social business

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Voices


Great brands require more than just a good product — it’s the full experience people have across the product, all interactions and their outcomes. Like consumer businesses aspire to be a lifestyle brand, I believe we are in the midst of creating “workstyle” brands that will change the way we communicate, collaborate and work — forever.

A collaborative, invested and productive workforce is a powerful one. It has been years since I first adopted the power of “social business” as a better way to work. At that time, I led marketing at NetApp when we were rapidly changing and growing. We needed the organization to rally behind the new strategic direction, and required a better way to communicate and collaborate at all levels.

We decided to take a social business approach at a time when the industry was still very new. The choice was not yet proven: Would people adopt the technology, and would it work like it promised?

Spoiler alert: It proved a great decision for the company, workforce and culture. And as a result, teams worked better together and delivered better results. I learned from then-CEO Dan Warmenhoven about the importance of building the style of an organization.

This experience was formative in developing my deep belief that using technology in purposeful ways directly impacts an organization’s culture and its success. As the pace and complexity of business increases, teams, partners and customers must work better together, because a collaborative culture directly impacts results. Doing this creates a number of important benefits for people and businesses.

But it seems to me that the term “social business” for the enterprise is limiting. When you consider the actual outcomes — a transformational cultural change that makes people more effective — the term doesn’t seem quite right. Sure, some of the underlying functionality is familiar — social streams, status updates and “Like” buttons — but the real heart of social for the enterprise is so much more than that. It’s about getting work done a better way — a way that creates a workstyle where people can be and do their best.

Today there is opportunity, user-centric requirements, and technology for companies to work better. Some of the biggest enterprises in the world have already adopted this dynamic and empowering way of working. The hypothesis has been proven: Productivity is up, effectiveness has improved, people feel more connected and informed, the time to get things done has decreased — and customers are engaged in communities of common purpose helping each other every day. Workstyle matters to the business and its people.

It’s not about just the technology; it’s about enabling people to have influence and connection for a common purpose. It’s about hearing from customers and providing them with the best possible support in a rich community environment. It’s about aligning behind one strategy, one set of goals. Sharing a common purpose makes us all feel more effective and more engaged — and that’s a very powerful enabler to a culture that provides true competitive advantage.

No matter what we call it, living this workstyle is no longer optional — it’s a business imperative to compete effectively. It isn’t about email replacement, online chat, or even important social features. Instead, it integrates all the ways people work as a team to accomplish the great things they could not have otherwise achieved.

I was inspired by Rowan Trollope at the recent Enterprise Connect conference. He said, “There will no doubt be tremendous growth in collaboration as people understand how these technologies create a better way to work.”

I think that the better way is about building a workstyle brand — one that people love to use, love to talk about and refuse to give up.

Elisa Steele is executive vice president of strategy and CMO, Jive. Reach her @elisasteele.



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