Research: The Importance Of Social Business From The C-Suite

Research: The Importance Of Social Business From The C-Suite

Just yesterday, MIT Sloan in collaboration with Deloitte released a study, “Social Business: What Are Companies Really Doing?” that highlights the growing importance of social business initiatives. What I found most interesting was the view and perceptions from the C-Suite.

According to the research, C-level executives vary considerably in their perceptions about the value of social business to their organizations today. On average, and across all industries in the study, CEOs, presidents, managing directors, board members and CMOs are most likely to perceive social business as an important business initiative today. CEOs are twice as likely as CFOs and nearly twice as likely as CIOs to view social technologies as important right now. Below is the breakdown.

Despite their differences regarding its importance today, 70% of the executive respondents believe that social business will be important to their organization in three years. This suggests that many executives regard social business as neither a threat nor a passing fad – and perhaps they just need to understand the business value before making any significant investments.

Now here is the good news. Executives are beginning to see the value of social business and are talking about it. The bad news is that it’s just words. Will they continue just talking about it or will they take the appropriate steps to start transforming their organizations – starting with themselves first. And, is 3 years too long to wait?

I have said this before and I will say it again.

For any social business initiative to actually work, company leadership has to change their behaviors – the way they work, they way the communicate and they way the lead. What bugged me about this study was that it was mainly focused on social technologies (like the mere act of deploying Jive or Lithium will suddenly change the business). In my view, technology does not change a person. Change has to come from within. There has to be a burning desire to move the organization forward with social embedded in its DNA. The beliefs, values and characteristics need to change if they want the rest of the organization to imitate those social behaviors. Perhaps this is one reason why 70% of social business projects fail, as reported in this report.

Image: Meeting Room From Big Stock

About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • Susan Emerick

    I couldn’t agree more Michael, senior leadership sets the tone for a company’s culture, as you say “company leadership has to change their behaviors – the way they work, they way the communicate and they way the lead.”

  • Simon Birt

    Well, if what you say is correct we should soon be seeing some dramatic changes of leadership, as CEOs who fail to grasp the importance of social to their business will be replaced by CEOs who do. Shareholders tend not to sit back and take the view of wait and see when it comes to transformations like this. There will also be winners and losers as there was when companies went to ebusiness. Those that got it moved ahead of competitors who didn’t ( vs Barnes and Noble being a case in point).

  • Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    Businesses have always been social. Email. Software that runs businesses. Anything that pulls information and communication together from various groups within an org is social. Just because we call certain tools social these days the first time manufacturing hand wrote on paper what purchasing had to buy that was social. So to say businesses need to constantly work to improve communication between groups and with customers and vendors is repeating something that has been said for the last 150 years.

    Not really sure why all the hoopla over something that has been evolving over a century. I hate the cutesy marketing jargon. It is the main reason CEOs and CFO’s view Social Communication Technologies as a niche. It isn’t moving product or reducing costs in ways that impact their bottom line right now and there is so little proof of this stuff working. And the few case studies out there are unique vs repeatable.

  • Marjorie Clayman

    I wonder if ego could get in the way of this evolution. A lot of CEOs have a terrible time delegating – perhaps because they started as entrepreneurs who *had* to do everything or perhaps because that’s just how they’re wired. The idea of social business might not be scary because of the social aspect or even because of the integration of the customer. It might be scary because the CEO is putting him or herself up as a sort of conductor rather than the big boss. It will be interesting to watch how this all goes. 

  • Amber Rinehard

    Spot on, Michael! So much of social business has to do with behavioral change, first and foremost. If people aren’t on board in terms of their mindsets, the technology will fail no matter how intuitive or fancy it might be. I think this is why so many businesses that attempt to move toward a social business model end up failing; in order to succeed you need to first change your belief system and open your mind to new ways of collaboration and communication… and this needs to happen from the top down.

  • Michael Brito

    I think you are exactly right. Ego AND just old school business practices. As the new generation moves into managemnet, I anticipate that this will all change; and then of course there will be other challenges that we will be blogging about!
    Hope you are well Marjorie.

  • Michael Brito

    Thank you Amber! Appreciate the comment!

  • Michael Brito

    I disagree. Most of my career I have worked in the enterprise and they aren’t that social. Yeah, people talk, communicate and have conference calls but many aren’t working together towards a common goal. And it doesn’t matter what we call it … you can’t ignore the business challenges that exist today.

    Michael Brito
    SVP, Social Business Planning
    Edelman Digital | San Francisco

  • Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    But you will agree the compensation plans drive everything correct? Would you work towards a common goal if your comp plan says otherwise? And in many companies bonuses and stock options are driven by share price. Yet most employees have no stock or stock options. A manufacturer will pay a group to lower defects, lower costs per unit etc. Unless they own stock they will never equate that work to company profitability which should always be the organizational goal first and foremost. Having workers communicate more will not fix this if their comp plans are as varied as they are and with in most companies the majority of workers not owning stock or having stock options.

    You want a social business. Give every worker profit sharing, stock, or stock options. If you don’t do this no worker will ever reduce their pay for the good of the company.

  • Marjorie Clayman

    Thanks Michael – all good here, and back at ya :)

  • Anonymous

    Nice blogging.

  • Adi

     Hi Kate,

    Most forum applications allow users to select a username that provides them with anonymity, although even then you will need to decide whether users have to register with a work email address (and can therefore be traced) or can register with a personal email address.  phpBB is one of the better free applications.  Depending on CMS used for your intranet though you might be able to find plugins for things like Drupal and Joomla.

    Good luck with your project and keep us informed of how you get on.


  • Marty

    It is important to understand what the actual history of communications technology looks like, in contrast to how people would prefer to communicate. Social collaboration, and the underlying technologies, are really just beginning to develop. In the old days, we also had the suggestion box, and many factories saw significant improvements in productivity thanks in part to anonymous suggestions, and management took all the credit.

  • Ann

    Good question to pose Adi. I am inclined to agree with yourself. There is a need to gain not just depth of feeling and contribution, but spread across an organisation. Organisations are not renowned yet for their humanised approach where openness is widespread so I think, in the interim, anonymity is good as it starts the process of true engagement that will lead to participation. If there is a significant amount of anonymity, I think that says a lot to the HR and senior executives in the organisation and that’s what they need to address first. Sort that and then anonymity rates will go down!

  • Adi

     Hi Ann, yes I quite agree.  Excessive anonymity is a damning indictment of the lack of candour possible in any organisation.  That in itself is worthwhile.

  • Richard Rashty

    I disagree with anonymous postings. your dealing with symptoms and not the root issue. The idea is to build robust organizations that encourage open conversions, where employees are free to dissent without fear of retaliation. That is the whole premise of a social business. Strip command and control, brutish mgmt styles. Ive dealt

  • Richard Rashty

    I’ve led communities in Asian countries, and it is challenging as their culture is full of fear of open expression..but some told me privately they want to post using their name but are afraid….this is what we need to battle, so if you want anonymous posting as a temporary state, i can agree, but we must fight for open discussions and recognizing everyone as an individual

  • Adi

    Agree completely Richard. It’s an ongoing challenge though isn’t it. I look at sites like Glassdoor and wonder if they’d even need to exist if better communication was had within organisations. Sadly I know far more managers that don’t like candid feedback than those that do.

  • Adi

    Hi Andy.  That’s the challenge isn’t it?  In the wider world trolling is probably the main reason against anonymity, but you’d like to think you can trust your own employees not to do that.

    As Richard says above though, the ideal would be for organisations to promote candour.  The difficulty for us social business folks though is that we often need quick and early wins to validate what we’re doing, and so our endeavours could easily be scuppered whilst we work towards having a more open work environment.

    I’m inclined to think that at least showing management that there are a number of dissenting voices, if indeed there are, can help to break down any hubris they may suffer from and therefore help to open up dialogue.

  • Adi

    Thanks Marty.  I suspect if people are putting forward good ideas then they’d be all too happy to have their name attached to the idea. As you say, it sucks when you do great things and someone else gets the credit for it.

    The problem comes when you’re dissenting against senior management.  Most organisations need that check to ensure management doesn’t go down the wrong road, but it’s difficult unless a culture exists where challenging your ‘seniors’ is encouraged.