Companies have started to capture influence and relevance in new business and communication channels. Key findings from IDC's Social Business Survey, 2013 supports the notion that as companies have become comfortable with using social capabilities, they have begun to focus their energy on driving awareness of products and services. This means that employees, customers, and partners need to find new ways to communicate ideas and experiences around the business and capture ideas and feedback from all relevant constituents.
In 2012, the focus of social initiatives was to gather feedback and respond to employees, customers, partners, and suppliers in order to capture and understand all of the relevant brand/product/company discussions primarily on customer-facing social media. In 2013, this reactive approach has given way to an increasingly proactive style of engagement as companies now look to raise awareness of products and services in order to create an ongoing dialogue with employees, customers, partners, and suppliers. 45% of respondents noted creating awareness to be a priority. Multiple responses were allowed and other priority initiatives were communicate with customers and share knowledge/contribute ideas. A number of internal company initiatives have arisen, aligned with the more "active" feedback approach, to deliver an employee experience akin to how the company wants to engage with its own customers. This notion of treating employees as you would treat customers empowers employees with a clear understanding of all customer challenges and opportunities. As long as company policy exists with regard to participation in social initiatives, this approach yields positive sentiment in mentions of the company and increases employee and customer satisfaction. For a company to demonstrate influence and relevance in the broader business constituent base, all interactions will need to be relevant and meaningful and also have an ongoing impact and be measured in the right context to assess the impact on the business bottom line.
Managing and maintaining this ongoing conversation also require an open and transparent dialogue with business constituents. In 2013, the most sought-after business initiative companies will look to social software to provide over the next 12 months is online communities, with 35% of respondents looking to this capability. Ideasourcing will be sought by 27% of companies, and innovation management, qualified as a more complex process than ideasourcing, will be sought by 26% of companies. By their nature, online communities play a communication role to facilitate open discussion between customers, whether in peer-to-peer customer communities or in a direct interaction with a company through a managed community, directly associated with an owned digital asset. This communication allows for an ongoing relationship to be built between an employee, a customer, a partner, or a supplier and the originating company. Linked to this ongoing relationship is the need to understand interactions and relationships and facilitate a stronger and deeper connection with the employee, customer, or partner through the lifetime of the relationship with the company, and this could occur through existing social networks or community solutions.
Social business recognizes that people and businesses collaborate in different ways. It also enables a choice in communication methods among today's workforce, where it is not the technology at the center of the conversation but how people work and interact. Companies will continue to learn from social deployments, and as social capabilities are applied to an increasing number of use cases, a greater set of business value metrics will emerge. However, there is still a broad set of business use cases in customer experience, employee experience (empowerment), and partner experience (including partner and supplier enablement) that can be augmented by additional social capabilities to drive increased business value. To date, there are many opportunities that are untested and unproven, but as social capabilities penetrate the core business processes of an organization to become the "backbone" of workflow, social capabilities will no longer be called out as a separate component and will become inherent in how we get things done.
The notion of experience highlights how social business initiatives will mature in that they are coming together around three main categories - customer experience management, employee experience management, and partner experience management.
With 79% of companies having deployed a corporate sponsored enterprise social network (ESN), in some cases, social workflow may have become inextricably linked to where end users are getting work done and where business decisions are made. With this, there is an increased need for companies to evaluate and understand all the current stovepipes of social workflow inside the organization as well as map the current business processes that could be impacted by the new channels of influence and relevance. IDC recommends the following actions for organizations to map business value from social solutions:
- Conduct a self-assessment. Conduct a self-assessment to understand the current social business strategy or ad hoc social initiatives that are present in the business. This may take the form of a departmental map to view all business processes and interactions that are enabled by social inputs or processes and that have impacted a business outcome or output. Identify and document whether the impact was due to connecting users with other users or connecting users to data and information - or to both.
- Produce a social software map. Map all software assets that contain social capabilities and where they integrate with other business applications/processes. Some departments may be using tools acquired or developed independently, and there may well be more solutions than expected. Qualifying the value in terms of time and resources that support disparate and disconnected systems can help justify expenditures for an all-encompassing solution that can become a social backbone down the line.
- Recognize that it won't happen overnight, but it will happen. Companies need to think long term about how they will continue to meet the needs and expectations of all business constituents. It is perfectly adequate to maintain all current social solutions as companies may not choose to re-architect all applications and solutions with social workflow. However, new solutions should be considered against the social business strategy. Social solutions are not mission-critical applications, but if the broader social business strategy is not well understood and there is no clear path for the future, simply meeting baseline user expectations will become incrementally more complex but essential.
As social business initiatives mature, companies will look to deepen relationships with all business constituents across all emergent business communications channels. However, to maintain an ongoing conversation and demonstrate influence and relevance across these new channels, companies need to enable users to find new ways to communicate with other customers or directly with the company. The outcome is that companies and users will demand broader and more specific social workflow scenarios that tie together internal and external constituents, streamline user interfaces, and deliver sophisticated insight into behavior of all constituents in a network.
The full report is available at idc.com IDC's Social Business Survey, 2013: Driving Influence and Relevance with Social Solutions