Three recent events emphasize the need to put social enterprise transformation at the top of your business to-do list for 2012. The first was the recent Consumer Electronics Show featuring gadgets galore, from companies that may or may not be in business a year from now. The second was the hack of Zappos' customer database, which appears to have exposed 24 million customer passwords. The third was the recent IBM Connect 2012 event (held in conjunction with the annual Lotusphere gathering) in Orlando (See What Enterprise Social Success Stories Have In Common.)
These three events, not as unrelated as they first seem, provide a strong reason to take your company's social networking activity from the fringe, where marketing and individuals do their own things, to the realm of core competency, where you embrace a business vision of the social enterprise. The core competency that you want to build is tightly knit (even if geographically dispersed) employee teams that tune into customer needs in order to create products and services that delight customers and bury your competition.
Unlike the case in the social consumer space, the social enterprise must have all the security and privacy features that a business requires. You also need a strong business foundation of measurable value and you must retain control of the social network attributes, rather than handing over control to the big, sprawling consumer networks.
Before I get into the 10 ways to transform your company, I'll highlight the reasons why those three recent events should be a call to social action.
While CES is a fun show to attend and the gadgets are great to see, it is difficult to see how those gadgets will transform your company. The companies used the social networks to try and build marketing buzz, but I've attended enough of these shows to know that once the buzz dies, so do many of the vendors. Following the CES model of buzz for buzz's sake does not a sustainable company make. The social enterprise will become core to your company's business and technology strategy; it shouldn't be just an event add-on.
The Zappos hack illustrates why your customer information has to be the top priority. While no database is absolutely secure, the tools are now in place to alert technology administrators to unusual activity, place infrequently accessed data into secure, encrypted storage, and disperse information across a range of systems rather than provide one target. One breach can wipe out customer trust (though Zappos is getting good marks from security experts for its handling of the breach, so far.)
The social enterprise was in full view at the Connect2012 event. IBM is one of many vendors chasing the social enterprise model, but it has moved further than most of its peers in providing the underpinnings of social networks combined with traditional enterprise privacy, security, and compliance features. IBM may have been forced into the social enterprise model by its own size and dispersed nature. As Jeanette Horan, IBM CIO, noted, IBM has 425,000 employees (plus 100,000 contractors) operating in 175 countries, and half of those employees work at home or at client sites. So mobility, social networks, and dispersed team creation are necessities.
"The use of social media is becoming critical to IBM," said Horan.