I have had very interesting and broadly similar conversations on this topic that started with colleagues Rick Mans, our resident expert on social networks and tools,  and Laurence Buchanan who has helped the rich and famous prosper with social CRM projects. Now these have been extended to include clients and some technology providers around the organization, governance, and technologies of the front office and the way to apply Business Process Management (BPM) and social tools.

Seems a strange mix at first glance but actually a common, logical view of this seems to be developing. The last two client discussions were with banks but it seems to fit any enterprise with an online go-to-market model. So here goes my attempt to explain how the business can be viewed as three zones:

  1. Standard centralized back office IT with the focus on the transactional accuracy of data that’s also close-coupled, stateful, highly structured and rule based
  2. The most recent moves have been around decentralizing the ‘go-to-market’ around different channels, and maybe different partners to provide more reach and customization. Each channel is structured in its own way but will be different in at least some aspects. So it’s a semi structured environment made up of a number of structured channels that are created and defined by the enterprise
  3. Interactive, direct relationships with key or increasing numbers of customers where the offers are built around the customer and their requirements – in effect a fully customized ‘channel of one’. But here is the important point; unlike number 2, the ‘channel’ will be created and changed by the customer by editing available services and options. Effectively, it’s a whole series of structured environments that are NOT created and defined by the enterprise, but there is a need to react to and integrate the resulting ‘channels’.

At this stage as Laurence has already posted in November 2011 on Capgemini Capping IT Off ,  the proposition for developing the use of BPM, and in particular the work done with Pega, has developed the ‘how’ to connect from zone 1 to either zone 2 or 3 by using the stability of the rules from the back end mixed with the flexibility that Pega provides to accommodate the frequent changes in the less stable areas.

But how does an enterprise cope with reversing the whole process and be driven by the instability and dynamics of its customers in deciding exactly what their ‘channel of one’ would consist of? It can’t be totally without any form of structure or points of reference because the enterprise must at least build a menu of items for the customer to chose from and create their own ‘combos’. This brings us to the key question which Laurence hints at in his post: how does a social networking environment create usable information? Well, that’s a good question, but first you have to get people to want to use the social environments and that means designing them right, and not just tacking them onto an existing web online presence.

That’s where Rick comes in with his post on Slideshare focusing on social design thinking. The point is, unless you design your social network to be attractive to, and therefore representative of, the customer base you are aiming for then it isn’t going to work. It’s almost the inverse of conventional channel marketing where the enterprise starts out with a specific proposition in mind. Here the question is who do I want to attract into a relationship that would be ‘interested’ enough to make it worth my while to offer them a unique set of services in their own private ‘channel of one’?

Finally comes the payoff! Last week we saw a genuine capability around Jive as the core tool to build a social network with full capability to analyze and understand what the people and messages are focusing on. Call it ‘real-time’ human centered intelligence analysis, and that’s where you can get the information to build your services for the menu in the sure knowledge that your customers are thinking to buy exactly what you are offering!

Add all this together and possibly some other pieces and it starts to build a picture of a cohesive front office around sales and market ‘interactions’, and ‘events’ in much the same way as ERP developed to create the cohesive back office around ‘transactions’ and ‘data’.