Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The benefits of Social Enterprise

This post is the third in a series of six that deals with Social Business and Social Enterprise. The goal of the series: to explore the pros and cons of Social Business and Social Enterprise, given the current odds, and fast-forwarding to business opportunities now and in the near future

This post is about the benefits of Social Enterprise. While yesterday's was all about the benefits of Social Business, this one will take those benefits and apply them to the Enterprise. An enterprise is a company with 10,000 employees or more, regardless of geographical dispersal (my definition)

So let's take all the Social we can imagine, and throw that to the current enterprise, and see where the benefits are. By the way, the drawing above is my favourite from Hugh MacLeod, and I got one in my office

There are many types of enterprises, as there are many types of companies. However, companies either sell products (food, clothing, furniture) or services (catering, clothing repair / laundry, furnishing)
Let's take the 80-20 of this, presuming the Enterprise sample we use makes most of its revenue and profit via products, and some via services

1. What is an Enterprise?

The Enterprise: a place where anonymity thrives. If you're lucky, you can get to meet 50% of your colleagues - the rest will have left before you can even get their names. All you know are your 50-100 direct colleagues, half of whom you've never met, nor will ever meet

We see the same theme here as I sketched in the prelude to Social Business: because of the size of  an Enterprise, distance between the players has increased, relationships have been stretched like a rubber band to the point of breaking, and intimacy has been replaced by anonymity.
The right hand doesn't know what the left one does - and there is a multitude of hands in any Enterprise. For all you know, three departments up stream they might be undoing what yours is trying to achieve

2. From pillar to post

It's not uncommon to occasionally travel the Enterprise labyrinth on an exceptional quest - and get lost or frustrated, but highly likely both. Rules thrive in an Enterprise, forms, procedures. To speed those up, walking up to an Authority with a paper form in hand to get a Signature usually helps - after you've paid the obligatory tribute (usually involving a lot of waiting).
In order to learn the rules, mighty bookworks, usually outdated, are circulated. The epitome of Enterprise problems is that every one has to reinvent the wheel for himself

3. Is an Enterprise effective?

That is arguably a wrong question - they are, otherwise they wouldn't exist. Can they be more effective? Most certainly so. What differentiates people with the same function or job role in an Enterprise, is not their calendar age - mostly it's their company age; they have formed their networks within the Enterprise and tapped into existing ones, and can make things happen in the blink of an eye that would take a newbie days, weeks, months - if only.
These "old" people, with their company inside knowledge, are highly valued - they are very efficient and effective at the same time.
Education in most enterprises follow the apprentice-master model. New people move in, try to reinvent the Enterprise wheel, and after years of learning the trade they can finally call themselves master - that usually takes 10-15 years

4. Clone the Enterprise masters

Imagine you could clone the masters within an Enterprise? Copy-and-paste their knowledge, wisdom, tips and tricks, overnight or within a few weeks or months? You could obtain (an appropriate sterile word, don't you think) a young soul for very little money, fast-forward him or her into mastery within a year, and sell him or her for a tenfold - or just use the knowledge for the good of the company. It's a bit of a football model (soccer for my US readers) but it works there, so why not in the Enterprise?
You can now, with Social tools - unstructured information and knowledge can flow freely across all the political, regional and hierarchical boundaries of an Enterprise, cutting through all the meat and bones that usually form such a  thick layer to penetrate

5. Social: a living FAQ Enterprise organism

I've witnessed quite powerful examples of Social tools stretching across an entire Enterprise, allowing for "dumb" questions posed even by CxO's - "hey guys I have a question, and no idea where to put it. How ..." and before you know it, you'll be hit by a few dozen answers, if not directly useful they'll refer you directly to others who can help. It's the power of wirearchy: networked organisations within, outside and across existing organisations.
Social can function as an Enterprise Net to catch all exceptions, and (re)direct them to the proper people or places

6. Proven "technology"

The very best thing of a Social Enterprise is that it's proven technology - a term we IT people use to convince customers and colleagues alike that an idea we propose, is highly unlikely to fail. Social Enterprise will merely reproduce the current working mechanisms of the Enterprise: networks. it will take the old-boys networks, clone and copy them, and turn every apprentice into a master on the spot.
Granted, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but imagine the huge competitive edge you'll have on your competitors if you can even speed up the knowledge-sharing by 25%?

Social Enterprise is a no-brainer. The tools are for free, or offer so much potential value for so little money, that you'd be rejecting a great business opportunity by not even experimenting with it. On a side-note, if you haven't by now, will you still be in time to catch up with the others?

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