Social Business Framework: an integrated approach to managing enterprise communities

Earlier today, Charlie Hill, CTO for IBM’s Collaboration Solutions provided an overview of Social Business as the first in a series of webinars on this topic.

I’m familiar with the confusion that exists in the marketplace around what Social Business represents, from those who see this as little more than the old oil of social media in new bottles, to the appropriation of the ambiguous term ‘social’ (there’s no direct link here to ‘corporate social responsibility’ or ‘socialist policies’. Charlie did a good job of setting out his stall, suggesting:

  • Social business accelerates communication and collaboration across networks of employees, customers and partners
  • Enterprises may use social content to capture and share expertise and best practices, making ad hoc processes more efficient and transparent
  • Social business enables new business insights by analyzing social data to gain a better understanding of business situations and the decision-making process

Key points here are that that social networks create real business value and allow businesses to be more agile and flexible. You can’t just put up a Facebook page and consider that the job’s done.

Charlie spent the rest of the presentation covering the Social Business Framework, which he defined as follows:

(click to expand)

Consider roles/processes/applications

This should start before any software or technical evaluation. Look at where the current bottlenecks or costly process fissures occur and start with looking at how these can be fixed. Also look for areas where most employees are spending most time. Around these processes are the areas where you stand to see the biggest improvements.


This can be described as facilitating communication across the ecosystem. It could be the use of messaging services to share short, synchronous messages with suppliers. It could be an internal Twitter-style tool.


Intranets are nothing new. Fundamental here is the development of systems to allow user-generated content. Holding product documentation within a wiki environment where any user can add input is an example of this.


In this context, insight refers to using analytics to monitor the social space. It could be that you look for keyword trends to help structure the information and ensure that the system prioritizes the content of most interest to users.

Identity integration and governance

User accounts need to be maintained. Within an organization it may make sense to relate profiles to the organizational structure to help users determine the relative importance of content and understand where the perspective is coming from.

There may also be some information which should remain private. Perhaps delicate communication between HR and Finance around a merger. Governance policies and security can guard against nasty accidents. 

Cooperative application technologies

There can be a number of tools within the enterprise that can be enhanced by integrating social components. Eg. web analytics. Integration could be handled through widgets, APIs, LDAP or other methods that tie systems together.

Strategy and change management

The bookends on this diagram talk to implementation and maintenance of the Social Business Framework. Given the fact that this market is by no means mature, you should definitely consider what the upgrade path may look like and how easily the delivery model can be changed (like moving the application to the cloud).

This webinar provided a great primer on Social Business and provides a stepping stone into the further topics in this webinar series: The Social Business Toolkit, Lifting Applications to the Cloud, Social Applications go Mobile.