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Social business, are we missing the point?

23 February, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Is social business an enhanced collaboration tool, or will it be more?

Big vendors are spending a lot of money in either buying social business companies or developing their own social business software, and even more money convincing customers that they need social media in their companies to prosper. Some companies even go so far as trying to replace email with social business messaging, moving their employees forcefully onto their internal social business software.

There is a lot of focus on social business right now, but what is it all about?

Taking a step back and looking at the current offerings, I can’t help but feel that social business software is better collaboration with an integrated intranet, one interface to help the employee to do their work better. Off course it is great, it makes the employee’s life a lot easier and better, and they can easier collaborate with colleagues and some even with customers. It provides them with easy access to all the assets they need to do their daily jobs in an easy and efficient way.

But will this be the extend of social business? A better collaboration platform between employees and customers, moving the exchange of data from telephone conversations and emails into a social platform?

For me, social business should be about more. I see social business between companies, and not only between employees. The most important part of me in a social business application should be the business process, and not the collaboration between employees. Making the business process part of a social business application, and sharing that with vendors and customers will bring real benefit to a social business strategy.

Imagine if you will a business application at a distributor. A customer places an order, but the distributor does not have stock. The manufacturer is notified automatically through a social business process and an order is placed for the stock. The manufacturer in turn through the same type of technology, places orders for raw materials that he needs at his suppliers, their systems automatically send him a delivery date, and this way a bill of materials and estimate delivery time is send back to the distributor and then back to the customer. The manufacturing of the items is scheduled automatically for the manufacturer, and his transporters are notified of a pending delivery.

This all is done in a shared business process, the invoices are not send between the different parties through email or fax or hand delivered, it is attached to the business process and thus shared with the relevant parties. The whole process can be monitored, and if a machine breaks down, all the parties down the line is notified.

Although this is a shared business process, doing this on a social media platform also gives the parties the opportunity of sharing information along the way. It will provide for a richer experience from all parties involved, and better insight into the process.

This for me is what social business should aim at achieving, not merely replacing collaboration and intranets with a unified interface based on Facebook, but some real value, both to the consumer and to the business.

With ERP systems moving into the cloud, and the growth in mobile platforms outpacing PC’s, I don’t think we are far off from this type of environment. And this will then be the real social business, not just re-wrapped collaboration between colleagues.

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