Social Business Strategy Summit

By Richard Hughes on June 01, 2012

Yesterday I was at the Social Business Strategy Summit in London, which BroadVision were proud to sponsor. At the event, I hosted two interesting roundtable discussions on social analytics and social business processes, and also participated in a short Q&A with Neil Davey, editor of MyCustomer.com where I talked about BroadVision’s own use of our Clearvale product. This is roughly what I said:

myWPEdit ImageND: BroadVision has moved its business processes to a social network. Perhaps you could tell us a little about this?

RH: First of all, we strongly believe if we don’t use our social networking product ourselves, it’s rather unrealistic to expect us to convince anyone else to do so. So, yes, we have been constantly exploring the right sorts of business processes to move to a social network. But that’s not to say that when we started out using Clearvale ourselves we were a perfect model of adoption. Like many organisations, we started with a situation when the main contributors were a self-selecting group of enthusiastic users. That works OK for getting started, but there’s a limit to how far into the organisation it reaches. So we started identifying specific business processes that MUST be carried out on Clearvale. Customer service has been one of the most successful examples of this – whenever they need to request help from the product engineering team, they MUST do it through Clearvale. The recruitment process for each new hire has to be done on Clearvale, in a private community visible only to the hiring team.

One of the biggest problems with many enterprise social networks is that once the initial flurry of excitement has worn off, people start wondering “what should I use it for?” and questioning whether they have time to participate. Our strategy is to answer that for them by saying these processes must be performed in a social environment, and yes, of course you’ve got time to participate because these processes are part of your job.

How has this made BroadVision a more efficient organisation?

The most obvious way is that it has made it so much easier to find the information we need to do our jobs. We had a somewhat fragmented knowledge base before, and a lot of people retained their documents, their work on their laptops. That’s simply not acceptable now – hoarding information in a “knowledge is power” way is a very inefficient way to work, and I genuinely believe we have broken down that barrier.

Because of the nature of your business, and because of you’re using your own Clearvale tool, did that mean that you experienced less resistance to internal social networking than businesses would perhaps traditionally experience?

Yes and no. I think the people in the company split into three main categories:

– those who embraced the idea of social working immediately and were keen to do it without being coerced into doing so
– those who perhaps weren’t naturally attracted to the concept of social business, but recognised the importance to the company, so adapted their working habits
– and those who are still very reluctant to get involved – people who are looking for reasons why they shouldn’t contribute, rather than looking for ways to adopt their working practices

It’s probably only the second group where we experienced less resistance than other companies might. But we definitely still have a persistent number of people in the third group.

To what extent do you see the social business as a technology evolution, and to what extent is it about culture and processes?

I do think it’s become something of a cliche to stress the point that social business is far more about changing the way we work, rather than implementing new technology, and I am sure you won’t catch any software vendor saying “yes! it’s really just about the technology”. But I think that it’s important not to overlook the way technology empowers this cultural change. It’s all very well being determined to improve the communication between geographically distributed offices, but if the technology you’ve got in place doesn’t enable it, you will be just as unsuccessful as if you had perfect technology with no appetite for change. So I believe the behavioural change and the technology evolution are both essential parts of social business. Neither one can succeed without the other.

As a business that has gone further than most in moving your processes to a social network, what advice can you share with our audience?

Don’t expect people to know what to use the social network for without being told. Don’t assume they will “get it” without help. Be clear about which business processes the social network is hosting, which working practices need to be modified. Don’t leave it to chance and hope that they work it out for themselves.