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2011 – The Year of The Social Enterprise?

4 01 2011

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A New Year brings with it many opportunities – and we generally take advantage of the new start every year gives us to make numerous promises and resolutions for change in our life.

For me, Jan 1st 2011 saw me make promises to write more often, get fitter, achieve great things for my clients, and generally embrace what is sure to be a year of great changes for me.

However, another opportunity afforded by the New Year is the ability to look like a right royal fool, or alternatively a prescient visionary genius, by looking to the year ahead to predict what it will bring.

My track record at these predictions is not necessarily to be envied – although I don’t seem to usually be “completely wrong”, my timing seems to be somewhat off.

Had the predictions of my youth come true, we’d all be living in a Star-Trek like world of spaceships, teleportation, and holographic entertainment systems in every home. Heck, even more recent predictions of a global ubiquitous Internet connection seem to be off by several years at least.

Nevertheless, it’s fun to look to the future, and I’d like to think that with age comes a certain realism as to what’s possible in a year – so here goes this year’s effort.

I think 2011 is going to be an especially exciting year – especially if the one big prediction I have for this coming year ends up coming true – that we’re about to embark on a new era of unprecedented collaboration and social interaction, that we’re doing that with a renewed sense of discipline, all-inclusion, and transparency, that we are, in short – on the cusp of seeing the world’s first fully social business.

Companies embracing social is nothing new admittedly – indeed my own work has centered on helping companies to use social technologies to drive corporate strategies for over 15 years now.  So what’s different now?

For starters, I think this year sees companies finally take it seriously – as a corporate competence to be achieved and maintained, rather than a faddish concept to be played with in any of its prior incarnations (knowledge management, collaboration, social media, etc).  I see companies increasingly throwing away the intangible mantle of “social media” programs focused on improved interactions with the consumer – and instead looking for ways to integrate social technologies to produce some very tangibly sized profitable gains. Nothing moves a company to embrace a new way of working more than big profits.

I also think that Social Technology companies themselves have matured more – taking ownership of the need to provide companies with a tangible route to those big gains. The increasing differentiation within the current software market is proof of that as vendors realize that companies don’t (and can’t) buy general “Collaboration” or “Social” tools – because they simply can’t achieve anything (let alone everything) with them.  General collaboration platforms like Sharepoint and Jive will continue to exist – but will continue to become secondary to the applications, (like Spigit, Yammer and others), that are developed to run on top of them and will drive the real value of social tools to the organization.

2011 will see Innovation continue to be the “Gateway Drug” to Social Tool adoption in the enterprise – providing an easy route for large companies to value and monetize the global interaction of the “social populations” (employees, customers, vendors, strategic partners, shareholders, and more) at their disposal.

Once that value is established – I see companies starting to effectively inject “social input” into increasingly strategic parts of their business. We’re already starting to see the first variants of this emerging in Finance (eg Microfinancing), Manufacturing and Design (eg Crowdsourcing), HR (eg Employee Engagement initiatives), and even Management generally (eg Collaborative Decision Making).

All this leads me back to my initial prediction – the emergence of the first true Social Enterprise. That is, a company that has social input strategically injected into EVERY part of their organization. Where every business process includes elements of mass social interaction between people inside and/or outside the traditional company walls. A fully open business that is able to leverage a global knowledge resources pool in multiple ways to achieve its strategic goals.

Is that possible in 2011? It’s a bit of a stretch I admit – and more likely to happen at the start-up level rather than a large global enterprise at this stage – but I believe that even that’s coming in the longer run. In the words of Hamel and late C K Prahalad – companies will eventually be forced to redefine what their true “core competencies” are – and then outsource the rest. Although instead of outsourcing it to an emerging global economy because labor is cheaper, they’ll be outsourcing it to a global social population because the work, the solutions, and the results will simply be better than they can achieve on their own.

The winners in the next generation of businesses won’t be the companies that can come up with and produce the next winning product – but will be instead the companies that can rally the world around to do it for them.

That’s my big bet for 2011 – what’s yours?

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6 responses

4 01 2011
Frank Diana

great Post – I think you are right in the mark! Frank Diana
http://frankdiana.wordpress.com/

4 01 2011
The Year of the Social Enterprise « Frank Diana's Blog

[…] By Frank Diana This article by Boris Pluskowski predicts that 2011 will be The Year of the Social Enterprise. He admits that his predictions are somewhat optimistic – but here’s hoping he’s right! Mr. […]

6 01 2011
Jill Hart

Great article, Boris. Your youthful foresights were definitely ahead of your years! I think your 2011 predictions are on track. And this trajectory will help organizations recognize the need to, and value of, moving toward improved customer centric thinking in design and processes.

14 01 2011
Christopher S. Rollyson

Hi Boris, right on! Enterprises have always been “social” in limited ways, but now the world is socializing on tools with extreme digital leverage around them, so they will perish unless they learn to become relevant.. which more most companies means getting over themselves and their products. As I wrote in 2007, no one has ever cared about products except producers, customers care about the experience they can create while using products as props in their own plays. Thanks again for an inspiring post. BTW, if you’re interested in reading some ‘history” that’s imminent, check this out =>http://www.rollyson.net/download/Soc_Nwkg_Mkt_advisory.pdf

20 01 2011
Nathan Zeldes

Predicting the future is easier (and more realistic) when you don’t try to chunk it into arbitrary planetary orbit revolutions… IMHO the directions you indicate are likely to happen, but whether in 2011 or a bit later is not the important thing; probably they will start to happen in 2011 in some forward-thinking companies and later in others… either way, it’s going to be an interesting transformation!

15 07 2013
Outsourcing for SMEs » The Year of the Social Enterprise

[…] article by Boris Pluskowski predicts that 2011 will be The Year of the Social Enterprise. He admits that his predictions are somewhat optimistic – but here’s hoping he’s right! Mr. […]

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