Author: Sandy Carter
Publisher: IBM Press
Aimed at: Business leaders
Pros: Well-argued, highly readable
Cons: Aimed mainly at large-scale organisations
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
This isn't about layout or formatting as the subtitle "Using Social Media to Create a New Type of Social Business" indicates.
This is the second book I've reviewed from IBM's Vice President for Social Business Evangelism, Sandy Carter, and I'm even more impressed by it than by The New Language of Business: SOA & Web 2.0 .
This is possibly because this, her third book, is her favorite to date and also, as she confesses in the Preface, she is passionate about Social media and Social Business. In this book she has seized the opportunity for evangelism and, in my opinion, has succeeded.
Mainly thanks to her ability to make the nebulous concrete and turn vague intention into a plan of action. Carter also has a very readable style. This volume is anecdotes and while occasionally my reaction is "working that in is a bit contrived" the incident she describes, from her personal as well as her professional life are sufficiently interesting to merit inclusion. The book is also full of case histories and these are well-chosen, very varied and give in insider's view. This is especially the case with regard to the IBM material.
This is a very straightforward book. The first chapter outlines what its all about, the next seven chapters expand on this and the final chapter restates the main points and leaves it up to you to emulate the ideas having provided plenty of examples for you to use.
The first chapter first addresses the question, what is a social business? Part of the definition is:
one that understands how to embrace social technology, use, get value from it and manage the risk around it".
The key characteristics of a social business, according to Carter are that it is:
- Engaged - connects people to expertise for greater reach and new business opportunities
- Transparent - allowing it to sense and respond to customer mood
- Nimble - Uses social networks to speed up business decisions.
She then introduces the social business AGENDA - the acronym expanded below showing the chapter structure.
Chapter 2: Align Organizational Goals and Culture
Chapter 3: Gain Social Trust
Chapter 4: Engage Through Experience
Chapter 5: (Social) Network Your Business Processes
Chapter 6: Design for Reputation and Risk Management
Chapter 7: Analyze Your Data
This she considers "a consultative framework" with a "comprehensive set of workstreams". Within each workstream there are questions to be answered, including:
How will different roles use Social Business in their job?
How can we financially justify our Social Business solution?
I'm not going to spell out any further the arguments made in the central six chapters of the book. It is enough to say that each makes its case in a readable and well argued way illustrated with relevant information and using lists, illustrations, screen dumps, and case history material drawn from many sources.
The other idea introduced in the first chapter and expanded in Chapter 8 is that every business is dependent on technology. which is a driver of competitive advantage and will lace all the workstreams. It is included in the book so that business leader can work hand in hand with IT to select the right infrastructure.
In the final chapter, Draw up your own AGENDA, the problem isn't just handed over to the reader, as so often happens in this type of book. Instead, after a comprehensive summary of the action points from the central chapters, there are sample agendas that provide pointers to to build on instead of having to start your own from scratch.
Books like this have a tendency to go towards one of two extremes.
Ones that are too abstract and too complex can be jargon ridden and impenetrable. At the other end of the spectrum they contain advice that anyone could have provided - just common sense dressed up a bit. Carter succeeds by having worthwhile opinions of her own, grounding them in her own and others experience with facts and figures gleaned from many different sources and the wide range of case studies she includes. There is jargon but it is well explained - in context and in a glossary included before the index.
Overall this is recommended reading for any business leader whose organisation hasn't yet fully embraced social media, or for anybody who needs to make the case for this strategy.