Business Problem-Solving Case Social Business: Full Speed Ahead or Proceed with Caution?
As companies become more dispersed in the global marketplace, employees are turning increasingly toworkplace collaboration technology, including tools for internal social networking. According to Craig Le
Clair, principal analyst for enterprise architecture at Forrester Research, 50 percent of global workers by2020 will be between 20 and 35 years old. These employees are experienced users of texting, messaging,
wikis, and Facebook and appreciate work tools like the social media and chat apps used in their privatelives.
Adoption of internal social networking inside the company, often referred to as enterprise social networking,is also being driven by the flood of email that employees typically receive each day and are increasingly
unable to handle. Hundreds of email messages must be opened, read, answered, forwarded, or deleted. Forexample, too much email is what drove Hawk Ridge Systems to adopt Glip, a cloud-based social tool for its
200 employees located in 15 offices in the United States and Canada. Glip features real-time messaging,group chat, videoconferencing, shared calendars, task management, and file sharing all in one place. Glip
helped Hawk Ridge operations manager Samuel Eakin go from 200 to around 30 emails per day. Anotherdriver of enterprise social networking is “app fatigue.” In order to collaborate, many employees have to log
on to numerous apps, creating additional work. Contemporary enterprise social networking systems oftenintegrate multiple capabilities in one place.
A recent survey of 421 professionals conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services found that
collaboration tools could be effective in boosting efficiency and productivity while enabling users to makebetter business decisions. The products also expanded the potential for innovation. However, not all
companies are successfully using them. Implementation and adoption of enterprise social networkingdepends not only on the capabilities of the technology but on the organization’s culture and the compatibility
of these tools with the firm’s business processes.
When firms introduce new social media technology (as well as other technologies), a sizable number of
employees resist the new tools, clinging to old ways of working, including email, because they are morefamiliar and comfortable. There are companies where employees have duplicated communication on both
social media and email, increasing the time and cost of performing their jobs. BASF, the world’s largestchemical producer with subsidiaries and joint ventures in more than 80 countries, prohibited some project
teams from using email to encourage employees to use new social media tools.
Social business requires a change in thinking, including the ability to view the organization more
democratically in a flatter and more horizontal way. A social business is much more open to everyone’sideas. A secretary, assembly line worker, or sales clerk might be the source of the next big idea. As a result,
getting people to espouse social business tools requires more of a “pull” approach, one that engagesworkers and offers them a significantly better way to work. In most cases, they can’t be forced to use social
Enterprise capabilities for managing social networks and sharing digital content can help or hurt an
organization. Social networks can provide rich and diverse sources of information that enhance
organizational productivity, efficiency, and innovation, or they can be used to support preexisting groups of
like-minded people who are reluctant to communicate and exchange knowledge with outsiders. Productivityand morale will fall if employees use internal social networks to criticize others or pursue personal agendas.
Social business applications modeled on consumer-facing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will not
necessarily work well in an organization or organizational department that has incompatible objectives. Willthe firm use social business for operations, human resources, or innovation? The social media platform that
will work best depends on its specific business purpose.
This means that instead of focusing on the technology, businesses should first identify how social initiatives
will actually improve work practices for employees and managers. They need a detailed understanding ofsocial networks: how people are currently working, with whom they are working, what their needs are, and
measures for overcoming employee biases and resistance.
A successful social business strategy requires leadership and behavioral changes. Just sponsoring a social
project is not enough—managers need to demonstrate their commitment to a more open, transparent workstyle. Employees who are used to collaborating and doing business in more traditional ways need an
incentive to use social software. Changing an organization to work in a different way requires enlisting thosemost engaged and interested in designing and building the right workplace environment for using social
Management needs to ensure that the internal and external social networking efforts of the company are
providing genuine value to the business. Content on the networks needs to be relevant, up to date, and easyto access; users need to be able to connect to people who have the information they need and who would
otherwise be out of reach or difficult to reach. Social business tools should be appropriate for the tasks onhand and the organization’s business processes, and users need to understand how and why to use them.
For example, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center had to abandon a custom-built enterprise social networkcalled Spacebook because no one knew how its social tools would help people do their jobs. Spacebook
was launched in 2009 to help small teams collaborate without emailing larger groups. Spacebook featureduser profiles, group workspaces (wikis, file sharing, discussion forums, groups), and social bookmarks. Very
few users adopted it, and Spacebook was decommissioned on June 1, 2012. According to Kevin Jones, aconsulting social and organizational strategist at NASA’s Marshall and Goddard Space Flight Centers,
Spacebook failed because it didn’t focus enough on people. It had been designed and developed withouttaking into consideration the organization’s culture and politics. No one knew how Spacebook would help
them do their jobs as opposed to an existing method of collaboration such as email. This is not an isolatedphenomenon. Dimension Data found that one-fourth of the 900 enterprises it surveyed focused more on the
successful implementation of collaboration technology than how it’s used and adopted.
Despite the challenges associated with launching an internal social network, there are companies using
these networks successfully. For example, Covestro, a leading global supplier of coatings and adhesives,polyurethanes, and highly impact-resistant plastics, made social collaboration a success by making the tools
more accessible, demonstrating the value of these tools in pilot projects, employing a reverse mentoringprogram for senior executives, and training employee experts to spread know-how of the new social tools
and approaches within the company and demonstrate their usefulness. Using IBM Connections as the social
business toolset, Covestro’s efforts are now paying off: 50 percent of employees are now routinely active inthe company’s enterprise social network. Although ROI on social business initiatives has been difficult to
measure, Covestro has benefited from faster knowledge flows, increased efficiency, and lower operatingcosts.
Another company that has made social business work is Carlo’s Bake Shop, an old family-owned business
that is the star of the Cake Boss reality television series on the cable television network TLC. The companyhas 10 locations in New Jersey, New York, and Las Vegas, and people can order custom cakes from its
website. Thanks to the popularity of Cake Boss, which created a huge upsurge in demand for Carlo’sproducts, the firm is looking to create a national presence over the next few years.
However, store operations were holding the company back. Carlo’s was heavily paper-based, and themountain of paperwork wasted employee time and led to errors, which sometimes resulted in a need to fix or
remake cakes or offer partial or total refunds to customers. Custom orders were on paper and carbon paper,order forms were misplaced or lost, and people couldn’t read the handwriting from the order taker.
In the latter half of 2012, Carlo’s implemented Salesforce CRM with the Salesforce social networking toolChatter as a solution. Some employees and members of Carlo’s management team initially resisted the new
system. They believed that since they already used email, Facebook, and Twitter, they didn’t need anothersocial tool. The company was able to demonstrate the benefits of social business to bakers and store sales
teams, and using Chatter changed the way they worked.
Carlo’s produces a very large volume of custom cakes from a 75,000-square-foot commissary in Jersey City
operating around the clock. Chatter is now the de facto standard for internal communication, from order todelivery. If a key cake decorator is away, that person is still included in the communication and discussion
process. Upon returning, the decorator can view any changes in color, shape, or design.
Because Carlo’s employees now work more socially, errors are down by more than 30 percent, and crews
are able to produce cakes and other custom products more rapidly and efficiently. Managers have access toa data and analytics dashboard that allows them to instantly view store performance and which products are
hot and which are not. They can see sales and transaction patterns in depth. As Carlo’s expands nationallyand perhaps globally, the ability to connect people and view order streams is critical. Social business tools
have transformed an organization that was gradually sinking under the weight of paper into a highly efficientdigital business.
Sources: Sue Hildreth, “What’s Next for Workplace Collaboration?” searchcontentmanagement.com, March 2, 2017; Arunima Majumdar, “3 Reasons Why
Collaboration Tools Fail to Make the Indented Impact,” eLearning Industry, January 20, 2017; Margaret Jones, “Top Four Social Collaboration Software Fails,”
searchmobilecoputing.techtarget.com, accessed March 14, 2017; Cordelia Kroob, “The Growth of an Enterprise Social Network at BASF,” www.simply-
communicate.com, accessed March 12, 2017; Insight Enterprises Inc., “Collaboration Technology Boosts Organizations, According to an Insight-Sponsored Report by
Harvard Business Review Analytic Services,” February 13, 2017; Dimension Data, “2016 Connected Enterprise Report,” 2016; Gerald C. Kane, “Enterprise Social
Media: Current Capabilities and Future Possibilities,” MIS Quarterly Executive, March 2015; and Dion Hinchcliffe, “In Europe’s Biggest Firms, Social Business Is All
Grown Up,” Enterprise Web 2.0, February 12, 2015.
Case Study Questions
Go to the Assignments section of MyLab MIS to complete these writing exercises.
2-13 Identify the people, organization, and technology factors responsible for impeding adoption of
internal corporate social networks.2-14 Compare the experiences implementing internal social networks of the organizations described
in this case. Why were some successful? What role did management play in this process?2-15 Should all companies implement internal enterprise social networks? Why or why not?
2-16 Identify and describe the capabilities of enterprise social networking software.2-17 Describe the systems various management groups use within the firm in terms of the
information they use, their outputs, and groups served.
Chapter 2 References
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