While Social Business continued to evolve in 2012, 2013 will see the emergence of digital business as a new strategic theme for many firms. What's driving this shift and what does it mean for CIOs, CEOs, and chief digital officers?
The Communications Evolution
Communications continue to evolve. Consider how humans have transformed communications over the centuries: signal fires; semaphore; Morse code; the telegraph; the telephone; telex; fax; email; SMS; Facebook; and Twitter. I have no doubt that this evolution will continue in 2013 and beyond. Perhaps beyond 2013 we will eventually achieve the ability to communicate our thoughts directly — whether we’ll want to is a different question. As people the world over learn to use new social networking tools, they drop older tools that are no longer useful to them. Regardless of where you are in your personal communications evolution, the undeniable truth is that over the past decade we have significantly changed how people communicate; we are no longer dependent upon email. But social tools and 24/7 mobile access have not removed the complexity or decreased the volume of information we must process. Time remains our most precious resource and we’ll always seek ways to use it more effectively — but social tools are not necessarily the silver bullet we might think. In 2013 we need to rethink business processes to take this new communications paradigm into account.
We're just about to the end of 2012 (and according to the Mayan calendar, the end of time) so I figured it was about the right time to put together some thoughts on the year.
Let's start with Enterprise Social, which continues to mature. It was the first thing I was assigned to cover when I came to Forrester six years ago and it's been a great ride so far. Enterprise Social is at that stage of development where we remain hopeful, but in the cool gray of the morning we must admit to having concerns. It's a bit like a teenager that has always been a good, albeit quirky kid, that is now getting into a bit of trouble. Just a stage? A lot of licenses have been sold but adoption remains a challenge for many. Certainly, the promises of E2.0 we were envisioning six years ago have been elusive for most. That said, the patterns are emerging that indicate success can be found. Funny thing, success is aligned with good old business value. Who'd have guessed? As is often the case, the closer you get to revenue the greater the chance for success. Mobile sales people lead in terms of demand for social solutions because better access to content, expertise and collective action drives sales which drive better performance reviews and compensation. Will the rest of the enterprise follow? Well, that's the $64 question.
This case study is from TJ Keitt's and my social business playbook report, “The Road To Social Business Starts With A Burning Platform.” A social business uses technology to work efficiently using a common collaboration platform -- without being constrained by server availability or storage capacity. Here’s the story.
If you've already consolidated dozens of email systems from every vendor and era onto a single managed instance of Exchange 2007, made the shift to support 70 or more state agencies by operating as an ISP, and crunched 20 SharePoint instances down to a single scalable data center, what else is there to do? After all, you've already achieved a high state of IT operational efficiency and process optimization.
If you are Ed Valencia, CTO and Deputy Commissioner, and Tarek Tomes, Customer and Service Management, Assistant Commissioner, the State of Minnesota’s IT department (MN.IT), you step back and ask, “Has what we’ve done really helped the business communicate and collaborate efficiently and effectively?” They knew they could do more by moving their collaboration workloads into the cloud.
So they took a gamble that Microsoft's Office 365 Dedicated offering was ready for the State of Minnesota. Office 365 Dedicated has opened new doors for people throughout the State of Minnesota government. Agencies can collaborate with one another because the common collaboration platform integrates the disparate directories of the different government entities. For example, the Governor can send a message to every agency in the executive branch through this common platform.
For social media evangelists, the question on everyone's mind is this: "How do we effectively measure the business value of social initiatives?"
Even when we get close, there's always that pesky issue of causation vs. correlation — can we really prove causation even for examples with high correlation between social initiatives and business outcomes? (Read Freakonomics, or watch the documentary, for insights into the challenges of causation vs. correlation.)
I'm going to tell you a story of opportunity. I will warn you in advance that it paints the art of the possible, but ultimately it's a cautionary tale.
I have a 17-year-old son. He's a high school senior and attends a private high school in our city. In Forrester terminology, you could call him "empowered." So much so that over his first three years he rarely wore the required school uniform. Now, the school uniform is far from draconian. It's a polo, color of your choice, with a school logo. I actually think they look good, but he says they itch. To get around it he simply wore the polo of his choice under a sweater. It would seem all polo collars look the same. This worked well until a new principal came in last year and figured out what was going on. A new dress code was instituted that required that students also wear school approved outer wear so that a school logo was always visible.
Recently I attended one of the day-long events in Munich that Google offers as part of its atmosphere on tour road show that visits 24 cities globally in 2012. The event series is aimed at enterprise customers and aims to get them interested in Google’s enterprise solutions, including Google Apps, search, analytics and mapping services, as well as the Chrome Book and Chrome Box devices.
Google Enterprise as a division has been around for some time, but it is only fairly recently that Google started to push the enterprise solutions more actively into the market through marketing initiatives. The cloud-delivery model clearly plays a central role for Google’s enterprise pitch (my colleague Stefan Ried also held a presentation on the potential of cloud computing at the event).
Still, the event itself was a touch light on details and remained pretty high level throughout. Whilst nobody expects Google to communicate a detailed five-year plan, it would have been useful to get more insights into Google’s vision for the enterprise and how it intends to cater to these needs. Thankfully, prior to the official event, Google shared some valuable details of this vision with us. The four main themes that stuck out for us are:
I bet you are thinking, “Oh no, this looks like a typical Friday IT blog post” and it has all the key ingredients – It’s Friday-tick-has science fiction references-tick-has a weird title-tick – but please go with the flow with this one.
Forrester fields hundreds of client inquiries each year on the topic of social business and collaboration. And the trend doesn't appear to be slowing. Often the first question is, "How far behind are we?" Well here's the data. You judge for yourself. According to Forrester survey data from 1,332 executives and IT decision-makers:
49% will have investments in social networking solutions in 2012.
In addition to the eHealth initiatives mentioned in my previous blog, I wanted to call out another T-city program that struck close to home for me — the “tumor conference program.” The idea is simple, but the impact is enormous. The program’s official objective is to “make possible the interdisciplinary exchange of experiences between doctors, therapists, and cancer specialists, and to support the process flow of a tumor conference by using a modern communications solution.” But for many patients, the objective is more than “process flow,” it is about universal access to healthcare and access to specialists in the fields they need — in this case, access to the cancer specialists that are affiliated with research centers and university hospitals. These conferences are vital to extending access beyond just the big cities to the smaller towns and rural areas. And we’re not talking about Africa or India — we’re talking about Europe, and developed countries on other continents.