Social Business Needs Social IT

Typical IT

This article was first published on CIO of the Future

Social Business is not just changing what the marketing department worries about. It’s changing how we run our businesses, and changing what we consider to be a well-managed business. Social Business can make your business more flexible, more agile, more open, and more future proof for the next revolution in technology. This is a revolution that is already taking place.

If the future of business is social, then the future of the IT department is social too.

Social Business

We need to stop thinking about the technology – the social tools – being something that we implement for others. The change that is currently happening in the marketing departments is working its way through business, and will hit the IT department eventually. It is the choice of the IT department to be part of this change, or to be outpaced by somebody who serves the business better. Price is not the competition, it is about value delivered.

Shift from thinking about Social Business as a new communication channel to implement, to seeing social as the starting point for that will lead to a big change in how you design and manage your operations, and it will lead to big benefits.

The future of business – and of the IT department – is more flexible, responsive, and more open. It is not about being more social, whatever that might imply; we never worried about being more SOA or more ITIL . Social is a design principle that leads you to these goals. It is not the goal itself, nor was SOA or ITIL.

Design Principles

The concept of Social Business, associated as it is with Social Media, is often treated as something isolated from other activities within organizations. It’s confused with channels – email, instant messaging, phone… – since it’s the channels that are the most obvious aspect of social, with their manifestation in the form of Facebook and Twitter.

Social Business, however, is changing how we manage and run our businesses. If you want to get the full benefits from Social Business you should not see it as a collection of tools or as something that is only concerned with customer service. Getting the most from Social Business goes beyond ‘being great’ on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It is a fundamental change in how businesses are being run, organized around how businesses and their stakeholders interact and think.

Social Business is a design principle. It is a logical design principle if you compare it to other design principles we use, such as open architectures, service orientation, and cloud. While Twitter and others might be the most obvious manifestations of social, they are only channels. Though these channels are not Social Business, they are designed with the design principles of Social Business.

What are the top four aspects of the social design principle?

  1. Privacy and trust
  2. Simple, flexible tools
  3. Flexible policies over detailed processes/rules
  4. Data driven ROI

Social IT

We all like change when change is something we do to others. However, if IT wants a role in the new social businesses then IT needs to apply the social design principles to itself.

1. Privacy and trust

With the rise of a PRISM society who can you trust? Is the CIO reading my email? To design for Social IT you have to ensure that there is complete trust between all stakeholders inside and outside.  This means that office politics have no place in social environments, and openness, connectedness and delivered value are valued over utilization and old boy’s networks. Participation is something that is valued, not something that is held against somebody.

2. Simple flexible tools

Open architectures, service orientation, and cloud are things you keep in mind while designing your processes and your applications. However Social Business is most often forgotten, it is added afterwards or it is introduced as a separate silo next to existing solutions.

3. Flexible policies over detailed processes and rules

IT cannot control every bit of IT a Social Business uses. It needs to move from detailed rule-based policies built on the assumption that IT owns the technology, and focus on flex policies that provide the business with the flexibility it needs to get things done.

Who knows what’s best for everybody? Most likely everybody knows what is best for everybody and with consumerization being a standard phenomenon in the enterprise you cannot enforce rigid policies anymore, since the ROI of enforcing would be so little compared to the ROI of letting go. People are not stupid by default, they don’t need lengthy rule books, they need guidance in the right direction.

4. Data driven ROI

What is the ROI of measuring ROI? What is the ROI of not changing? The beauty of social design is that it creates so many more data points that it is easier than ever to optimize ways of workings than it was before. Optimizing doesn’t mean making it more efficient, it is making it more value-adding for the company.

The assembly line is completely optimized, however what is the retention level of the people working on that line, what do they think, what is the cost per new hire?

Efficiency is a model that works in scarcity, not in the abundance driven world we experience in the 21st century. Information and knowledge workers aren’t scarce anymore, they don’t need to be utilized more as the precious steam engines in the 19th century did. They need to mobilized better so they can, will, and want to deliver a better ROI, an ROI that can be measured in absolute detail since every action they take is willingly and intentionally shared with everybody.

Conclusion

Thinking of Social Business beyond the implementation of a channel and treating it as a design principle will help you in designing different kind of solutions. This provides the advantage that the social transformation is coming from the start of the design, instead of after the introduction. This helps you and your organization to move the traditional enterprise to a more social business.

If you start designing your processes and applications as social by default, you’ll see that solutions are likely to become more flexible and connected. It will create more value than in the traditional silo approach and it will help to connect the dots between people, processes and systems. This is because social is not only about human interaction but also about the interaction between humans and systems and even between systems themselves.

You unleash the power of outside by thinking outside-in. However keep an eye on privacy, trust and mobilizing the social network around you, since those are important elements to create tangible value for your organization and for your customers. Social by design is two-way street, a street owned by your customer.

This article was first published on CIO of the Future

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7 Common Pitfalls of Web care

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What is holding you back in creating your Web care activities into a money machine? You have the latest tools, you have a team, however still you are not living up to your expectations or even worse: to the expectations of the people who give you the budget for your work. Small changes can make a big difference in improving your Web care activities. Here are seven ways you can improve your existing Web care and make a bigger impact on your business.

1. You have a Web care team

Creating a team might sounds like that you are taking Web care really seriously, at least more seriously than the organisations who use interns for their social media efforts. However did you create a fax team 20 years ago, or a paper time before that? Probably not. You should not isolate your efforts in a team or in a department, you should add this skills to the skill set of people who are already doing similar work on other channels.

2. You have a reactive approach

If you have to respond to a complaint, you are too late. Your customer already had a poor experience and with Social Media they already have shared with their friends and basically with the world. Even though the reactive approach is the easiest one to adopt, since you type in a few key words to monitor the Web and wait, it is also the most deadly. It is like watching your car crashing into a wall and pushing the brakes instead of trying to avoid the wall in the first place. Use the content that people are sharing on social media as your strategic advantage you can find issues before they become real problems, which means that you reach out to your customers before they experience the problem and solve it on time and prevent it next time.

3. On Social Media you are more willing to go the extra mile

Similar customer interaction different rules. Phrased this way it might sound weird, however this is what most organisation do on Social Media: complaining on social media will get your problems to be solved faster and your refunds will be likely bigger than if you tried the traditional route.  Customers talk with each other and they know if they can get more on one channel they will demand more everywhere, not just on the channel you are differentiating on. Leaving you robbed blind by your own fault. And if you don’t want to give more on other channels you already can predict what the next deluge of complaints will be…

4. You are the channel switcher

Not every issue can be handled and solved via social media, however why do organisation ask their customers to take the effort to make the switch. Too often you’ll see an organisation ask a customer to call a certain phone number for further help. To reiterate this: your customer has a question or a complaint doesn’t throw away your product in anger and decides to go out on social media and ask you a question. Instead you are asking your customer to even invest more time and effort by asking him to go to yet another channel with his question.

5. Sample size is n=1

Klout, the standard on influence. It couldn’t get any worse than that if you assume that tagline is actually the truth. The worst decisions you make while doing Web care are probably based on a lack of data. Whether it is by prioritising customers on Klout score, or by ignoring people with less than 100 followers on Twitter. It is never about these numbers, it is about the context, whether it is followers, Klout scores or problem statements, you need the context to know what you should do with it and how fast you should act on it. It might be obvious that a security exploit reported by a information technology student could be rather urgent, however if you filter him out based on his Klout score you might leave your business exposed by ignoring something really important.

6. Web care is a goal on itself

We are handling X messages per hour/day/week/unit of time. To be honest: nobody cares. Web care is no goal on itself, the goal that Web care should have to make sure there is as little Web care necessary as possible. Since the less complaints you have to solve the most likely it is that your product is rather good. Web care is (just like most service activities to solve issues) wasteful, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place and you should make sure there is a feedback loop that ensures that the issue won’t occur in the future. Not having Web care on the other hand could be something you want to do in the end, however not as a goal on itself, but as a byproduct of having a big amount of loyal customers doing Web care for you.

7. You listen to your customers

The worst thing you could do is to just listen to your customers and act upon their demands. It is not bad to listen to your customers in general, however if they dictate what you are doing, you will find yourself in limbo. You should be flexible on the details, however stubborn on vision. You don’t have to be the popular kid in the class, though you can allow yourself to give in on certain items. However as soon you as you treat customer as king and let him give orders to you, you are nothing more than just a peon on the road to bankruptcy.

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Web care Archetypes: The Mobiliser – No Web care

nowebcare

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Dr. Carl Sagan

Even though there are many archetypes, the best archetype is actually the one that isn’t archetype since this kind of companies don’t do any Web care at all. However don’t confuse not doing Web care with not delivering any service.  Since there is a real difference between companies that ignore their customers and the companies that are able to mobilise their customers to their Web care for them. Web care for customers, by customers.

Not doing Web care isn’t just an archetype, creating an ecosystem in which people do the Web care for you might create the best starting point for creating a successful social business. If you can make people care enough about you and your brand that they spend their valuable time on providing answers to the questions of other customers, you create a sustainable and scalable approach for providing service. It is clear that there is huge benefit if you have a customer army available that is helping you in managing your social media channels and give answers on questions. It provides you with a highly scalable solution, since most companies will have more customers than employees.

Why No Web care is the best you can do

Your KPI is not solving complaints, nor is it solving complaints really fast. It is improving the perceived value of your product by your customers and potential customers. Since perceived value is one of the items that determines if a customer is willing to give you money for your product and service. The easiest way to increase perceived value is by letting your customers shine.

Your customers don’t  have a vested interest in your company, are most likely not biased and don’t benefit from other customers buying your product. By putting them in the spotlight, they are the most authentic source that can share your story and by doing so they might be becoming your best sales people. However it is not just putting the spotlight on them, it is by providing them the opportunity that they want shine for you.

It is by doing really well and by increasing your perceived value so much that your customer is thinking that he is almost robbing you since he is not paying enough compared the value he receives. It is by making it really easy for your customer to promote you and your products and services and finally is by encouraging your customer by doing so. Not only by making sure there is no reason for complaints and questions but also by letting your customers know you value them.

The best way to value your customer is by making sure the perceived value of your products and services is higher than the money that your customer pays for. By doing so you are building up credits and in the end your customer is happy to exchange this credit for investing some of his time in recommending you to his friends.

Stop doing web care. Start caring.

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Web care Archetypes: The Bot

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Situation

If the volume of tweets you have to handle is rather high you might want to automate the handling of it. This is actually the thing Bank of America did and what went completely wrong. As you can read in this article you’ll see that the automation of Bank of America was quite poor and there was not much intelligence in it (or at least it wasn’t a showcase of smart automation).

However automating a certain workflow is rather common, it has become part of our life to automate repeating tasks. Therefore the archetype of the bot might be more common than that we think since not every bot leads to instant failure.

Analysis

It would rather short-sighted to say on a sample size of one that bots are absolute failures in handling messages on social media. We have just seen one big failure and probably if you really want to you can find some more examples of companies that over-automate and under-test their social media automation.  Since that was what happened to Bank of America: too much automation and too little testing. If it had been thoroughly tested these obvious glitches would not have happened.

How to make it better

Automation in social media and for Web care in particular has been always been a sensitive topic. Some might say it removes any for authenticity and that it is a sin to even think about it. However how many authenticity would you really want to have if you are asking for a simple fact based answer (e.g. When does the train to city X leave), probably not too much, you just want to have that answer as soon as possible.

Basically that is what you can now automate really well: factual questions. First all a factual question can only be asked in a limited number of ways, second there is no wrong answer on the factual questions since it is just informing one who asked the question about the facts he is looking for. However before going completely bezerk on automating every factual piece you need to make sure it actually works. Therefore you should start with semi automate it. Let the system come up with suggestions and let the human pushing the button validate this suggesting and post it. This way you can train the system and validate its outcomes. As certain as the system comes to a certain success level you can push it live without any human being the intermediate between the bot and the person who asked the question.

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Social Sharing and the Art of Not Reading

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As some of you might know I read articles every day to keep up to date on what is happening in Social Business (if you didn’t know, consider following me on Twitter for a continuous stream of interesting articles). Most often I just share the articles and sometimes I just add a few words as a comment to the article. However this morning I was reading on entrepreneur.com  an article which contained so many false assumptions that I thought it was worth a longer response. Especially since it addresses a common problem I see often when people are getting started with Social Business.

Zuckerberg’s Law of Information Sharing

The article is based on Zuckerberg’s Law of  Information Sharing, which states  that every year twice the information will be shared that was shared in the year earlier. So  if you like to think in graphs: it is one steep exponential line moving up fast to the right top corner. This is of course a crazy power law, however till now it is still true and is not likely to stop especially with trends introduced by Facebook such as frictionless sharing. However there might be a concern, since if sharing grows exponentially do we need to spend also twice the amount of time on consuming all the content, or as Benedict Evans phrased it in the article:

Let’s say the average Facebook user is awake for 17 hours a day. To consume all that stuff, they would take in 88 new items per hour, or 1.5 things per minute. That’s just not possible.

“The problem they’ve run into, the problem of sharing, of Zuckerberg’s law,” says Evans, “is that the News Feed has turned into a black hole and collapsed under its own weight.”

However this argument has one fundamental flaw: the assumption that people need and want to read every single piece of content being shared on Facebook (or any other platform).

Not Reading is of all Ages

You might be disappointed: but nobody is reading everything you share online, unless you have a creepy stalker. We scan, it is not like we are all glued to our screen in a Ludovico technique like way. So basically there isn’t an issue, since we are already not reading everything. With twice the content being shared we will just read the same amount and miss more. Is this a bad thing? No, since good content will surface in your network anyways whether or not Facebook has a proper algorithm for it. Since Zuckerberg’s law is not about unique content shares, it is about shares in general and a lot of shares will be about the same content.

We shouldn’t see Facebook, or in general the Web, as a book which has a beginning and end and should be read so. The days that we could read the Web completely and check every new website is almost twenty years ago. If we go back a bit more in time: as soon as the printing press went mainstream there were all of a sudden more books produced than we could read. Nobody has ever been complaining about a literary overload  of books.

We are comfortable with it, we accept the fact that we cannot read the Web or every book in the library or every newspaper. However Evans seems to think that we have some kind of content craving on Facebook where we want to consume every like, share and picture shared by our friends and suffer from information gluttony.  People might be your friend on Facebook though it doesn’t mean you want to read everything that they share. Facebook helps in consumption by creating automatic groups, by allowing you to create your own groups and by their edge rank algorithm to rank content (such algorithm are a debate on their own because they can cause a filter bubble).

How to Start with not Reading

You are responsible for your own content flow and therefore for your own information overload. Not Facebook, not your friends, not a penguin on Madagascar, it is you who has this responsibility, don’t blame others for your won failure. You are the one who make the decision to connect with people, to subscribe to their updates, to be part of groups, to like pages, you are the one who defines what content you get from some people.  However this is the hard part: who to connect with, who is valuable and what is their added value. The only way to find this out is not by doing a year long research (since as said before: shared content will be doubled by then), but by doing it and by killing your darlings. Sometimes a relation (how superficial a digital connection might be) just doesn’t work out in the way you expected it to.

Not reading is not a sin, it is not a sign of being not interested in your friends. It is about spending your time wisely and spending your time on the things that really matter for you, including your friends. Which means that if you spend time on reading the updates of your friend, you really are interested in it, instead that is just another message that you have to consume to come to the end of your reading list that day. If you don’t make the decision what is valuable for you, everything is without value and you will treat it as something without value.

The Web or Facebook in particular was not designed as a book, it doesn’t have an end, it is a stream. Complaining that you cannot read everything anymore is like complaining that the river doesn’t dry up after you drank from it for an hour. Streams don’t dry up, they flow. Dip in to get the things that matter, however don’t drown yourself in content.

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