Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM Converge towards the Collaborative Enterprise

At the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Milan where Esteban Kolsky and I presented the “The New Era of Customer Engagement with Social CRM“, I spoke with Emanuele Quintarelli of Open Knowledge who organized the event – and he did a very good job I might add!.  During our conversation Emanuele made the remark that Social CRM has now become an accepted part of the agenda in comparison with last year. Participants attending the previous edition found it strange to even mention customers when discussing E2.0 and preferred to focus on the software solutions – but this year this seems to have changed completely.


It was thus of particular interest to me to note was that the notion of the Social Customer and that we need to organise to engage is starting to gain traction from the protagonists of Enterprise 2.0 (see Bertrand Duperrin’s take on it here).  For example, Emanuele Scotti’s opening speech dealt with changing needs and behaviors of the Social Customer, followed by Sameer Patel‘s excellent Keynote who continued on by talking about how companies should organize for customers that want to interact with the company (and not only be passive buyers). And as a sidenote – on the vendor side, Jive Software for example is adding “Social CRM features” and repositioning itself as as a “Social Business” platform provider.

In my opinion the discussion around Enterprise 2.0 has been too internal-facing and focused on the tools, rather than what the objectives for collaborating actually are. The market is maturing though as we see the approach evolve from innovators to early adopters. This was especially evident when looking at the agenda of the Milan edition, in contrast to the Boston edition that is still more focused on the software “solutions” (go ahead and deploy this module and you are now a “Social Business”..NOT!). Could it be that Europe is leading the way in its understanding of what it takes (culture, organisation, customer focus, employee engagement…)?

Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0

Although collaboration in customer driven organisations in not a new concepts (albeit still exceptional rather than a rule), Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM were meant for each other. a Social CRM customer engagaement programme that has no link back into the enterprise risks becoming cloistured in whichever department that decides to pick up on it first – thus risking incoherent experiences when a customer interacts with another department for whatever reason. Enterprise 2.0 on the other hand has been about collaboration, but  sometimes it seems that it is just for Collaboration’s sake. What Social CRM brings to the party is a compelling business reason, namely to collaborate for, around and with the customer to better meet desired outcomes.

Social Business as the Business Model

In my opinion the next step is the “Collaborative Enterprise”, organised around understanding customer jobs and collaborating with the ecosystem (customers, employees, partners, suppliers, channels) to deliver on the desired outcomes. This is not about about implementing Web 2.0 technology to make your organisation “Social”, but rather using the means available to facilitate communication and knowledge flows to get the customer job done. Furthermore, it is about organising the enterprise on its road to becoming a customer-driven, customer-focused extended company, and facilitating systemic integration to achieve this – as described by Ranjay Gulati in his excellent book “Reorganize for Resilience“.
It is not about introducing new tools to do business in roughly the same way – only more effectively and efficiently, it is about adapting our business model to become a Social Business so as to take into account changes in the business environment, most notably the advent of the Social Customer.

The Collaborative Enterprise

The “collaborative enterprise” is one such approach of adapting the business model. The basic premise is that it serves as an interaction and reference hub through which stakeholders can collaborate to match expectations with outcomes – mainly of customers, but also all other parties – by first and foremost understanding what these are and putting the mechanisms and processes in place to gather and share insights and act upon them. The idea is not only to “collaborate” with  your customers by interacting and engaging with them and thus glean actionable insights, but  also extend this by collaborating with other stakeholders to combine their understanding with yours so as to provide the desired outcomes such as a satisfactory end-to-end customer experience – presale, sale and postsale, or by shaping your new offering through collaborative innovation etc.

I’d like to add here that your unique understanding of your customers and what their desired outcomes are, form the basis for your competitive advantage. The product you manufacture, I can build in China or wherever far cheaper than you can, the service package you offer I can copy very quickly, but the relation you have with your customers which allows you to meet their expectations – and which draws new customers to you – I cannot readily emulate.

I’ll look at the above in more detail in follow-up posts, let me know whether you want me to look at something in particular. Also please leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts, I’m keen to hear them!