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How does social business change the role of the executive

06.22.2013
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business_leader_brain_lightbul_450Most implementations of social business tools and principles involve a change in how organisations behave, and of course in how the individuals that make up the organisation behave.  Most of the discussions of these changes revolve around how changes will impact the rank and file behaviours, but what about the C suite?  What will be the impact of social business on the boardroom?

I've already written about the role social media can play in strategy dissemination, but what other impacts might it have?  One of the first places to look is the way executive teams themselves work together.  A social business project nearly always cuts across organisational lines.  It involves the sharing of data and cross department collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Many in the marketing department for instance are utilising technology as much as their peers in the IT team.  Indeed Gartner predict that by 2017 the marketing department will be spending more on IT than the CIO.  So it makes sense for these teams to work more closely together.

Marketing leaders can input into the strategic purchasing of IT systems, whilst their IT peers can provide a wider overview of how systems work together and fit into what the rest of the organisation is doing.  When it comes to scale the project, they'll have a better idea of the enterprise architecture within which it will sit.

Likewise your HR department are likely to have a big say in the culture that is created at your enterprise.  They, together with the CFO, can determine how people are judged, what kind of behaviours are to be reinforced, how salaries are determined and so on.  If you want a collaborative culture, yet renumeration is structured along individual lines, it will always be difficult.

Such cross departmental objectives have led many to suggest that a new role should be created to focus on this.  Whether it's called a Chief Social Officer, a Chief Digital Officer or even a Chief Collaboration Officer, this person has responsibility for ensuring the organisation works well together.

Today, many well-known organisations — both for-profit and nonprofit — in a wide range of industries employ a chief digital officer. Among them are Gannett, NBC, Simon & Schuster, Starbucks, Columbia University and Harvard University.

Buying the tools and praying they get used effectively is seldom a good recipe for success, so it is likely that becoming a social business will involve changes in how the executive team work just as much as it will changes in how the rank and file work.  The evidence suggests that it's the organisations with leaders prepared to make those changes that successfully transfer into social organisations.