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Management struggles as companies go social

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A report by IBM has found that while companies are increasing their social technology investments, middle management leaders are struggling to embrace these capabilities as part of their day-to-day work.

IBM’s survey of 1,160 business and IT professionals shows that while 46 percent of the organisations increased their investments in social technologies in 2012, only 22 percent believed that managers are prepared to incorporate social tools and approaches into their daily practices.

Despite intentions to rapidly accelerate social initiatives, many companies are still figuring out whether real returns can be gained on social investments. Two-thirds of respondents were not sure they sufficiently understood the impact that social technologies would have on their organisations over the next three years.

According to the report (www.ibm.com/socbizstudy) entitled, ‚”The Business of Social Business: What Works and How It’s Done,‚” companies at the forefront of this trend are doing more than developing a presence on major social platforms. A social business embeds social technologies into core business processes, and then applies the technologies to drive customer-facing activities such as lead generation, sales and post-sales service.

‚”Businesses are struggling to make sense of the vast amount of data generated from social networks, said Lesley-Anne Wilkinson, MEA Lead for the Institute for Business Value at IBM. ‚”To transform a vision into a reality, executive leadership must guide middle management on the value of being a social business, and build company-wide support for the use of social practicesacross organisational functions.‚”

As demonstrated in the study, the key to accelerating widespread adoption lies in an organisation’s ability to build social business expertise among employees, while encouraging behavioral changes that may influence a wider cultural shift. However, only one-quarter of companies believe they are fully prepared to address the cultural changes that are associated with this transformation. The IBM report suggests that for organisations to evolve into social enterprises, some basic groundwork must be laid. At the most basic level, management must provide an infrastructure for engagement — setting up forums, teamrooms and collaborative spaces. Once in place, social practices should be integrated into day-to-day work activities. For example, the use blog posts and activity streams can positively accentuate project management tasks. The organisation must also create the capability to understand where and how data generation could benefit the enterprise. Finally, management must teach employees how to collaborate effectively with individuals outside of the organisation’s boundaries, using social business methods and tools.

With the effective use of social technologies, organisations can integrate and analyse massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors and more easily align these insights to business processes to make faster, more accurate business decisions. By gaining deeper insights in customer and market trends and employees’ sentiment, businesses can uncover critical patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions. According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for social enterprise apps is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016*.

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