers. These disconnected ‘silos’ of information and processes create separations that impede the speed and effectiveness of business. When employees can’t collaborate with each other, valuable insights are lost. When they can’t see into computer networks, poor decisions are made.
The concept of “Social Business” is gaining attention because it promises to create the more open and fluid environment we seek. Social Business is emerging as a significant technology trend transforming how knowledge is captured, how processes are designed, how applications are created and how work gets done. Driving value from the social and mobile technology revolutions should be high on every CEO’s priority list. That said, executives contemplating investments in new software platforms where employees can collaborate in “social silos” such as those found in Yammer, Jive and Salesforce Chatter should be extremely cautious. These technologies, commonly called “enterprise social software,” cannot deliver real productivity improvement because they miss the point of the connected workplace; they aren’t built for doing business.
Enterprise social tools may increase communication, but communication about what? They are yet another siloed platform, cut off from broad enterprise processes, systems and data. They entirely neglect the business aspect of social business, and are therefore little more than a new channel for water-cooler talk.
This is why, despite Salesforce’s heavy promotion of Chatter, the New York Times reported that as of September, “Only 24% of Salesforce customers are developing social competencies” using the product. This is why technology news site ZDNet called Microsoft’s $1.2B acquisition of Yammer “just another tool in [Microsoft’s] increasingly disparate and disjointed toolbox.”
This is why technology analyst Dan Woods has decried the current spate of enterprise social tools, stating in Forbes.com: “Right now social business suites support collaboration but when work must be done using an application there is a context switch; you must jump to another application. The full potential of social business will be reached when there is no context switch required, when you have all the application and collaborative functionality in one unified environment.”
There is a better approach: What I call “worksocial” is a fusion of hard-core work automation with new social paradigms, in use today at some of the world’s largest organizations. It’s a social interface, but full of the essential tasks, rules, reports, and responsibilities that drive your business. Instead of just talking, your users can get work done. With worksocial tools, employees can see and act on business events – or even the absence of expected events – from any enterprise system. Structured processes can morph into unstructured discussions at any time, and then segue back into action. And it works as easily on a mobile device as it does on a desktop.
According to McKinsey Global Institute data, the result of businesses integrating social and mobile technologies directly into core processes in this way will be $1.3 trillion in new annual value.
One of the world’s largest beverage retailers has adopted the worksocial approach for the store assessments that are vital to ensuring a high-quality customer experience. Armed only with specially-enabled iPads, store inspectors receive inspection tasks, locate stores, complete forms, upload store photos, submit and view assessment reports, and collaborate with each other, store and regional managers and the corporate office. All of this is done through a single social interface. Using worksocial, this company is seeing millions of dollars in annual value. They estimate they have eliminated 30,000 hours per year just in the prep time needed before an inspection can take place.
Crawford & Company, the world’s largest insurance claims outsourcer, uses worksocial to assemble ad-hoc teams of claims adjusters in the event of a major catastrophe. Let’s say there’s a devastating hurricane with lots of damage. Crawford pinpoints the right adjuster to review a claim based on mobile device geo-location, capacity and a past performance scorecard. Adjusters upload photos and voice notes along with electronic forms via mobile device to move claims through the system with greater speed and accuracy. The new rules based system not only reduces workload, but drives significant cost savings – which translated into customer savings after the paper based bill review process saw a reduction of approximately 70%.
As these examples show the difference between enterprise social and worksocial is the difference between facilitating awareness and getting work done. Worksocial delivers a new, highly transparent and collaborative style of work that drives productivity and better decision-making. Don’t adopt a social tool that can’t do work inside your business. What forward-looking executives need to do is bring work into the world of social technology.
 New York Times, “Many Companies Slow to Warm to Social Enterprise,” Sept. 12, 2012
 ZDNet, “Will Yammer Improve SharePoint?” June 25, 2012
 Forbes.com, “Completing the Social Business Transformation: A Manifesto,” Sept. 28, 2012
 “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies.” McKinsey Global Institute, July 2012