Social Business Initiatives Need Focus, Clarity: Gartner

The analyst firm predicted by 2016, half of large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks, and 30 percent of these will be considered essential.

Through 2015, 80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology, even as enterprise social networks become the primary communication channels for noticing, deciding or acting on information relevant to carrying out work, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

The company predicted by 2016, 50 percent of large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks, and that 30 percent of these will be considered as essential as email and telephones are today. The leaders of social business initiatives need to shift their emphasis away from deciding which technology to implement and focus on identifying how social initiatives will improve work practices for both individual contributors and managers, the report said.

"Businesses need to realize that social initiatives are different from previous technology deployments," vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Carol Rozwell said in a statement. "Traditional technology rollouts, such as ERP or CRM, followed a 'push' paradigm. Workers were trained on an app and were then expected to use it. In contrast, social initiatives require a 'pull' approach, one that engages workers and offers them a significantly better way to work. In most cases, they can't be forced to use social apps, they must opt-in."

Rozwell also commented that there is too much focus on content and technology, and not enough focus on leadership and relationships, suggesting leaders should instead focus on developing 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,” Rozwell said. “Just sponsoring a social project is not enough — managers need to demonstrate their commitment to a more open, transparent work style by their actions."

Gartner said businesses need a detailed understanding of social networks, including how people are currently working, who they work with and what their needs are. A Facebook-like social networking environment, for example, could be used as a general-purpose communication channel where information and events that originate in external systems such as email, office applications and business applications could be injected into conversations.

"Users should include gamified-social-mobile fusion as a desired set of characteristics when evaluating new application investments," vice president and Gartner Fellow Tom Austin said in a statement. "Applications and app-providers that fail to exploit the benefits of gamification-social-mobile fusion should expect underwhelming adoption, and therefore sales, of any user-facing products competing against alternatives that exploit the benefits of this fusion."