Design For Digital #2 – Build Social

Social is not something to be added on top, it is a ubiquitous design principle that should be applied from the very beginning of creating solutions. If you start designing your processes and applications as social by default you’ll see that solutions are likely to become more flexible, connected and user/team-centered. You unleash the power of the crowd by thinking outside-in. In the end, mobilizing the social network around you is all a matter of creating tangible value for it, carefully balancing the perspectives of the individual and the community that individual is in.

Social media is often seen, and therefore handled, as a phenomenon per se – foreign to the “normal” enterprise. Either because it happens outside the enterprise, à la Facebook or Twitter; or because it has nothing to do with the regular activities of the organization.
As a result of this apartheid, one concludes that the enterprise is not social, nor deeply affected by the social phenomenon. The enterprise, untouched, just needs to find ways and means to accommodate social media and its internal implications. All too often this is reduced to one question: how do we use social media as new channels of distribution? Or more crudely: what can we sell through Facebook and its billion of “friends”?
This widespread approach is wrong in two ways. First, it condemns the enterprise to a form of splendid isolation – dangerous in a networked world! Second, it deprives the enterprise from the positive power of social, and exposes it to the negative power of social.
Social changes the nature of the enterprise – because it changes its clients, its employees, its partners, its political, social and economic environment. As the enterprise becomes a different enterprise, its information technology needs to become different in equal measure. Instead of looking at social as a technology afterthought, IT has to look at social as a design principle – the best way to naturally embed it in every development.
The social design principle has major practical consequences, notably:
– There is no longer an individual user of IT services, but a Janus-like person, with two faces, the individual one and the social one – connected to the world and his or her colleagues, inside and outside the enterprise, through a variety of social media.

– The relation with every customer combines individual and social characteristics. For example, the client needs are analyzed as a combination of individual requirements and social requirements – supporting the person in its social roles. Even the dialogue between person and enterprise should be socially usable if the customer so wishes.

– Transactions can be strictly private. Others are meant to serve the purpose of a community – providing a social answer to a question for example.

– Every process no longer serves just individual employees. A process step can become social in that it is entrusted to a network, small or large.

– All creative processes are designed to mobilize the energies and intelligences of groups, not to say crowds.
… and of course the IT organization itself has to become social, and well connected, socially, with its business counterparts.

This contribution by Pierre Hessler

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2014 update series. See the overview here.