At the TCS Summit – North America held in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in the fall of 2013, a number of us discussed social networks in the Enterprise. Nicole Sturgill, Research Director at CEB TowerGroup, moderated a panel discussion. The panel comprised 3 CIOs –one each from a media company, a consulting firm and a global Insurance company, and myself. All of us said we were using some social software within the enterprise, but had different levels of adoption and usage. We however agreed that the time for ‘Social within the Enterprise’ has come. It is now stake on the table for many businesses. The recent TCS’ Study about Social media also confirms this.
Our study shows that the leading users of social media are those who are leveraging it across the enterprise. “Leaders” have much bigger ambitions for their social media activities rather than just collecting consumer feedback. Leaders said that they will spend twice of what “followers” will this year on social media: an average $28 million per our survey respondent vs. $14 million for followers.
While the TCS study was about ‘How Consumer Companies are Tuning into Consumers through Social Media’, interesting insights about leverage of social data among internal groups emerged.
The curious thing is the functions that are listening to social media are marketing, customer services and sales. Even functions that should be actively listening are largely not: R&D and product management: This perhaps happens only in the “leader” organizations. Only 27% of R&D/product development and 37% of product management departments regularly view social media comments from consumers.
Understanding these patterns, as well as the belief that social media is table stake, how should companies move forward? TCS is conducting several experiments to understand this. Here are a few:
1. How can social media help departments other than marketing and sales? For instance, is there something that a global supply chain can learn or proactively plan with social media inputs? More importantly, can internal knowledge and knowledge from external domains provide predictive insights to business?
2. Social media can unlock the vast amounts of tacit knowledge in the enterprise that a static “system of record” cannot reveal. Yet social networks within the enterprise do not have the “mass interpersonal persuasion” power consumer social media sites possess. How can an organization make its internal network vivacious and self-learning?
3. There is a business case for a horizontal social platform that can connect employees across lines of business towards greater collaboration. But what about business processes? How often business decisions are taken after many discussions that are not captured in a workflow! Can a social media layer make such business processes yield knowledge – learning – insights – foresight?
Each of these experiments is being tested with several pilots for customers and implementations within TCS. I feel that the big game changer will come with social as part of the business process. Today we have the capability to digitize conversations as they flow, without confining these to templates and superimposed “structures”. We have the constructs to get decisions from such conversations and trigger workflows (maximum votes, polls). We have the capability to mine this information and pull out insights so that the organization can learn why a collective decision was taken. The trick now is to put it all together with the existing systems.
Once we social-enable existing processes, we take this powerful phenomenon beyond the well-established social use cases of employee engagement, crowdsourcing ideas and discovering experts. CIOs will enable a rethink of the workplace, an upgrade from the information workplace to the social workplace, one that is participatory, transparent and fun to be part of.
K Ananth Krishnan, VP and Chief Technology Officer, TCS