This week, I’ve had the privilege to participate in the Sales 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 conferences in Boston, MA.

It’s been good to see old friends, meet new ones, and/or insert a handshake or hug into a previously only virtual relationship. The conference(s) also provided a great chance to check on the pulse of the industry, hear new stories, and generally get a broader and better sense for what’s going on the in the marketplace. 

Like a room full of toddlers, the industry is learning to walk. There have been starts, stops, over compensations, disparity amongst players in general understanding and development, and in some cases, the harsh realization that we’re just not quite ready to do what we want to do.

1. Society, and therefore, the workplace is (still) evolving
This statement could have been (and was) written 5 years ago, but we’re early enough in the evolution that it’s still worth noting. The growth of a new wave of human communication, empowerment, and progress continues to move on. The pervasiveness of mobile and social technologies continues to expand geographically, and also more deeply penetrate individuals work lives in a continually blurred kaleidoscope of contexts.

2. Visions are still being cast, and re-cast

From my vantage point, the key tenets of social business benefits have been flushed out. While collectively most of us understand that a more efficient, more collaborative, more distributed way of living is coming, organizations and vendors alike continue to wrestle with what exactly that vision looks like in a tangible way. Tactical plans, and even organizational vision seems to be in a stage of frequent recalibration as more information emerges from the marketplace.

This, in and of itself, is one of the benefits of the realized benefits of a more collaborative culture. The shorter the feedback loop, the more opportunity for recalibration and alignment with stakeholder needs.

A major challenge facing operators on both the vendor and practitioner sides, respectively, is what feedback to take into consideration, and how to weight it appropriately. A similar dilemma faces stock traders; what is a meaningful movement versus what are short term fluctuations and what meanings and importance should be applied to myriad of elements flowing through the industry and customer firehose.

3. What’s the value?

Like any change initiative, WIIFMs are required. This is not different than any other technology powered advancement. While the broad based benefits of sentiment analysis, knowledge sharing, real time collaboration, and big data analytics are understood, the tangible benefit of social technologies will vary significanly for each organization, and quite frankly, each individual that interacts within its ecosystem.

Identifying the organizational goals, and coupling that with the perceived benefits of a wide audience of stakeholders is key to setting strategy, and establishing the corresponding tactical approach.

Questions like:

What’s the problem?
Who’s the customer (can be internal or external)?
What are they trying to accomplish, collectively and individually?
How do they do it now?
How can we make it better?
…and a host of other questions associated with the value creation process

…all still carry the same weight. I see the same high risk potential with the implementation and/or deployment of social technologies that we’ve seen with the introduction of ERP, CRM, Knowledge Management, E-Commerce, etc.

Business cases and value propositions are still necessary. ROI analysis may or may not be.

4. The customer is rising in importance and focus

One key thing that is encouraging is that conversations about the customer are gaining more prominence. Enterprise 2.0 had an entire track dedicated to sales and marketing that had good attendance. Kudos to Sameer Patel for putting the track together.

5. Enough thought leadership. It’s time to get to work.

Very few new ideas have emerged. New spins, new takes, new anecdotes are being spun, but very few epiphany inspiring ideas are being spread. As noted earlier, the key tenets of the next half decade have already been flushed out.Pioneers in the space are now beginning to have lessons learned stories to tell. Case studies warn of pitfalls and show how and where success has been realized.

In general, there is a growing sentiment of “there’s nothing left to say”.

6. Sales as a litmus test.

Sales has been the laggard in the adoption of social tools. In the front office, the two other musketeers, marketing and customer service, have more often capitalized on the use of social media, social networking, social crm, and social blah, blah, blah.  While some may point to the sales guys and being technically less competent than some of the other workers in the organization, I point to another possible reason why the uptake has been slower to catch on.

No one else in the organization is as tightly tied to “pay for performance” than the sales team. Their butt is on the line daily. No one will be more resistant to employ useless strategies, tactics, and technologies than the ones whose compensation is as tightly aligned to their quarterly performance. If something is not helping them sell more, they are not using it. Their time is too valuable to work on non value-added toys. The end of the month is always just a few days away.

That said, more and more stories are emerging about global sales teams collaborating through Enterprise 2.0 tools, and/or individuals and teams from companies of all sizes using products like InsideView or OneSource to quickly access sales intelligence, partially leveraging data from the social web for this.

7. Empowering Human Movements
Whether we’re talking about political revolution, crowds self-aggregating for discounts, community members helping each other solve problems, or crowd sourced innovation, the common thread is that social technologies help to empower human movements. Social provides a platform where information and people can be searched for, identified, and harnessed for a specific purpose faster than any other time in history.

I expressed my views of social in “Circles”, and a more simplified version in “Social Business: May I try and simplify this?”

Social technologies help to empower human movements to achieve jobs of varying degrees; as small as responding to a question asked on LinkedIn, or as large as creating a hyper growth startup or overthrowing a government.  

Summary
The mesh of Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 philosophies, process and technology innovations continue to gain momentum, and are becoming more tightly entwined as the journey towards the pervasive emergence of the “social business”.  At varying points of the journey, however, organizations with a strong established trajectory are realizing that success is elusive for those that do not have the fundamentals in place (collaborative culture, functional systems of record, solid change management practices). 

  • http://gravatar.com/cocreatr cocreatr

    Indeed, a few blueprints for collaborative corporate culture might be in order. Among the empowering movements, let me point to http://worldblu.co and, http://www.blueeconomy.com

    Some deconstruction may be useful for the transition, too. See for example (long) @RebelCapitalist: Participatory Economics: The Why, What, & How of Economic Revolution http://bit.ly/hrtBXU

  • http://twitter.com/SameerPatel Sameer Patel

    Thanks for the kudos Brian. Personally this was huge for me as we start to frame the customer value proposition for internal collaboration practitioners. The complexity of internal collaboration often mandates deep in the trenches tactical work to get it right. With this cross pollination I help they can see why its an important component to serving customers as well.

    Your participation was just great. Thank you for moving the conversation forward.

  • http://www.clienteerhub.com Ray Brown

    Hi Brian Good summary as always, thanks. I think you are on the mark with your assessments. I do think that there are two additional considerations, namely, structure and skills. Too often I think businesses are a. trying to hammer new opportunities into existing structures (your observation on the salesman’s attitude to social media being a case in point) and b. there is an assumption that businesses already have the necessary skills to fully capitalise on new opportunities in the market. I believe that many of the business benefits from a changing customer landscape will be delivered with some new skills used in a cross-functional space