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What drives an organisation to become a social business?

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What drives an organisation to become a social business?

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That was the question explored in some new research by Aberdeen Group.  They looked at around 229 mid-sized companies (classed as employing between 100 and 1,000 employees) to try and understand what drove organisations of this size to adopt social business tools and philosophies.

What’s nice about the report is that they don’t focus solely on the tools of social business, or even on how to successfully integrate them into the business.  Instead they place the spotlight on the organisational objectives that drive companies to become social.  There are two key areas that drive organisations to become social:

Driver 1 – boosting profit margins

It is widely believed that the best social business endeavours begin with understanding the key organisational objectives, and it’s here that Aberdeen begin.  They discovered that for medium sized organisations, the key goals are profitability and increasing margins.  Reducing costs was also significantly more important for medium sized organisations than their smaller peers.

Driver 2 – internal and external challenges

Mid sized companies reported a number of key challenges that they faced in the short-medium term.  Inside the firm they were battling to increase employee engagement, whilst also looking to improve the execution of corporate strategy.  Externally meanwhile they faced increased competition and tough economic conditions.

The rest of the report talks about some more standard issue stuff about adoption and how effective social usage has been in setting these companies apart from their rivals.  They do however end with some worthy recommendations.

  1. Align social efforts to cost reduction and profitability – in other words, make sure that what you’re doing has a direct impact on what the company is trying to do.
  2. Start with product development, sales and marketing -  I’ve long recommended doing small pilots to begin with so you can find the approaches that work best and then try and scale up.  Aberdeen believe that these three departments are likely to be most receptive as they have the biggest interaction with incoming and outgoing revenue.
  3. Archive and curate social content – a key part of any knowledge management effort is to make the internal knowledge available throughout the company.  It’s no different in a social business.

The report provides an interesting contrast to an earlier study conducted by Forrester, which suggests that many organisations become social due to a so called burning platform that forces a change in approach.  Forrester believed that social business is a significant change management project, with as many as 1/3 employees opposed to the shift.  As such, facing an uncertain future can be a useful driver of change for both organisations and individuals.


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