How does social meet processes?

Communities of pratice, intranets and team collaboration are not the only scenarios through which social media are percolating inside the enterprise.

More recently a number of pundits have suggested an additional and quite diverse opportunity for injecting peer-to-peer interactions inside work practices by marrying traditional business processes and collaboration. One year ago, Ray Wang and its Constellation Research Group summed up the key targets of this transformation mentioning areas such as Customer Service and Sales, HCM, Marketing and PR, Project Management through 43 use cases.

Social and processes come together following different levels of maturity to introduce a number of benefts:

  • Exception handling as an efficiency lever: according to Forrester, 50% circa of employees consider existing processes too rigid to facilitate adoption and effectively allowing them to reach process goals. Rigid, a-priori designed processes break down in front of an increasing uncertainty, volatility, competition and power consumers get thanks to social media. That’s where being reactive quickly, constantly learning, anticipating issues when they present and improvising becomes important as processes (have a look at From Push to Pull).
  • Social in the flow: switching between tens of not integrated enterprise applications and adding load to existing responsibilities is not something employees are looking for. Deploying social media in the flow of current work practices is thus a clear adoption pattern project and community manager shouldn’t forget
  • Improving knowledge work. According to McKinsey 20% to 50% of knowledge work is inefficient or totally wasted while knowledge workers are the quickest growing and most expensive part of our workforce. An opportunity of making them 20%-25% more productive is at hand. The value locked in internal collaboration is two times bigger than in customer facing engagement.
  • Building the agile enterprise: empowering rank and file by pushing decisional power lower in the hierarchy at the very point where issues arise it’s the possibility for the organization to become more agile and reactive to change. Adding collaboration on top or inside processes gives employees the right to accomodate customer’s requests, to fix inefficiencies, to circulate and aggregate all the knowledge available while minimizing barriers to change management.
  • More easily measuring returns: identifying a ROI from collaboration is probably the first question most managers have when looking at Social Business. Starting from an existing process and its baseline is a great way for seriously evaluating the improvement participative work provides.

How much is this really happening? AIIM brings some data through a new report titled Social in the flow. Transforming processes and sharing knowledge:

  • Integration is important: At least 50% of organizations feel that integrating social to all types of business process would be very or extremely valuable:

  • Some processes have priority. Customer support, marketing, collaborative content creation and reuse processes lead the pack while project coordination, knowledge sharing and internal communication, problem solving and expertise location follows immediately after. All of these processes are good candidates for socialization in the next 12 months at well over 50%:
  • Integration is yet at the beginning but it’s happening. 64% of organizations are using social without any integration to their business processes while 21% are taking the first steps:

Conclusions

By enabling the benefits cited at the beginning of this post, socialization of business processes will probably be the most critical area of focus for organizations willing to reap the largest results from collaboration. CMOs, CIOs, CEOs, line of business and other senior managers are actively promoting it.

It won’t be an easy journey though. Our organizations are not designed to be connected across boundaries and silos. Localized project-based or departmental implementations will keep surviving. Executives in HR, Finance, Compliance are still refusing to adapt. Both security issues and lack of understanding are still mining the diffusion of Social Business. Only 9% of the participants expect full integration to happen in the next 2 years.

Nonetheless in a time of economic crisis becoming more relevant both to the business and to employees it’s the only direction where collaboration could be heading. Other than providing measurable benefits, a more structured approach to peer-to-peer participation brings with it a long list of positive side effects such as a more mature approach to social by:

  • Explicitly defining how it is meaningful to business
  • Giving an active role to those (because a single department is not enough) responsible for the transformation
  • Evaluating where collaboration has to mingle with enterprise infrastructure
  • Building a shared strategy of why, how and to what final form the organization will transition

Is your organization already on its way? Do you see this journey as useful from a business perspective or not?

Emanuele Quintarelli

Social media enthusiast and Social Business Leader in EY. Research, reports and reflections about the introduction of web 2.0 inside the enterprise.

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