“Touch the social enterprise” was the key mantra for the tenth annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco this year, which is organised by cloud computing company Salesforce.
Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s chairman and CEO, remarked that he had never before seen so many CMOs in attendance at the conference, which saw the launch of social media marketing software the Marketing Cloud and placed a strong emphasis on its employee social networking product Chatter.
While 72 per cent of companies are using social technology in some way, very few are anywhere near to achieving the full benefit of such technologies within their businesses for knowledge sharing and collaboration within and across companies – both globally and between departments – according to the McKinsey Global Institute.
Kristen Sanders, CEO and founder of Kredo Consulting, who was speaking at Dreamforce about her advisory work with Twitter, said the social enterprise space is still “young”, which explains why there is so much untapped potential.
She added: “I tell Twitter all the time – being cheeky and in jest – that operationally they’re just in their infancy [when it comes to internal communications]. We are trying to train them that they can apply the same best practices they’re enabling the world to leverage on a daily basis to a professional etiquette internally.”
Speaking at the same session, Nikki Curtis, sales effectiveness leader at LinkedIn, said building out an employee social network can help lock latent intellectual property the company has across the organisation and use it for best practices.
She added: “Onboarding and collaboration will be key for us to be successful…[but] we need to have a kind of organisational governance to take us to that next level. You’ve got to walk before you can run and now we’re really working on getting our stride.”
Coca-Cola is beginning to share knowledge more freely throughout the organisation by using social networking software as part of its innovation process.
Anthony Newstead, Coca-Cola’s global director of innovation and IT, said: “When you have a business challenge the temptation can be to outsource to bring it in via agencies, where in fact someone on the desk around your offices has a great idea…one of the challenges is to introduce new solutions and and processes to embrace that community. Ask them how you can solve it – you’ll be surprised by the answers.”
One of the biggest barriers to entry when it comes to adoption of employee social networks for cross-business collaboration can be legacy, especially in industries such as aviation, which has long been governed by “command oriented” people, according to Virgin America David Cush.
He said: “Investing in communicating with your people and culture isn’t as important to the big established guys but at some point they’ll wake up and realise they need to invest more in it.”
Andy Lark, CMO of Australia’s largest bank Commonwealth, says the “long journey” of rolling out Chatter to its tens of thousands of employees has actually helped break down the traditional hierarchal structures within the bank.
Our culture is unique [in the banking industry], social enables us to bring a whole new degree of transparency, practices and streamlines – we get barriers that get presented by technology that social bulldozes through,” he said.
Social is helping change the “vastly overstated” status of the CMO, Lark added, with new technologies meaning chief marketers are becoming more of a “custodian of outcomes”, collaborating across the organisation with marketing teams and the CIO to help grow the business.