It’s easy to think of the Social Enterprise as the use of social media and networking technology in business. That’s true, but only a part of a larger landscape. The Social Enterprise is nothing less than a retooling of the way business operates. Software collaboration solutions, socially enabled enterprise applications, social media channels, monitoring, and analysis are only the technology expression of a much broader movement in how organizations operate.
The Social Enterprise is not a top-down, hierarchical organization where managers dole out tasks to workers. Instead, it is a collection of self-directed individuals who work in small, ad-hoc teams to create an outcome. Each team and each situation introduces a new set of variables which affect work product. The resulting organization is a dynamic and responsive one, capable of pivoting more deftly in the face of sudden changes in the environment.
This is an environment that exists in many companies. People already work in teams and are mentally able to change direction when necessary. What has changed are the tools available to assist in collaboration, communication, and decision making. This is an example where technology is catching up to the business environment. Systems need to be different because business is different and work is different. Flexible, user-definable processes need dynamic user-centric software. The traditional defined path, single mode, system of record is still important for insuring transaction integrity but these are now augmented by multi-modal, collaborative software that acts as connective tissue within the IT body. Yes, there will be tension between the two systems as users and management vie for control of processes. That process is natural and opens the discussion as to how much decision making belongs to the manager and how much to the knowledge worker.
The Social Enterprise exists because business needs it to exist. It is the culmination of 25 years of evolution in business management. The difference is that the tools now exist to help the Social Enterprise operate efficiently. It is not the technology that is disruptive, it is the business environment.