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Middle Managers Struggle with Enterprise Social Media, IBM Finds

Middle Managers Struggle with Enterprise Social Media, IBM Finds
November 21, 2012 11:01AM

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IBM demonstrated that the key to accelerating widespread adoption of social media in business lies in two areas: an organization's ability to build social business expertise among employees, and encouraging behavioral changes that may influence a wider cultural shift. However, only one-quarter of companies believe they are prepared for this, IBM found.

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Companies are increasing their social technology investments, but middle management leaders are struggling to embrace these capabilities as part of their day-to-day work. So says a new IBM study.

While 46 percent of the organizations increased their investments in social technologies in 2012, only 22 percent believed that managers are prepared to incorporate social tools and approaches into their daily practices. Two-thirds of respondents were not sure they sufficiently understood the impact that social technologies would have on their organizations over the next three years.

The report, entitled, "The Business of Social Business: What Works and How It's Done," reveals companies at the forefront of this trend are doing more than developing a presence on major social platforms. As IBM defines it, a social business embeds social technologies into core business processes, and then applies the technologies to drive customer-facing activities such as lead generation, sales and post-sales service.

"Businesses are struggling to make sense of the vast amount of data generated from social networks, said Kevin Custis, vice president and global leader social business and mobility services at IBM Global Business Services. "To transform a vision into a reality, executive leadership must guide middle management on the value of being a social business, and build companywide support for the use of social practices across organizational functions."

Encouraging Behavioral Changes

In the study, IBM demonstrated that the key to accelerating widespread adoption of social media in business lies in two areas: an organization's ability to build social business expertise among employees and encouraging behavioral changes that may influence a wider cultural shift. However, only one-quarter of companies believe they are fully prepared to address the cultural changes that are associated with this transformation.

For organizations to evolve into social enterprises, IBM suggests some basic groundwork must be laid. At the most basic level, for example, management must provide an infrastructure for engagement: setting up forums, team rooms and collaborative spaces.

Once this groundwork is laid, social practices should be integrated into day-to-day work activities. For example, using blog posts and activity streams can positively accentuate project management tasks. The organization must also create the capability to understand where and how data generation could benefit the enterprise. Finally, management must teach employees how to collaborate effectively with individuals outside of the organization's boundaries, using social business methods and tools.

Getting Employee Buy-In

"Modern employees are eager to adopt tools that help them collaborate with team members -- and across teams," said Morgan Norman, CEO of WorkSimple. "But you can lay all the groundwork and still not see employees adopt your enterprise social media technologies. The key is getting employee buy-in on social media tools that add value to their daily work flow and help them demonstrate the impact they are making on the organization."

With the effective use of social technologies, IBM concludes organizations can integrate and analyze massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors and more easily align these insights to business processes to make faster, more accurate business decisions.

By gaining deeper insights in customer and market trends and employees' sentiment, businesses can uncover critical patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions.

According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for social enterprise apps is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016.

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