On Social Business and Culture…

Sure, we’re going to say that a focus on culture and change management is critical. It’s what we do after all. So don’t just take our word for it, see what some of the most trusted names in the industry have to say about it.

Gartner recently estimated that “80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology.

Carol Rozwell, a Gartner analyst, states

Leaders need to develop a social business strategy that makes sense for the organization and tackle the tough organizational change work head on and early on. Successful social business initiatives require leadership and behavioral changes. Just sponsoring a social project is not enough.

Mckinsey  reached the same outcome in its recent report stating:

To reap the full benefit of social technologies, organizations must transform their structures, processes, and cultures: they will need to become more open and nonhierarchical and to create a culture of trust. Creating these conditions will be far more challenging than implementing the technologies themselves.

In the excellent Forrester report The Road To Social Business Transformation Begins With A Burning Platform they state:

The technologists in the IT department can roll out beautifully designed social business tools, but it won’t matter if the business has cultural barriers to collaboration. 

Forrester’s Nigel Fenwick, VP and Principal Analyst serving CIO’s had this to tell us:

We certainly see a command and control culture as a fundamental roadblock to effective collaboration if leaders are unwilling to break down the cultural barriers. Another cultural barrier exists where employees are rewarded for protecting their own IP – you see this in firms where IP becomes a currency for success such as consulting and where collaboration is not rewarded equally. As we begin to be able to measure the degree to which employees collaborate in helpful ways through social technology, we will be able to build improved reward mechanisms to drive the desired behaviors and break down long-standing cultural barriers.


Jive Chief Strategy Officer Christopher Morace had this to say about the key success factors when trying to create a social business:

I think there are a couple of things that are critically important to enabling success. The first is understanding the way your own organization works, adapts, and evolves.  The second is selecting the right technology platform to enable it. People get confused into thinking that technology will solve everything, or that technology isn’t important at all. The reality is that you need to be very mindful of both organization and technological concerns.

IBM’s Vice President Sandy Carter is also a strong advocate for culture’s role in social business success:

Culture is extremely important to a successful social business transformation, in many regards, it’s even more important than the technology you use. An organization must promote a business culture of transparency and trust from senior leadership to those working in the field. It must work to encourage a culture of sharing as well, employees need to feel comfortable sharing their sentiment and collaborating across teams and departments. With these cultural elements in order, an organization is setting itself up for a successful social business transformation.

The IBM Institute for Business Value report on “The business of Social Business, What Works and How It’s Done” emphasizes the point:

Change management remains a critical requirement in embedding successful social business practices in an organization. But, the implication is also quite clear: social business requires a unique application of traditional change management principles to influence corporate culture and performance.

IDC & IBM’s Report on IBM’s transformation to social business,  Becoming a Social Business: The IBM Story, outlines some of the lessons about culture’s role in the transition: 

Although the internal transformation is still under way at IBM, valuable lessons have been learned along the way. One of the biggest lessons learned was that social business transformation involved more changes to culture than technology. According to Jeanne Murray, BlueIQ Consulting IT Program Manager, IBM Software Group:

We made a rookie mistake early on focusing on the tools and trying to get the tools message out. One of the things that we have learned is that while we all have the same kinds of problems finding information and finding people, all these different roles in the company have different processes for achieving their tasks.

Luis Suarez added:

Our lesson learned was to stop focusing on the technology and move into how people work, into their day-to-day tasks.

Yammer’s Head of Community, Maria Ogneva, wrote a great post on The Cultural Imperative For A Social Business 

How does one become social internally? Just launch an internal social network like Yammer of course, and wait for magic to happen? Not so fast! No matter how intuitive a platform is to use, roll out or administer, this effort has to land on the fertile ground of the right culture.

Charlene Li, founder of  Altimeter Group, has this to say about social business adoption:

The biggest determinants, by far, of whether you will be successful at social business are leadership and culture.