Magazine article CRM Magazine

Socially Aware

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Socially Aware

Article excerpt

Social networking is the new kid on the block and companies are wondering whether it's going to be the bully or the best friend. Regardless of whatever apprehension you may have, it will soon be difficult to deny that social networks are where it's at. According to Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta, authors of Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom, the challenge isn't getting on board, but rather throwing overboard the rigid philosophies of obsolete business practices. CRM Assistant Editor Jessica Tsai spoke with Fraser about why, for once, it's not OK to be late to the party.

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CRM magazine: What do you think is impeding the development of social media in the enterprise?

Fraser: First, the vertical architecture of most companies, corporations, and government bureaucracies, which are managed as top-down command-and-control control systems in which employees hold positions based on rank.... These are highly rigid and closed structures characterized by walled silos.

Second, the essential dynamic of Web 2.0 platforms is precisely the opposite: horizontal, open, transparent. Web 2.0 tools facilitate open information flows, not top-down but horizontally and bottom-up.

Web 2.0 networks have an essentially social architecture, but most organizations are not social environments, they are professional spaces. People don't generally behave socially at the office. Interpersonal relationships in corporations [are] highly formalized. You can't show up and "be yourself." On the contrary, [you] have to be careful of what you say.

CRM: How does this then impact the company's outward appearance?

Fraser: Communication with the world beyond the company walls is also highly intermediated.... Press conferences and annual general shareholders meetings are highly staged--and usually over-rehearsed--rituals at which the goal is to say as little as possible, or at least "spin" the message.

[Web 2.0 platforms] facilitate direct, open, and transparent information that is accessible to everybody at the same time--and what's more, you'll get instant feedback. For a lot of corporate executives, that's scary stuff. They don't want to change. But they soon may have no choice. -CRM: It's often said that companies don't get the senior-level support. Are they the culprit?

Fraser: [Technology departments] are basically gatekeepers that control and monitor information flows. Like middle managers, [they] tend to be resistant to Web 2.0 tools because [the tools] threaten their gatekeeper power.

Interestingly, it's often the CEOs who are more open to Web 2. …

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