Business Gets Social Innovation Key Initiative Overview



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CIOs and IT and business leaders request guidance on how to apply social approaches to their business. E-business created disruption a decade ago. Social business will have an even more significant impact.


Socially-driven processes are disrupting traditional approaches to business. Social techniques and tools allow people to connect and interact with unprecedented speed and ease as business gets social.

Social initiatives pervade the enterprise; they are becoming part of every operational activity. Participants in these social interactions may include employees, business partners, customers, prospects and other members of the social Web. Social media can improve collaboration, spur creativity and facilitate decision making. These benefits can lead to increased sales, better customer service, more effective business processes and many other advantages, depending on where the enterprise chooses to engage.

However, social business also brings challenges:

  • It can be hard to quantify business value in advance.

  • Social opens up new channels of communications and changes expectations of how the enterprise should interact with its various constituencies.

  • Social initiatives entail risks, such as losing control over information and making existing business processes obsolete.

  • Markets are confusing. New vendors and technologies continue to emerge, while established vendors in other adjacent markets are adding social functions.

Gartner publishes research that will help CIOs, IT leaders as well as other business and technical professionals to develop an enterprise strategy for social business and to address the challenges they will face in executing this strategy.

Figure 1. Business Gets Social Innovation
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner (July 2011)

Consider These Factors To Determine Your Readiness

Successful social business initiatives require a specific purpose tightly coupled to a meaningful business goal. Enterprises also need techniques for overcoming these hurdles:

  • Determining which social business strategy affords the best enterprise value.

  • Creating a social business blueprint for the enterprise despite critical uncertainties.

  • Figuring out how to best serve each constituency.

  • Encouraging people from across the enterprise to work together despite substantial organizational change.

Geographical Variances

Enterprises use social media all over the globe. However, the manifestations of social business vary, depending on:

  • Laws and regulations governing the disclosure and handling of information.

  • Cultural expectations of privacy.

  • Local market conditions — for example, in China, local players offer alternatives to many social offerings popular in the West.

Strategic Planning Assumptions

  • By 2013, spending on social software to support sales, marketing and customer service processes will exceed $1 billion worldwide.

  • By 2014, social networking services will replace email as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20% of business users.

  • By 2015, the 20% of enterprises that employ social media beyond marketing will lead their industries in revenue growth.

  • By 2016, 15% of businesses will deploy a horizontal social technology layer that integrates with several business applications.

Technology Providers

Vendors are rushing to fulfill the needs of the social business market. However, it is not homogeneous, with many competitors and very different products. To distinguish between them, look at the purpose and target audience:

  • IBM is one example of vendors offering social environments for internal employee communities and internal social networking.

  • Jive is an example of vendors providing social environments to engage external participants including customers, citizens, suppliers, members, alumni, the public and associations.

  • Lithium is an example of vendors that offer social CRM applications to engage prospects or customers specifically for sales, marketing and customer support.

  • Facebook provides an example of public social networking sites, where individuals and enterprises can engage.

  • Radian6 from is an example of vendors that provide specialist technologies.

Conduct Your Social Business Initiative Using this Structured Approach

Concepts Defined: Identify the impact of social business on existing processes, organizational structures, and customer and partner relationships. Confront issues such as governance, metrics and operational resilience in the face of change.

Implications and Scenarios: Determine where social interactions can create new business value for all constituencies. Explore how market dynamics and industry variations apply to your social media blueprint. Ascertain your ability to respond to disruption.

Technologies and Vendors: Examine the impact of disruptive trends such as the social Web, mobile technology, context-aware computing and cloud computing on the enterprise's architecture, deployment approach and vendor relationships.

© 2011 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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