Sunday, March 13, 2011

4 Reasons Why You Must Start Social Business Transformation through People (and how)

For more than 2,000 years we’ve been communicating through some variation of messaging system, e.g. smoke signals, messengers, postal services and e-mail.  Collaboration in the same period of time was done either through gatherings (today called meetings), then conference calls and because of lack of anything better, e-mail.
With historical changes caused globalization, creation of internet and the progression of its capabilities like blogs, wikis and social networking, today people across the world are capable of sharing knowledge in previously unimaginable ways.  However, corporations are still struggling with the change that is already almost consolidated in the consumer space.
To help addressing this situation, I listed here 4 key issues and opportunities which make me believe it’s fundamental to start corporate social business transformation through people.  You will also find some recommended actions for each of them, based on research, studies and experience.
·         I want to target the audience in communications (CORRECT)…
·         …and I can’t do that with enterprise social tools (MYTH)
·         I want to target the audience for collaboration (NOT NECESSARILY)
·         Legal and confidentiality concerns (REAL)
·         I want to ensure security of proprietary information (CORRECT)…
·         …and enterprise social tools are too open (MYTH)
Action: Educate people about some of the myths around security and how to use different social business settings depending on the confidentiality of information.  In some cases, a personal message will remain the best option.  However, people in general tend to withhold information as a matter of personal power rather than security concerns, as you will see next.
2. VALUE OF KNOWLEDGE: from individual to collective
·         What would you choose (in a scale of 1 to 100)?
o   Know 60 if everyone else knows 30
o   Know 80 if everyone else also knows 80
o   Most will choose the former because that’s how they were able to grow in the past
·         PAST PARADIGM: What only I know makes me more relevant than others
·         If you manage knowledge within a limited space, i.e. your direct reports, your peers, your function, your business units (BU), you will be capped by that much space
·         TODAY’S REALITY: I’ll learn more if I share more
·         Collaboration will enable you and your team to transcend the very limits silos create
Action: Work with the leadership of your organization to recognize collaborative (team, multi-function, multi-BU) outcomes as much as individual (one person, one function, one BU) contributions.  Some of those collaborative outcomes can create unprecedented breakthroughs and business results.  It may be time for a change in the reward and recognition system to put more weight in team results rather than individual evaluation.  Create a pilot for global collaboration to demonstrate its power.  Showing is always better than telling.
·         Internet has seriously cracked the dams holding knowledge
·         Social collaboration destroyed those dams for good
Action: Focus in securing proprietary and confidential information and then let knowledge sharing flow.  If you try to stop it people will find potentially dangerous alternatives, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.
·         In a strong hierarchical culture it is a lot more difficult for social business to fly
·         Social business will break into “secret brotherhoods” and will allow people to voice their opinion
Action: Understand the culture of your organization.  If you work for an extremely hierarchical organization it will take a long time to get to a social business environment.  Hopefully not long enough to compromise the future of the company.  In that case you have to understand if there is any intention of leadership to give it a try.  If so, start with a small and clear business case that can demonstrate the potential of the change.  You may have only one chance, so study the alternatives thoroughly and choose wisely.  In less rigid cultures, you still have to make sure leadership engage in fair and open discussions, encouraging participation at all levels.
On March 24 2pm US ET, I’ll be talking more about these opportunities during a free Webinar titled Social Business – It is not just about technology!  Click here to register and join me in this conversation.

Visit me at and connect on Twitter @VMRdaCosta


  1. Great post. Practical and informative. Definitely signing up for the webinar.

  2. So sorry to have missed this webinar to hear your perspective on social business transformation. I wonder if you might be posting it somewhere or was it recorded.

    Companies motivated by a strategic competitive advantage, I think, can be moved more quickly through the process of social business transformation even with a hierarchical structure. Having individuals within as sponsors and leaders who will take the risk of stepping up to support this strategy (asking forgiveness after they show the results) are what we need. Recently met @mariopaladini from Oracle who did just this.

  3. Wendy, I posted the link to the Webinar recording in the blog. Here is the link . Hope you like it.

    Mark, thanks for the kind words.

  4. Interesting post , to be chaste... I didn't know that, but it doesn't matter 'cos everyone have ignorance.