The Future is Almost Here: Social Business Trends

Implementing new technologies and changing business cultures simultaneously is not an easy task, and that is what social business is trying to do.  As a result, while progress has been made, this is not an overnight process.  Thus, despite much hype, most organizations can not claim to be fully articulated social businesses.

Recently though, some social business predictions have begun to come true. New technology platforms have been implemented, executives are recognizing their roles in digital transformation, and cultural changes have started.  Early adopters, such as digital marketers, are being joined by their colleagues from other functional areas, and investments are being made in socially enabled processes, communities and social and network analytics.

In a recent well-documented report, Social Trends to Watch in 2014, Bill Chamberlin, an IBM thought leader and the Community Leader of HorizonWatching, cited 10 trends he believes will continue to show growth this year. They are as follows:

  1. It is not just about marketing – There are social capabilities being developed across the entire enterprise
  2. It transforms business processes – Both front and back-end processes are changing
  3. CEO’s (& Senior Execs) step up to the plate – Senior folks are beginning to exert leadership in this area
  4. HR embraces social internally – No longer is HR just focused on social platforms for recruiting
  5. Social becomes more visual – More visual content is being embedded and embraced
  6. Relationship marketing – Social sites are shifting from pushing content only to relationship building
  7. Community marketing – There is an increased focus on creating and maintain communities
  8. Social analytics – There is a push to assess and understand sentiment and behavior across networks
  9. Employee advocacy programs – There is recognition that employees that are properly trained can be great brand ambassadors
  10. Developers required – New apps and skills are needed as the integration of social, mobile, cloud and bid data become a reality and creates new demands.

These trends are currently playing out and digital innovation is changing organizational structures and business models.  Organizations are now faced with:  figuring out how to access diverse data across devices and platforms, service customers who have high expectations for support and capitalize on the additional markets now available to them.  These shifts have created new opportunities and challenges.

In a recent McKinsey Article, The Digital Tipping Point, it was pointed out that executives have made significant financial commitments in digital and, as a result, are beginning to rethink how they need to run their organizations: “It is evident that digitization has become a critical asset in many companies’ quest for growth. More than three-quarters of executives say the strategic intent behind their digital programs is either to build competitive advantage in existing business or create new business and tap new profit pools”.

One of the other major changes in how social business is impacting organizations comes from the area of product development. Not only are organizations embracing social tools to perform analytics and research emerging market and customer needs, they are increasingly forming partnerships with their customers to develop new market entries or using collaborative networks to foster innovation.

The old paradigm, of a few smart guys working in a garage to develop the next big thing, has shifted. In the new paradigm, ideas and prototypes are likely to come from a social network or community, and the innovators may or may not know one another, or work for the same company that they are developing for.  Innovation is being crowdsourced and outsourced.

Social Business may not yet be fully realized, but it is definitely shifting how business gets done.  Social business and advances in digital technology will continue to change not only the strategies and structure of organizations, but the type of leadership and skills needed.  The future is still uncertain, but clearly how organizations deal with this change and transformation will determine who succeeds and who fails.


Modified from a blog originally posted by the author in

Aligning Social Business and Organizational Culture

One can login to Twitter, YouTube, Mashable or any number of social networking sites and receive advice on how to use social media tools to improve customer outreach, loyalty and employee engagement.  Some of these posts are mediocre, while others are quite good and provide sound guidance and case studies.  But, they all start with an assumption that social media or social business is an imperative and that all organizations should evolve to this state.   Is this premise correct?

My concern is that in our impatience to encourage organizations to develop social media strategies with appropriate goals and metrics, we have failed to give sufficient focus to the obstacles that they might face.   We do not live in a one size fits all world and yet we sometimes dispense advice as if this was the case.

At a cloud computing conference I recently attended, I heard several speakers promote the value of private clouds and talk about how control was shifting back to the end-users.  They postulated that the role of the IT department was evolving into negotiating services rather than supplying them.   Amidst the facts and figures about money to be saved and speed of delivery, the question arose to the obstacles cloud computing faces.  Without hesitation, the speakers all agreed that organizational culture was the biggest hurdle; it is not the technology that is hard to install, it is the people and culture that are difficult to change.  This same argument has also been given for why some social networks and collaborative implementations work and others don’t.

So what is organizational culture and why is it so difficult to change?  Organizational culture encompasses things that are typically taken for granted by those who exist within that culture.  They include underlying assumptions and norms, expectations, and collective stories or memories.   Cultures may be personified by logos and mission statements and are even reflected in the design of buildings or office campuses.  They convey a sense of identity and provide unwritten guidelines about how things get done.  In many cases people are not truly aware of their distinct culture until it is challenged or they experience a culture that is quite different.

Although organizational culture may be difficult to change, it can be classified and measured.   One widely used organizational cultural framework states that there are 4 archetypes of organizational culture.  Each is typified by different leadership styles, values and beliefs about effectiveness.   They are:

  1.  Internally focused hierarchical/control based cultures
  2.  Internally focused collaborative or clan cultures
  3.  Externally focused competitive or market cultures
  4.  Externally focused innovation based cultures.

While there are two internally focused cultures, a hierarchical culture is concerned with control systems and coordination while a collaborative culture places the emphasis on interpersonal relationships.  The externally focused market culture puts a priority on managing customer service and competitiveness, while the innovative culture is more concerned about the future and managing discovery and innovation.  Each will react very differently to the imposition of social business programs.

While there is no question that social is the way business will be done in the future, there is clearly a need to understand the culture into which it will be driven.   It is important to assess one’s starting point.  Culture change is possible, but it has to be thoughtful, tailored and it will not happen overnight.  Furthermore, this change will require a leadership vision that enables the organization to move from where it is, to where it needs to be.  And depending on the current culture, this might be a short distance or a very long road!

Modified from a blog originally posted by the author in

Surviving the Future: How to Build a 21st Century Organization

We currently live in a hyper connected world characterized by 24/7 access to global communications, with social networks providing ability to self publish and be heard.  We carry more compute power on smart phones than early computers and possess access to information previous generations could not imagine.  Yet, for many organizations, culture and business processes have not kept up.  While business causal has replaced suits and digital has replaced paper, it is not clear that today’s organizations know how to accommodate the more open, collaborative processes that the Internet has fostered and new cohorts of employees expect.

Many companies came of age with hierarchical structures and command and control leadership.   Boundaries were clear and roles rigid.  Yet, despite vast technological change and shifts in how work gets done, many organizational designs  put in place in the last century are still with us.

What should you do?  The following are some steps HR, Marketing and business leaders should take to change culture and processes and, ultimately, enable their businesses to remain competitive.  Social media and social business are transforming the world of work and the only organizations that will thrive are those that have figured out how to use new technologies to their advantage.

  1.  Devise a plan to intelligently implement virtual work and virtual teams.  Despite the recent controversy, they are not going away!  Co-location is necessary for certain jobs, but many knowledge based workers can work virtually with existing technology.    Virtual workers also have a smaller carbon footprint, organizations save money on infrastructure costs and older workers or those with work/life demands can be accommodated.
  2.  Redesign jobs to be modular and allow workers to utilize skills on projects anywhere in the organization.  This  makes good use of human capital, solves skill shortages and can lead to greater productivity and satisfaction among employees.
  3. Redefine the role of leaders.  Encourage leaders to find ways of engaging and not just be seen as ensconced in their offices behind traditional gatekeepers.
  4. Empower employee collaboration.  Provide employees a seat at the table, get their feedback and listen to their suggestions.  They can provide valuable insights and intelligence about trends, competitors and emerging needs.
  5. Train all employees on new technologies.   Many older adults have embraced social networks.  Don’t assume only the  millennials will get it.
  6. Provide guidelines on social media.  Make sure the rules are clear and consequences for bad behavior spelled out.  Your firm’s reputation and brand may depend on this.
  7. Include clients in networks and make innovations more  collaborative.   Social networks are about relationships and collaboration.   Clients’ voices should be heard. They can help articulate their needs and shape new offerings.

We live in a global, fast paced, information rich and boundary spanning era.  We need to create organizations that reflect this.  Otherwise, our businesses will go the way of the fax machine and rotary phone.  They still exist, but no longer serve the purpose they once did.

What do you think?  Contact us at or  call us at 914 234 3917 if you need a road map to the future, training or even implementation assistance.  We can help!  We can also be reached on Twitter @digitalcultured.

Why Your Business Needs to Be Focused On Social Media: Unlocking Potential and Avoiding Pitfalls


We are in the midst of a social media revolution.  Like the Arab Spring uprisings, where revolutionary leaders used social media to create widespread awareness, support, rapidly communicate with and mobilize supporters, social media is now enabling organizations to do business as never before.  It is increasing collaboration and breaking down barriers between internal organizations and the external world.  It is also fundamentally changing how work is performed and how organizations operate.

Today’s organizations are faced with a business environment that is increasingly global, competitive and fast paced and where disruptive innovation may render existing business models obsolete.  If they do not act quickly and adapt to these changes, they may not survive.  Such was the case of Borders who failed to adjust to the onset of e-books, unlike their main competitor, Barnes and Noble, who came out with the Nook.  Barnes and Noble is still operating while Borders recently shuttered all their stores.  The choice is not whether to adapt to change and implement social media in organizations; rather it is how to best implement it in order to survive in the rapidly evolving business environment.

The influx of digital natives, the increased presence of virtual employees and the prevalence of virtual global teams has made organizations adapt to new labor market realities.    At the same time, social media use is climbing. With around 800 million people around the world using Facebook, more than 25% of all Americans spending time on social media sites, and the majority of the Fortune 500 implementing social media programs, it is clear that the “social media phenomenon” is not just a fad.

Social Media and Organization 2.0

Organizations are learning how to adapt their cultures to employees who can and want to work differently as well as customers who want to buy and be serviced in more inclusive ways.  These changes have impacted all aspects of organizations including recruiting and selection, rewards and incentives, job roles, leadership, and training and development.  It has also become clear that different skills sets will be required to meet the evolving organizational paradigms.  And as employees have more external touch points, employers recognize that new guidelines, polices and training programs must be put in place.

While social medial media has enabled many positive outcomes, such as new approaches for marketing, branding and communications, opportunities for thought leadership, recruitment of hard-to-find skilled candidates, increased employee engagement and better customer  service, it is clear that it has changed expectations of participation and created a loss of employer control.  It requires more transparency and  a reframing of employee personal versus public communications.

The Upside and the Downside

Brands take on new meaning in the age of social media. Employees can be a visible and positive force in this environment and serve as brand ambassadors.  Companies like IBM have been very successful in utilizing their workers to aid their brand.  They demonstrate brand values and deliver upon brand promises and expectations.  But, judgment must be used on social media and there are many cases of employees hurting brands by writing inappropriate things and embarrassing their employers.   Recently, a Philadelphia high school teacher was suspended with pay after she wrote a blog in which in which she spoke harshly about her students saying, “They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners.  Similarly, an Albuquerque police officer was placed on desk duty after listing his occupation on his Facebook profile as “Human waste disposal.”  Other examples include a police woman posting inappropriate Facebook pictures alongside police insignia, waitresses writing negative things about their customers, and employees defaming supervisors.  And, even a member of Congress, Anthony Weiner, had to resign after tweeting lewd pictures of himself to a young woman.

Without proper training or guidance, employees can unintentionally or maliciously damage organizational reputations, resulting in the loss of customers, revenue and intellectual property.  This behavior can have a negative impact on employee morale, create management difficulties and the inability to recruit top candidates, as well as cause legal issues.  That is why smart organizations are being proactive and trying to understand the readiness of their organizations with respect to social media.  They realize it is critical to have metrics that allow one to understand existing usage among employees, guidelines awareness, etc.  This way they can assess how effective any planned social media implementation will be or measure how successful existing ones are.

The Solution

The solution we developed is PSMOTM – a Program for Social Media Optimization – that is designed to measure the organization’s current status as an entity in the social media context, identify and solve for any competitive weaknesses and optimize its functioning to produce employees who act as brand ambassadors in the social media cultural milieu.Image

The PSMOTM process assesses the eight (8) specific factors that comprise organizational optimization regarding employees’ social media behaviors and brand advocacy.  The assessment process involves quantitative survey research and in-depth qualitative interviews among the organization’s leaders (policy-makers) and “customer-facing” employees.  An organization’s PSMOTM profile is used to determine specific strategies and tactical programs that can be implemented to achieve a more effective set of social media policies to drive better employee selection, retention, leadership, and branding.

For more information about the PSMOTM program, feel free to contact Andrea Goldberg, Ph.D., President of Digital Culture Consulting, LLC. (