There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods? There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.
My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.
As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.
The Social Species
At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping. When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.
Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.
On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.
At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.
The pioneers understand that everything new is old again. They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.
The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.
Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools.
In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,
“The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”
I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!
Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives. Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.
Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?
The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.
Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.
In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”
The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:
I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?
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