Enterprise Social Adoption Challenges
I have attended IBM’s Lotusphere conference many times, but this year was a different experience. The long-familiar yellow Lotus branded signs were missing as the conference was renamed “IBM Connect.” The move away from Lotus branding was expected after IBM’s recent repositioning of Lotus products, along with some new acquisitions under the umbrella of IBM Collaboration Solutions.
The change also reflects IBM’s overall direction away from selling products to customers to focusing on business outcomes. The three main themes of the Connect 2013 conference were Social Business, Smarter Commerce and Smarter Workforce. These new focus areas are designed to enable IBM to expand into new markets while enrolling new clients.
Social interactions and mobile access bring along a large amount of data snippets, so analytics is an essential piece required to harvest maximum value. Therefore, the Day 2 keynote was appropriately delivered by IBM’s Information Management organization that focuses on analytics. Without analytics, developing deep insights from social interactions accelerated by mobile access is simply not possible. Rapid reaction to market sentiments will differentiate social companies from other companies. Social interactions will bring about a big value to IBM and its customers if properly leveraged with the value proposition differentiators listed for the following themes:
- managing empowered customers with personalization
- viewing customers from a 360 degree view leading to increased customer satisfaction and better retention
- improving customer loyalty through offers based on insights from location and context
- engaging customers with additional interactions from mobile devices
- building better teams with shared values to deliver better solutions to customers
- acquiring talent to leverage social networks
- improving innovation by encouraging social interaction
- reducing turnover by leveraging social media to improve trust between the employer and employee
There are big challenges for enterprises to transform into a social business, especially since enterprise leadership very often sees more risks than gains when considering social strategies. An age barrier exists in many established enterprises with leadership that is unaware of how the younger workforce operates. (Blake Landau, founder of Artemis and a Huffington Post blogger, articulated the challenge of diversity and age for IBM in a well-written HuffPo post where she estimated that 90% of attendees at IBM Connect were middle-aged men.)
Becoming a social business depends on participation from people across the business environment, including employees, partners and customers. The value of social innovation is built on platforms of teams rather than individuals. Recent restructuring of workforces in many organizations has left very little time or motivation for employees to participate in social networking or to contribute disruptive ideas. Much has been said about the Return on Investment in social initiatives, but only broader adoption can enable organizations to accurately measure anecdotal and quantifiable results.
Facebook’s rapid growth does not mean enterprises can easily replicate similar success. Instead, they need to drive social media adoption in the same manner as they promote wellness programs to drive down healthcare costs. Just as healthier employees contribute to the bottom line with reduced sick days and improved productivity, social-enabled employees can contribute more fully to better job and business innovation.
Driving social adoption among employees can increase partner and customer participation, too. Initiatives like viral adoption have been tried, but success is spotty. Direct benefits to employees are needed to achieve the goal of improved engagement. Just as employees get reduced insurance premiums from getting annual healthcare exams, they could similarly be rewarded for writing blog posts, gaining more internal and external followers, etc. Analytical tools, like those IBM offers for monitoring social interactions, can and should play a big role in developing quantifiable measurements to award appropriate incentives.
Although IBM Connect 2013 was a useful conference to impart knowledge on becoming a social business and enabling technologies, enterprises need to suggest a strategy that includes motivating adoption. Once such incentives are put into place as part of a broader social media strategy, employees will naturally gravitate to becoming more social, therefore positively contributing to enterprise business benefits. Once a core mass of participation has been achieved, other non-monetary motivation factors, like sense of corporate purpose, will rally corporate social maturity.