The social revolution is transforming business. The growing usage of social media and Web 2.0 tools are radically altering the way enterprises connect and engage with customers. It is also changing how they collaborate internally, and with partners across the value chain.
And, organizations get it.
Departments and business units within enterprises have begun experimenting with a number of initiatives in order to engage with customers via social channels. From analyzing trends and promoting products to addressing after sale service queries and crowd-sourcing ideas, organizations have begun using social media to understand their customers as well as to interact with them.
Internally, many organizations have deployed web 2.0 tools to assist employees in finding relevant content; connect with the right experts and to collaborate better amongst themselves and with suppliers and partners.
This spurt of independent initiatives is a good first start. It has helped get the ball rolling and has provided a safe ground for employees and teams to get trained and test the ‘social’ waters.
However, challenges do still exist:
With every department including Sales, Marketing, Services, etc – within every business division running fragmented initiatives, employees and project teams remain disconnected and silo efforts continue. This produces results that leave a lot to be desired.
- Reusability is not maximized, resulting in inefficient use of resources and duplication of tasks.
- Insight, the best practices and specific lessons learned are not captured, shared or utilized across the enterprise.
- Poor communication and limited visibility equates to a narrow enterprise-wide adoption and inferior ROI.
For an organization to truly harness the power of the social web, the organization needs to be able to tie its social initiatives together, making them a part of its core strategy and link the social initiatives into its overall business plan.
One novel method used to achieve this result is to invest and setup a Center of Excellence (CoE) for Social Strategy.
Outlining the social strategy, compiling a core team of experts with representation from every unit as well as harvesting the best-practices provide a business a quick-start approach. Next, establishing extended communities of practice in order to focus on each element of the strategy adds muscle to the effort.
Assembling a CoE allows organizations to efficiently align corporate processes within the social workflow and deploy tools to build and leverage social networks – both internally as well as externally. With a CoE, key social initiatives can be quickly prioritized, scaled up into global or large multi-division projects, and rolled-out across the enterprise. This helps the organization to realize the business value of its social strategy more quickly, and to achieve a greater ROI.
A centralized deployment of the social strategy results in:
- Common strategic initiatives and aligned goals across units.
- Silos broken down as well as greater enterprise wide collaboration that includes the sharing of expertise, insights, best practices, etc. This all results in greater operational efficiency and faster time to market.
- Shared tools and techniques ensure the optimal use of resources and reduce the duplication of efforts.
- Improved communication and visibility across the enterprise assure higher user adoption.
To be truly effective, the CoE must possess executive sponsorship and a steering committee comprised of stakeholders from every unit.
Note: Centralized vs. Hybrid model
A centralized approach works well for most organizations. However, large globally dispersed enterprises, or those consisting of diverse business divisions could also consider using a hybrid or clustered structure for its social strategy center of excellence. This structure, complete with distributed CoE’s governed by a group-level lean central unit works well when various divisions have distinct business needs, but require to align with the overall enterprise social strategy. The same could also be utilized when regional setups have discrete local needs.