Social business has no value without purpose.
This is the third article in my mini-series exploring the social business phenomenon. I began by claiming that there is a problem with "social," because despite all the hype, there’s confusion over the meaning of the term "social business" and its many synonyms, no one can clearly explain how or why it works, and there’s little reliable evidence that it delivers any business value at all.
In the second article I argued for a redefinition of "social business." I claimed that a social business is an organization that explicitly and systematically harmonizes management approaches to people, knowledge, strategy and technology with the aim of delivering benefits associated with knowledge worker productivity and innovation.
|Editor's Note: Symon will be presenting a free session at this year's SharePoint Saturday UK based on this series.|
Since my last article, MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte have published the findings from their 2013 Social Business and Global Executive Study and Research Project. This is one of the few credible pieces of market research regarding social. The study finds that although increasing numbers of executives are recognizing the importance of social, the majority of companies are stuck in first gear and making little progress in becoming social businesses. Respondents to the survey cite three barriers holding companies back with regard to social; a lack of strategy, a lack of proven business case or strong value proposition, and too many competing priorities.
One of the key themes of my consulting work around SharePoint has been the principle that technology has no value without purpose and although I define social business as being wider than just technology, the adage still applies. Social business has no value without purpose. If you know what you are trying to do (strategy) then that will give you the means to measure success (business case or value proposition), and that in turn will help you assess investments in social against other priorities. The starting point is strategy and that’s the focus of this article.
In my ongoing research and consulting I’ve found that the fields of strategic management, organizational learning, knowledge management and social network analysis provide complimentary perspectives that help executives to understand and select between the basic strategic choices when it comes to social business.
One of the fundamental questions in the field of strategic management research is how do organizations create and sustain competitive advantage? In seeking an answer to this question the strategic management literature developed a resource based view in which firms are perceived as bundles of idiosyncratic resources and capabilities. From this perspective, firms with resources that are valuable, rare, inimitable and non-substitutable can achieve sustainable competitive advantage.
With the emergence of the knowledge based economy in the 1990’s, some researchers argued that knowledge is the essence of the resource based view and that knowledge is the basic source of competitive advantage. If you’re thinking that this is all a bit dull, academic and that it has little to do with you then its worth noting that it’s this knowledge based view which has fueled the industry for knowledge management and related technologies such as SharePoint for the past 20 years.
A key criticism of the resource based view, and by extension the knowledge based view, has been the argument that the accumulation of valuable resources may not be sufficient to achieve sustainable competitive advantage, especially within high-velocity or rapidly changing markets. The argument is that in the dynamic global markets the winners are agile firms that combine rapid, flexible product innovation and the management capability to co-ordinate and redeploy internal and external competences. This ability to adapt and to achieve new forms of competitive advantage is referred to in the literature as Dynamic Capabilities.
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