How To Develop A Social Innovation Network

Nigel Fenwick

Customers already use social technologies to wrest power away from large corporations. Now employees are adapting social technologies in pursuit of innovations to support these empowered customers; Forrester calls these employees HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives). By designing social technologies as part of their Innovation Networks, CIOs and their IT teams help establish new Social Innovation Networks — innovation ecosystems employing social technologies to enhance HEROes' innovations. These Social Innovation Networks help drive faster, more effective innovation across the enterprise. And CIOs must rise to the challenge of nurturing and developing these networks while structuring their IT teams to fully support them.

In an earlier post, I described how we’re entering a new era of social innovation. Building on these concepts in subsequent research has led to the latest report “CIOs: Support HEROes – Create Social Innovation Networks Using The PACT Framework” (and yes, I’m guilty of introducing yet another acronym).

PACT: Process, advocates, culture, and technology

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Do We Need A More Social Government?

Nigel Fenwick

The new book Empowered highlights the benefits of empowering HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives) within the workforce. As we approach our first-ever CIO Forum in October, I’m looking around for great examples of how governments are using social technologies to empower employees to serve empowered citizens.

When I think of government IT projects, I often think of multimillion-dollar projects lasting years before going live. But it doesn’t always have to be that way, as the following example illustrates. 

Peter Koht is a HERO working for the City of Santa Cruz Redevelopment Office. In 2009, the city was facing its worst budget crisis (a problem familiar to many city officials). Running out of options, the city had already shut down civic services such as the community pool, museums, and a family resource center when it faced up to the reality that the people of the city needed to be involved in the decisions about what services to cut. Unfortunately, the voices too often heard at civic meetings were representatives of the extreme viewpoints at either end of the political spectrum. In an effort to collect more ideas from the silent majority, Peter suggested the city could tap into social media to connect with its citizens. Lacking any kind of budget or resources, Peter had to rely on the help of three volunteers to get a community site up and running in a week. 

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Empowered Customers Need Empowered Employees Need Empowered IT

Ted Schadler

Groundswell technology comes to consumers first. At home, we get social, mobile, video, and cloud services pitched to us 24x7. Facebook, Android, iPad, Foursquare, Google, YouTube, Office Web Apps, Twitter. The list is endless and growing every single day. Empowering technologies like these will always come to consumers first. Why? Because it's a wide-open market. A single developer can build an application that changes the world from their broadband-connected bedroom.

All this technology puts tremendous power directly into the hands of your customers. Your customers often have more information than your sales team — or medical staff — does. They can also whack your brand from their smartphone, with video even, while waiting impatiently in line. They can get a recommendation from someone in their business network while listening to your pitch. Customers are empowered by information and connections. You'd better make sure you give customers better information than they can get elsewhere.

The only way to do that is to empower your employees to directly engage the needs and expectations of empowered customers. Only empowered employees can solve the problems of empowered customers.

Fortunately, your employees are not standing still. People are problem solvers. Left alone, your innovative employees (we call them HEROes — highly empowered and resourceful operatives) are building new solutions using these same groundswell technologies — and many others besides — to solve customer problems.

In fact, 37% of US information workers — employees that use computers for work — use do-it-yourself technology to get work done. Personal mobile devices. Unsanctioned Web sites like Skype or Google Docs or LinkedIn or Smartsheet.com. Unsanctioned software downloaded to a work computer.

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Does Your Organization Have A Great Internal/External Social Community?

Nigel Fenwick

Each year we conduct a search for the best examples of social media/social communities as part of our search for winners of the prestigious Forrester Groundswell Awards. This year we have added a new category of award aimed at internal communities designed to help management with innovation and/or collaboration across the organization — communities that empower employees.

In the fall I’ll be helping my colleague, Ted Schadler — co-author of the upcoming book Empowered — to judge the winners of the management category. So if you have a social community or social media success story please consider nominating your firm for one or more categories in this year’s awards.

Find out how to submit your nomination through the Forrester Groundswell blog here.

If you are a vendor and helping a client implement a social community you may nominate your client with their permission.

Good luck!

How Do You Manage Multinational Social Media Programs? We'd Like To Know!

Nate Elliott

Lately, a lot of our clients have been asking about how to manage their social media programs across more than one country. It's a real challenge: While some sites (like MySpace) have long offered solutions to help marketers direct users from different countries to the correct branded page, the current social media leaders (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) don't seem to do this nearly as well. How, then, do you make sure that the Facebook page on which you post UK-specific content doesn't misinform your European fans? How do make sure the support community designed to help your US customers doesn't confuse your Canadian audience? Do you create multiple pages in each social network to serve all the countries in which you operate? Or do you maintain a single presence in each network, and avoid posting any country-specific material? If you offer different product lines in different countries -- or use radically different marketing strategies market by market -- it only gets more difficult.

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The New Era Of Social Innovation

Nigel Fenwick

If the seventies and eighties were dominated by technology-led innovation, with IT in the driving seat, the nineties and two thousands was surely the period of marketing-led innovation. With the emergence of social computing as such a big influence on business, spreading rapidly beyond the sole domain of marketing, it seems we are entering a new era - the era of Social Innovation.

In this era, innovation will be driven by empowered customers and employees and IT and Marketing will need to join forces and collaborate as never before. The CIO and the CMO, IT and Marketing, will jointly power this new era of Social Innovation by bringing together their extensive domain expertise to create a Social Innovation Network.

The way I see it, true Social Innovation goes beyond customer interaction and idea generation, it requires a powerful and coordinated network of players to take customer-generated innovation and to test, scale and implement it. IT has a key role to play in this Social Innovation Network as the broker, helping to connect the network players and components and to establish the management, strategy and technological backbone of the network.

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The CIO And Social Media: Social Evangelist?

Nigel Fenwick

Following on from my last post - "The CIO And Social Media: Social Police?" – you might have guessed I’m a big proponent of Social Computing to drive organizational transformation and increase profits.

The thing is, I wonder how many CIOs see themselves as social evangelists.  You’re a CIO...

  • Are you on Twitter?
  • Do you have a full profile on LinkedIn?
  • How about Facebook?
  • Do you understand how your marketing organization is leveraging social media?
  • Do you have a role as social advocate in the organization?

I believe one important role of the CIO is to help peers in the business to better understand just how transformational social media can be to helping increase growth and/or drive productivity to improve the bottom line.

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