Late last year, I coordinated a fun weekend project that went over pretty well called Social Media Predictions 2009. This year, reflecting a shift in where we see the space heading, Dachis Group launched Social Business Imperatives 2010.
As we wrap up 2009, I want to highlight some areas where our business will be focused in 2010. I could position these as predictions, but then I’d be stacking the deck because I know they’re already going to happen.
- A talent shortage. There are just not enough people out there who possess a deep understanding of social media combined with business strategy experience. In some cases, it’s not a lack of technical skills, but rather a lack of interpersonal acumen. On the flip side, this market void creates an opportunity for individuals who understand different functions, can navigate ambiguity in difficult political waters, and understand how to manage mission critical initiatives on a corporate level.
- Major social business strategy projects. You might not hear about any of these, because companies are putting infrastructure in place to support social business. There’s no need to tip off the competition by discussing what’s being built – these initiatives aren’t about creating short-term buzz; they’re about driving long-term profitability.
- Service provider consolidation. Lots of small companies out there “get it.” Fewer big companies don’t. As we roll into this maturing market for social business, scale is becoming the name of the game for clients and consultants alike.
- A shift in industry focus. The conversation about what’s next will come to rest on social business. We’ve been hearing about the same old proof of concept examples now for years – it’s time to figure out how to make social work for companies, not just individuals. A new wave of books will publish, but only a handful will be worth reading; many others will be sadly outdated and deliver DOA. Same goes for events – new gatherings and emergent outcomes, while others struggle to remain relevant.
All of these areas are related. If you are on the client-side, you may already be experiencing these issues; if not, then you may either have a window of opportunity or you may need to dig deeper into your competitive intelligence resources.
As for Dachis Group, we are actively hiring right now for the best professionals in social business. We’ve been working on strategy projects with major brands that will turn into the case studies of tomorrow. We are actively looking for companies that want to work with us closely to deliver social business design. And we’ll be convening our first annual Social Business Summit in Austin next March.
I guess if you don’t believe me, these might be predictions after all…but trust me on these.
Great post Peter, I agree with your assessment. Exciting times are ahead.
I think the Talent issue is a very real problem. In tech and in consulting we’ve seen increasing specialization – a trend towards a sort of vocational thinking and training/education. Given what is required from someone who is supposed to provide vision, insight and planning for forward thinking “social business” – narrow deep understanding is not only insufficient but likely to cause failure.
If education teaches people to be deep vertical specialists – and on-job training reinforces this – then the pool of people who have somehow escaped this experience is likely to be quite small indeed.
I think this is why you’re seeing more and more people coming from cross-disciplinary or non-standard backgrounds (architecture seems to be common) and why traditional liberal arts educations seem more successful.
Consolidation is logical. I think the issue is going to be the capital required to make this work. So while I think it’s logical (and would be good) I think it’s likely to be less common that the historical norm would indicate due to lack of access to required capital.
I think it’s pretty important to have multi-disciplinary teams. There are very few people out there in the social software business who have both a keen understanding of the technology aspect (IT strategy, platforms, integration issues, …) as well as a business/strategy consulting experience and fluent in talking with CxOs/management level. That’s why it’s quite important in my opinion to make sure that your engagement teams are a well-balanced mix that are not bothered by profit and loss political discussions with direct executive support (both financial as well as getting the mandate to do things).
So I think that your first point of talent shortage will be even more problematic for large enterprises who can’t find a good mix of skills.
I think cross-disciplinary teams are a worst-case solution (perhaps the only potentially viable solution when you don’t have the sort of broad thinkers in house that would be optimal).
But there are significant issues and weaknesses with this approach that make it worst-case.
First – social media / social business activities are inherently a series of constant very small decisions (communication, etc). It’s simply not realistic for each decision to be handled collectively. As a result, you will inevitably see drift and spread and an accrual of small failures over time.
Second – cross-disciplinary teams are financially feasible for large businesses, but are problematic for the SMB world – and are likely fatal for consultancies and service vendors. If every significant decision and action must involve 3 to 5 people collaborating – you will be non-competitive when faced with a vendor who has hired broad-thinking talent.
Third (and most importantly) – humans are not naturally collectivists. It would be great if we were. But fundamentally, we look for leadership based structures. In any group (such as one of these teams) a structure of dominance and relationships will be established. If everyone in this team is a deep narrow thinker (a specialist) then the person who ends up being the leader will bring their own discipline’s perspective to bear and that discipline will dominate and skew the decisions. Worse than that, in many cases if the group is large enough there will also be one discipline that will be established as “the opponent” or “the outsider” and will be deliberately depreciated.
Great thinking here. I think it’s important to distinguish between requirements for external social marketing and internal social collaboration. Those distinctions carry important implications even as far as the project team that needs to be assembled.
Another point is that there definitely is no single approach to an internal social project. Some companies are very top-down driven. For a project to have success there, an entirely different strategy must be developed than for an organization that is historically used to a more grassroots interaction and initiatives.
That is why consultants make their living, I guess…
Great post, please keep them coming!
I agree with ‘Service provider consolidation’, but want to highlight that collaboration and a sense for independence, or the possibility of a profitable IPO in 2010/11 could lead to talks of a buyout of a product/team/idea/technology, but teams with experienced advisors, venture money, or leaders with their 2nd gig could say NO. Still having the fiduciary responsibility in the rear-view mirror.
Why? Because people know, the short-term big money was in 98-2000. This time around, values are orientated long-term. And this is not only because of the recession, but because we had our bubble experience a while back and learned. See Digg, Twitter, Facebook etc.
Plus you already mentioned that ‘Major social business strategy projects […] are about driving long-term profitability.’ Thus, Benefiting EVERYONE.
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