Shimrit Janes FreePint Launches New Series: The Social Enterprise
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By Shimrit Janes

Abstract

Shimrit Janes, one of the series producers for FreePint's new Topic Series: The Social Enterprise, describes how the social economy is becoming increasingly important to organisations and how introducing social functionality can help to achieve gains in areas such as improved internal communication and greater collaborative working. The series will help readers to build a business case, encourage usage and measure effectiveness.

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FreePint Topic Series: The Social Enterprise"Social" has become ubiquitous in discussions about today’s organisation - and the organisation of the future. Its presence is felt in discussions about marketing, news awareness, HR, organisational and personal learning, and a multitude of other disciplines.

McKinsey, in their 2012 report Unlocking the Social Economy, posited an astounding minimum of $900 billion in anticipated value lying in wait within the social economy. Two thirds of that value is thought to derive from improved internal communication and collaboration alone.

Social: an Integral Part of Business

The name of the container that holds together this ecology of social activity? The social enterprise. Or the social business. Or the collaborative organisation. No matter the label, all refer to an organisation that has successfully woven the concept of "social" amongst the way that it operates, often using technology based on Web 2.0 principles as a catalyst.

Unsurprisingly, as a result, vendors are clamouring to integrate social functionality into their established offerings, or to develop new platforms that promise to help deliver on that untapped potential.

And yet, despite the numerous reports on the benefits, the never-ending list of available and new technologies, and in spite of a population increasingly comfortable with the use of social media in their personal lives, stories of the successful social enterprise remain a novelty. The path to success remains elusive for many.

Failure: A Familiar Story

The reported reasons behind this disconnect between theory and reality will no doubt be familiar to many of our readers. MIT Sloan Management Review reported the following as the most common barriers to those seeking to become a social enterprise:

  • Lack of an overall strategy (28%)
  • Too many competing priorities (26%)
  • Lack of a proven business case or strong value proposition (21%).

Other familiar reasons include:

  • An employee base unwilling, or unable, to change their way of working to embed the new technology into their working day
  • Or a willing employee population struggling with technology choices that fail to meet their needs.

The lure of technology is one that is common to projects that have a technical element. Project teams can become focused on the technology rather than working with the people that will be using it. An additional struggle can be integrating multiple technologies to create a meaningful user experience rather than a confusing one, or the battle between emergent technology and established, corporate technology.

Success: an Emerging Narrative

All, however, is not lost. The above difficulties are not insurmountable barriers, but addressable challenges. Steps towards an effective social enterprise can be achieved through the application of lessons learned from organisations who have experienced successes (or failures), the avoidance of "hype", and a sustained focus on what it is that your organisation, people, and stakeholders actually need.

Working on needs first, adoption and use after, and best solutions in-between, can go a long way to bridging the gap between promise and delivery. With the original "buzz" beginning to die down, practical lessons around areas such as how to build a business case, how to encourage usage, and how to develop meaningful measures of effectiveness are emerging. Some strong signals are being found amongst the noise.  

FreePint Topic Series: The Social Enterprise

The series will seek to help readers identify some of those signals, providing practical lessons.

 Articles currently being commissioned include:

  • How to implement social technology strategically
  • A case study from an organisation that developed and implemented their own effective social platform
  • Steps organisations need to take in order to make social succeed
  • Exploring what "value" means in the context of the social enterprise
  • A look at the role of SharePoint, and other relevant technologies.

Editor's Note: The Social Enterprise

The FreePint Topic Series: The Social Enterprise runs from January to February 2014 to examine the ways that organisations are maximising internal social connections and knowledge management. Register your interest now for notification of new content published in the series, to get early announcements to register for FreePint Webinars produced in the series, and to receive a free copy of the FreePint Report: Buyer's Guide on Social Tools, scheduled for publication in February.

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