Where do I start my social enterprise project?

July 5, 2009
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516550 A lot of the discussion, and there is a bunch of discussion going on, around social enterprise is focused on your customers. Makes sense that this would be an area of focus of course, it does provide significant opportunity for your business and seems like the most obvious area to approach first. I’m not sure though, as I look across the opportunities presented by building a social business, if I would go for the customer out of the gate.

This may be a moot point in many businesses, since many e2.0 projects grow out of grass roots efforts that are already happening before the business “officially” embraces the social web and builds a social enterprise strategy. If that’s the case with your business, then I guess you can skip this post. But if you’re thinking about how to approach starting to build a social enterprise, read on.

If you read this blog you know that I believe a social business has a series of characteristics and that these characteristics come about through significant cultural shift. Many of the social enterprise projects I’m seeing are coming out of marketing, which I suppose accounts for why most of them are customer focused. The other source for many of these


516550 A lot of the discussion, and there is a bunch of discussion going on, around social enterprise is focused on your customers. Makes sense that this would be an area of focus of course, it does provide significant opportunity for your business and seems like the most obvious area to approach first. I’m not sure though, as I look across the opportunities presented by building a social business, if I would go for the customer out of the gate.

This may be a moot point in many businesses, since many e2.0 projects grow out of grass roots efforts that are already happening before the business “officially” embraces the social web and builds a social enterprise strategy. If that’s the case with your business, then I guess you can skip this post. But if you’re thinking about how to approach starting to build a social enterprise, read on.

If you read this blog you know that I believe a social business has a series of characteristics and that these characteristics come about through significant cultural shift. Many of the social enterprise projects I’m seeing are coming out of marketing, which I suppose accounts for why most of them are customer focused. The other source for many of these initiatives is customer service, again, no surprise these are customer focused as well. But if the real business transformation is about changing corporate culture, then I suggest we need to look elsewhere for our first initiatives.

In this post I talked about the internal opportunities for building a social enterprise. To bring about culture change you have to approach the change management in a deliberate manner. Taking on established culture while changing the way you deal with your customers may simply be too risky. Changing culture requires demonstrated success through deliberate action. If you can move the corporate culture through a series of internal social projects, your overall opportunity for success improves greatly when you do address the customer opportunity. I’m suggesting that you have a much greater chance of success with your customers, while mitigating some of the risk, if you have some internal success first.

How do you go about changing corporate culture? First you need to understand where culture comes from and what your culture is. Corporate culture is the combined attitudes, experiences, traditions, beliefs and values of a business. Culture is developed over time and is a combined consciousness from the individuals in the company. The culture is demonstrated in the way employees interact internally AND with external stakeholders including customers, partners and suppliers. Managerial behavior and the general ethics of the business are manifestations of the company culture.

Once the current company culture is defined, then the next step in driving change is to define where the company needs to be after the culture change. It’s imperative that there be executive buy-in for this end state, by the way, which becomes your corporate vision. Once the end state is defined, develop specific organizational and behavioral changes that are needed to support the new culture. Tie these changes to the target social enterprise project(s) and reward behavior that aligns with the new culture (and of course conversely call out unacceptable behavior). Publicize success and link incentives to the desired behavior. Change takes time and must be diligently managed.