Social Business Software: Give yourself an unfair advantage

Social has been hot for a couple of years.  Now, people are trying to figure out how to apply the capabilities to business.  Often people come to the space with vague notions of social. Every conversation seems to bring up Twitter and Facebook.  It makes sense.   People are coming to the space based upon what they know as consumers.  However, when talking about CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint, I find it very effective to start the conversation a bit differently.  It goes like this…

Business is a team sport.  It is competitive.  Yes, there are rules.  But, what if you could give yourself an unfair advantage over the competition?  An advantage that would make you more powerful at the point of attack.

Think of a team sport like football.  Eleven people on each side.  But, imagine if you and only you were able to tap another 15 people, including 5 ringers with specific skills and knowledge, to turn the situation to your advantage.

Effectively, social business software is an enabler to do just this.  It gives you a multiplier effect of your workforce and enables you to bring this force to bear when and where it matters.

How?  Most of our applications/systems are designed for a purpose.  This is good because it focuses on a specific objective.  The problem (or opportunity) is that most of these applications are inward looking.  They take a constrained inward looking view towards how best to accomplish an outcome.  Part of this historically is based upon technology and design.  However, a more significant part is simply our perspective of the playing field and the rules.

Let’s take a help desk.  CorasWorks has provided help desk solutions on SharePoint for years.  They are always driven by IT Help Desk managers.  They are focused on efficiency.  But, for many items maybe you don’t need one.  With a social business application your “help desk” largely becomes the community in the middle.  People submit questions, and, others answer them.  The community becomes the source of answers (other than resetting passwords).  It is hugely scalable, tends to get it right, becomes a visible repository of correct answers and challenges, and is very convenient to use.  Along the way, you may even find that most of the questions are very, very different from IT issues.  Your employees really want to know how to do something, to find this or that, who knows this information, can I do this, how can we get something done.  For social business, think of your enterprise help desk more like a virtual concierge that brings everyone’s knowledge and experience to bear.

How about product change requests?  For most organizations, this is a very insular process of a limited number of people.  How about opening it up?  Allow users to quickly submit the requests.  Make the process visible.  Let other users outside of the normal process weigh in.  Vet your conclusions with the crowd.  Yes, actually ask them to comment on what you are thinking.  You can also just open it up to partners, customers, or even the public. It is about using your social business system to enable you to tap this broader workforce and deliver the results.

What about narrow technical solutions?  Your engineering office in Chicago has a technical challenge.  The Berlin office has addressed it 3 times already this year.  But, would the Chicago know this.  Maybe yes.  But, the key is that we usually don’t know exactly the right person to ask.  By leveraging a social business system, you are able to tap into people for things that you don’t know have the answer.  If you knew who had the answer, you’d just send an email.  Life would be easy.  The unfair opportunity is not based upon communication (that assumes that the people know one another) – it is about collaboration by people that don’t know each other.

The range of scenarios is huge. The power of the opportunity becomes clear when you change your perspective and ask yourself how you can give yourself an unfair advantage, in a particular situation, by tapping into a broader group of people.  By the way, this thinking doesn’t come easily.  We have been trained to think more narrowly, solve problems, with known resources.  You will find it easier to always think about a specific situation, and, imagine who would be the perfect “ringer” that you could bring to the game to make you successful.  Then, let your system do the work…

In this context, it is easier to see that the role of social business software like CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint is to be the enabler to make this happen.  More on this to come…


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