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Has social business finally arrived?

Based on what has been written by advocates of social business, one might have expected radical changes to have already occurred across the business landscape. While many start-up companies have adopted new technologies and business models, the majority of businesses, however, have been relatively slow to change.

Recently, though, some of the social business predictions that have been made during the last few years have begun to take hold. New technology platforms have been implemented, executives are waking up to their roles in digital transformation, and both strategic and cultural changes have started to permeate organizations. The early adopters from marketing are now being joined by their colleagues from other functional areas, and investments are being made in socially enabled processes, communities and social and network analytics.

In a recent well-documented report–Social Trends to Watch in 2014–Bill Chamberlin, an IBM thought leader and the Community Leader of HorizonWatching, cited 10 trends he believes will continue to show growth this year. They are as follows:

  1. It is not just about marketing – There are social capabilities being developed across the entire enterprise.
  2. It transforms business processes – Both front and back-end processes are changing.
  3. CEO’s (& Senior Execs) step up to the plate – Senior folks are beginning to exert leadership in this area.
  4. HR embraces social internally – No longer is HR just focused on social platforms for recruiting.
  5. Social becomes more visual – More visual content is being embedded and embraced.
  6. Relationship marketing – Social sites are shifting from pushing content only to relationship building.
  7. Community marketing – There is an increased focus on creating and maintain communities.
  8. Social analytics – There is a push to assess and understand sentiment and behavior across networks.
  9. Employee advocacy programs – There is recognition that employees that are properly trained can be great brand ambassadors.
  10. Developers required – New apps and skills are needed as the integration of social, mobile, cloud, and bid data become a reality and creates new demands.

These trends are playing out and digital innovation and processes are changing organizational structures and business models. As the ability to access data across devices and platforms is becoming a reality, organizations are also facing the challenge of figuring out how to better engage with employees, service their customers, recruit the right talent and reach new markets.

In a recent McKinsey Article, The Digital Tipping Point, it was pointed out that executives have made significant financial commitments in the digital space and are beginning to rethink how they need to run their organizations: “It is evident that digitization has become a critical asset in many companies’ quest for growth. More than three-quarters of executives say the strategic intent behind their digital programs is either to build competitive advantage in existing business or create new business and tap new profit pools”.

One of the other major changes in how social business is impacting organizations comes from the area of product development. Not only are organizations embracing social tools to perform analytics and conduct research on emerging market and customer needs, they are increasingly forming partnerships with their customers to develop new market entries or they are using collaborative networks to foster innovation.

The old paradigm of a few smart guys working in a garage to develop the next big thing has shifted. In the new paradigm, ideas and prototypes are likely to come from a social network or community and the innovators may or may not know one another, or work for the company they are developing for. Innovation is being crowdsourced.

Social Business may not have fully taken over yet, but it is definitely shifting how business gets done.  Social business and advances in digital technology will continue to change not only the structure of organizations, but the type of skills needed for success. Social business has definitely arrived, but it is how organizations deal with the transformation it requires that will ultimately determine who succeeds.

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