Social business and the "connected company" is a concept that goes beyond the buzz of social media networks; it's a practice that can enable more efficient, effective and net new connections inside and outside your organization to drive performance and efficiencies, according to Deloitte, a firm that provides audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management and tax services. The organizations that discover value are doing so with a layered approach that crosses organizational boundaries, functions and services. While this may be alarming for many executives, the new world of transparency, knowledge flows and democratized opinion making is rife with opportunities, especially within the four walls of the enterprise.

IBM Identifies 3 Characteristics of a Social Business
  1. Engaged: Deeply connecting people, including customers, employee and partners to be involved in productive, efficient ways.
  2. Transparent: Removing boundaries to information, experts and assets, helping people align every action to drive business results.
  3. Nimble: Speeding up business with information and insight to anticipate and address evolving opportunities.

With investments in social business technology estimated to reach $6.4 billion by 2016 as compared with $600 million in 2010, according to Forrester Research, companies today will need to take stock of what social business means to them and their business processes. Doing so for many enterprises can seem staggering, as the goals and priorities of any business process swiftly changes depending on whom you ask.

There remains a consolidation in the workplace of platforms and tools to make the connected company a reality. Yammer is one of the tools that has been in the social enterprise news as of late. Microsoft recognized that it needed to make an acquisition to become relevant in this space, as SharePoint alone is not the silver bullet. In fact, SharePoint perpetuates an on-premise paradigm for the enterprise, given that Microsoft is not very strong in SaaS/cloud for the enterprise. With Yammer to monitor the flow of conversation within a company, users are able to post ideas, suggestions, questions or links to corporate intranet content. Others can build upon those ideas, begin a conversation or simply listen in to the discussion. These conversations are mostly public within the company, but the tool gives the ability to create private groups where sensitive conversations can stay within a department or a team without being viewable by the entire corporation.

Social business is still in its early days. To be a social business, the enterprise must be sincerely interested in listening to customers and empowering employees to have an open conversation with them. These initial waves are about unlocking insights, based on people's behavior and relationships, and on supplementing the enterprise's traditional view of markets and employees, making it easier to do their jobs on a daily basis. Even more value can be gained as companies restructure how work gets done through social engagement — and by customizing messaging and content, promotions and even products, based on individual and community desires. Social awareness can give way to social empowerment — once again placing people at the heart of business, giving new meaning to the phrase employee engagement and the connected company.

JEFF WILLINGER is the director of Social Computing and Intranets at Rightpoint. He specializes in advising clients on social computing strategies, social intranets and portals and increasing employee engagement. Mr. Willinger is also an internationally recognized speaker and expert in Microsoft SharePoint. For more, email


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