Enterprise 2.0 Introduces a World of Networks of Networks

Enterprise 2.0, the annual conference focused on social media, was held in Boston this week with IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft as major sponsors. The conference makes available a wealth of useful information, mainly in the form of white papers and videos of the keynote presentations, for free. Check it out here.

Last year, the conference focused on the search for the social media killer app for business. The growing consensus then was collaboration. BottomlineIT’s sister blog for CFOs covered it here.

This year collaboration is a given. Some other interesting themes, however, emerged in conversations with various key players. For example, Cisco’s Murali Sitaram observed that the world appears to be rapidly evolving into a network of networks. What might that imply for your business?

Social media at its core is about creating networks. Facebook, the largest social network by far, enables its subscribers to create networks of friends among whom they communicate. Twitter, the social media micro-blogging giant, lets its subscribers post their thoughts in 140-character snippets, which are distributed to a network of followers who are encouraged to pass them on.  Within minutes a message can go viral, expanding exponentially.

Vendors are jumping into the social media space with products that, in one way or another, let people and companies create networks, expand on existing networks, or better manage their rapidly growing and multiplying networks. People and companies end up participating in multiple networks. The result, as Sitaram noted, is a world consisting of networks of networks. Between your employees, partners, and customers, you already are involved in many networks. Once aware of these networks, you can exploit them to advance mutually beneficial objectives. That’s essentially what President Obama did to get elected.

Yammer, another Enterprise 2.0 player, provides companies with what amounts to the ability to set up a Facebook-like social media environment within the company. In fact, companies can set up multiple Yammer groups; one for finance, another for budgeting, still another for procurement. You can set up yet a different Yammer group to bring in external partners.

The Yammer groups don’t replace your existing enterprise applications. Those systems—ERP, CRM, HR, supply chain management, procurement, and such—remain the systems of record. Instead it becomes part of a new, complementary category of systems referred to as systems of engagement. These are the social networking systems you will use increasingly to engage and collaborate with employees, partners, customers, and other stakeholders.

At this point, social networking is about managing the engagement experience. Hank Barnes, principal in Adobe’s customer experience management group, suggests a goal of social networking is to turn customers into advocates. Citing a Harvard Business Review article by Roger Martin titled The Age of Customer Capitalism Barnes suggests managers need to change how their companies engage with customers. The way to do that is social networking. Martin’s article demonstrates how companies that focus primarily on delivering customer value do better in the long run than companies that primarily aim to create shareholder value.

The business social networking market is hot. IBM, in launching its new IBM Connections, a social networking platform for business with real-time compliance capabilities, noted that IDC has projected social platforms to be a $2 billion market by 2014. Gartner, meanwhile, reported  that by the end of 2013, half of all companies will have been asked to produce material from social media websites for e-discovery. The conclusion: social networking for business clearly has arrived.


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  1. #1 by Hank Barnes on June 24, 2011 - 2:54 pm

    Nice post Alan. When we think about engagement, its about more than just social networking and social business. its about designing experiences from the customer-in–determining how to provide them with the best possible experience, while also delivering value to the business.

    The customer value v. shareholder value discussion is an interesting one. To me, its kinda simple.

    When someone starts a business in any way (bootstrap, VC funded, etc.), where in their plan do they state “the purpose of this business is to maximize shareholder value.” Nowhere. We start businesses to address a pain or enable new opportunities for a target set of customers. If we keep our sites on delivering value to those customers, the business can thrive. When we get “too big for our britches” and shift our focus to shareholder value, then its no longer about the customer.

    Social is just another way (and a good way) for us to continue to build a shared understanding of pains and opportunities with our customers. Using it wisely drives increased value to the customers,which should also drive increased value (and ROI) to the business.

  1. Social Media Gets Down to Business at Enterprise 2.0 « bottomlineIT

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