Social Business and The Elastic Enterprise

How does the Elastic enterprise relate to that other big meme of the day: social business? I’ve begun exploring that over on Forbes, in response to Alistair Rennie’s piece on the same topic (and updated my post on what is a social business here).

The point about social business is that many companies are exploring different aspects of social (social media, collaboration) BUT they tend to do that in something of a strategic black hole. Social business is actually a process objective – do things better. Companies looking at social should take care to set strategic goals – that’s where the Elastic Enterprise comes in.

In the diagram you can see the different modalities of social business. Collaborative consumption is starred because it can be both a category and part of the platforms category.

All these modalities have been called “social business”.

From an elastic enterprise standpoint the end-goal of deploying any of these would be to scale a business more quickly at lower cost relative to the potential ROI, in the process moving into new markets with a platform and ecosystem model.

Here’s an example. GE recently announced it would spend $100 million on a new grand challenge – seeking a better way to deal with cancer, particularly breast cancer. GE are doing this on a public ideation platform healthymagination.com.

There is no revenue ROI involved in the spend. Talking to VP healthymagination this morning Mike Barber, Mike tells me the outcome metrics are “number of women positively impacted” – in the breast cancer area 1 million.

But the business objective is to use elastic enterprise methodologies to reposition GE’s business in health and to create an ecosystem that will enable them to do so.

An open challenge at $100 million will help generate new business ecosystems – drawing in people from new specialist backgrounds such as data analytics, software developers and …. who knows. At the very least you can anticipate that such a scaled challenge will entice very bright people (along with  few cranks of course).

It might also lead to a new paradigm for cancer care, though that is uncertain. What is most likely is that the health services’ view of the disease and its treatment will be heavily augmented by a new ecosystem with varying new perspectives and a whole lot of talent. From that springs a new well for innovation, one where markets are in some sense redefined.

GE’s business will be boosted by strong relationships with everyone in this new paradigm. It might be able to cherry pick a new generation of solutions.

That might sound unfocused compared to conventional ROI calculations. But in reality it’s a very sapient approach. It acknowledges that GE can’t control the future, that it needs new partners, and that the challenge opens new opportunities for an ecosystem not just for GE.

The business ecosystem is a social dimension to business, one that’s growing in importance. It is a more productive one than social media.

The essence of the elastic enterprise is using the social environment to extend the capabilities of the enterprise. GE, incidentally, have gone one step further and used its influence to extend the capabilities of the social environment – by realizing this new ecosystem.  The relationship between social business and the Elastic Enterprise then is simple. Social business as its currently framed is diverse but at least in the developed economies it lacks strategic purpose and definition. The Elastic Enterprise makes use of social business processes to achieve quite specific goals: new markets, radical adjacencies and scale.

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