The esteemed JP Rangaswami, who was at the very front of creating Enterprise 2.0 at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and is now at Salesforce.com, has just written a compelling post Thinking about the Social Enterprise, in which he distills the essence of social business.
You really need to read the entire post to get the flow of his argument, however here are a couple of excerpts:
…there are some radical shifts away from the past:
> We’re now talking about real customers engaging directly with real businesses, in “real time”, a level of engagement hitherto unseen. No more “thinking a reflection of the moon in the pond is the sun” proxy approaches, no more focus groups, no more control samples. Actual customers. Saying what they think, about you, your products and services, their wants and needs.
> We’re now talking about real customers doing this in full view of other customers, a level of transparency hitherto unseen. No more price and contract obscurity, no more “what they don’t know won’t hurt us”.
> We’re now talking about real customers doing this with multiple businesses at the same time, a level of maturity hitherto unseen in retail market models. Not just across one company’s supply chain or distribution network, but “organised around the customer”.
JP goes on to say:
Customers are already in the process of organising businesses around them; to be around in five years, businesses will have to get better at letting customers do this.
> Understanding what the customer is about, and letting them understand what your business is about, is the first step
> Customers and businesses becoming part of the same networks, with the ability to speak as well as to listen, is the second step
> Rebuilding markets the way customers would build them is the third step
What JP is saying in his post is, I hope, largely very obvious by now. There are plenty of business executives – possibly even a majority in some markets – who are resisting these shifts, but this can only be willfully ignoring the evidence in front of them.
The first step mentioned above is exactly to the point of my book Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships.
The second step is at the heart of what is changing in business today, with social media giving customers a voice, and an increasing proportion of companies engaging with that.
That takes us to the third step, “rebuilding markets the way customers would build them.” We are still fairly early in this phase.
In some cases customers literally are building markets for themselves. However the far more extensive resources of companies are required to truly rebuild markets. It also requires initiatives that go beyond single companies, to industries reconfiguring themselves.
Of course, as Apple has done with its products, we can’t just ask customers how they would build markets, we must anticipate what would delight them if it were built.
We are a long way from truly building entire markets and industries around customers, rather than just companies. But this is the next phase of business. What an extraordinary and rewarding challenge.