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Social business the revolution is here

Social business the revolution is hereThe digital revolution started as a need to update corporate and customer websites, enhancing the customer experience and lowering the cost of delivering sales and service.

It has evolved into a transformational journey that now includes multiple dimensions such as mobility, social, big data, cloud, and micro-targeting.

Digital impacts revenue growth, drives internal efficiencies and uncovers future prospects in brand, new business, and product development to build strategic partnerships.

Starting the digital journey is transformative, and the banks that are already on it are discovering the need to be agile and flexible as they adapt to new technologies and customer expectations, anticipate and deal with new competitors and act like start-ups to build new offerings.

A key piece in this revolution is the development of social business models.

Social business is a reality

Social business is a deliberate approach that recognises how legacy assumptions constrain business performance, and understands the value of making your business ’social‘ to build transparency and trust, and create new ways to motivate your employees and customers. It means reshaping the content and context of work.

While social business is fundamentally a technology enabled transformation, the importance of culture and designing a coherent strategy, of understanding the impacts on existing people and honestly recognising capability constructs, as well as rethinking the underlying process architecture, cannot be underestimated.

It can be argued – and many visionary leaders are – that current business practices constrain individual responsibility, accountability, and capability. Whether this is due to real or perceived boundaries of a specific role, building a learning, unlearning, and relearning organisation – aka Alvin Toffler – is key.

In reality people are often simply unable to navigate the organisation. Finding the right information, specialists, or decision makers to grow ideas, building relationships with people with similar interests, or effectively working together in a matrix reporting environment isn’t easy. Current investment horizons and payback requirements can also stifle innovative ideas and projects. Given the intended goals of social business are to amplify and encourage individual passions, build experience, and sustain relationships for the benefit of customers and the company, it is important to uncover and exploit invisible connections and nodes of knowledge about “how things get done”. Aligning the interests of the individual employee with the mission of the business, while harnessing universal qualities of individual worth – content, authenticity, integrity, reputation, commitment, and reliability. These are cultural musts. Juicing the real potential of social business means breaking down barriers that limit human potential and business performance.

But how?

It requires fundamentally rethinking how work gets done and how value is created in the post-digital era.

At several banks, marketing and public relations have established listening posts to track consumer sentiment in the social sphere. Sales and customer service divisions are integrating customer contacts across channels, product development, service and fulfillment teams, the ‘nodes that get things done’.

Customer command centres are moving beyond passive monitoring, using social channels to actively engage with personalised promotions, issue triage, and product support. CIOs have initiatives underway to give employees social tools for collaboration, finding and mining the knowledge of the enterprise, and creating new intellectual property assets with a more enlightened, user-centric approach to knowledge management. While this is progress, it is only the beginning of what’s possible.

Don’t get stuck

Many companies get stuck on what social media and social technologies to deploy, and how to ‘get my people to use them?’ Starting with a new social tool, bolting it onto existing processes, and hoping for a desired result, may improve, but it doesn’t transform.

Instead, re-examine your process automation designs (ERP) and your information automation designs (analytics) to seize the value afforded by a truly, transparently connected enterprise.

Ask where in those designs are there assumptions of isolated specialisation? Of limiting linear transactional processes? Of flows of information and context for decision and action? Of same-time, same-place requirements for employee productivity and capability? Where are the processes and systems constrained by traditional C3 – command, control, and communications? Where can you relieve organisational and process barriers to give customers, teams, and suppliers social collaboration, communication, and monitoring tools to help them perform?

Determine how best to empower people to transcend the limits of the pre-defined processes to do the right thing and maximise the value of each interaction.

The potential of social reengineering isn’t a ‘project’, it is a culture with a strategy. It’s not serendipity. It’s intentional – by design.

The power of communities

The post digital forces, led by social, can be used to shape business and the way people naturally interact. As time, attention, and engagement of your employees and customers becomes a more precious resource than computing power or standardised ‘lean‘ processes, social platforms can relieve rather than serve traditional organisational constraints.

We’re no longer building technologies to enable just interaction – social platforms can be built for specific business purposes: specialised content, enhanced with context, enriched by the power of communities.

This calls for a deliberate, intentional course to rethink how business gets done, using social to reengineer processes, systems, and organisation for the new economy.

With the realisation that the economic environment is dynamic and changing, then comfort with the dynamics of building an agile and flexible business, and teams, will be inevitable.

Chris Wilson is a Senior Partner in Deloitte Consulting’s Financial Services practice. Having focused his entire career in the industry, Chris has a passion for all things customer and digital. He also leads a global Digital initiative focused on the next wave of digital transformation within financial services.

This article was first published in Australian Banking & Finance.

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