The good news for fans of social business: companies are increasing their investments. The less-good news: middle managers are struggling to use these new capabilities on a daily basis.

That’s a key finding from a new report by IBM, The Business of Social Business: What Works and How It’s Done. The report surveyed 1160 businesses and IT professionals, and found that 46 percent of the organizations increased spending on social technologies, but only 22 percent thought their managers were ready to use those tools and the resulting data.

A Social Cultural Shift

In addition, two-thirds of respondents expressed uncertainty about the impact social technologies would have on their organizations over the next three years.

Kevin Custis, Vice President and Global Leader of Social Business and Mobility Services at IBM, said in a statement that “businesses are struggling to make sense of the vast amount of data generated from social networks.” To achieve the potential, he said, executive leadership must “guide middle management on the value of being a social business,” in which social technologies are embedded into core business processes, and then both levels of management need to build company-wide support.

The report emphasizes the need for nothing less than a cultural shift inside organizations as the key to widespread adoption of the technologies. To accomplish such a shift, IBM recommends what it calls “basic groundwork.”


Integration, Understanding Social

This includes an infrastructure for engagement, with online forums, team rooms and collaborative spaces that are integrated into daily work activities. As an example, the report proposed that blog posts and activity streams be used to highlight the tasks continually required for effective project management.

There also needs to be an understanding of how data generated by the social technologies -- from people, devices and sensors -- can actually be used to benefit the organization, the report said. And management should set up structures and guidance for using social business methods and tools to collaborate with outside parties.

While the effort is substantial, the payoff can be large. The report emphasized that the effective use of social technologies can provide “deeper insights in customer and market trends and employees’ sentiment,” as well as uncover patterns so that an organization can quickly react to market shifts -- or better predict how the future might unfold.