E-Commerce with an emphasis on Social Technologies
The evolution of American business culture, at this juncture circa 2012, has not positioned the enterprise well. The conundrum is that by many observable standards of measurement, the last 50 years of enterprise development has seen unprecedented success. But deep down, all of us in business, from the top of the org chart to the bottom, know that “what got us here is not going to keep us here”, and in fact has actually helped create “The DISconnected Enterprise”.
I’m not sure how many Parts this series is going to be – at least two for sure. The Current State needs to be defined, understood, and validated. So with this post, I’m looking for Comments from readers that include examples, stories, and further ideas that expand on the Current State.
[Side note: Please don't lurk. Lurking is Lame. Worse than that, it's actually harmful - both to the Lurker and to the surrounding environment. Think Industry Conference. If you just go to a conference and slink along the walls of the meetings, looking but never contributing, if you go to the meals, sit at the tables, and never say a word, how does that behavior impact you? How does that impact your industry peers? Sorry, anyway you cut it, it's just not acceptable. So please drop a Comment for further consideration and value-add.]
I know my frame of reference is primarily based on observations in the insurance business, especially at the company and large Agency/Broker level. But I have a pretty vast network, including people in all kinds of different organizations, in various geographies, markets, etc. So it seems that a lot of these observations are applicable up and down, in and around American business.
Disconnected from Each Other
Consider “Silos” within the typical corporate environment. A classic example is the disconnect between Sales and Marketing. Have you heard sales people say something like, “Marketing puts out unusable stuff. It’s been going on for a while now…” And the rant goes on. If you go to the marketing folks, they’ll have a similar rant from the opposite perspective. “Sales asks us for marketing support. We give them awesome stuff. But they never use it!” Is this common? It seems so. Disconnected.
How about IT? Geez. Most people don’t even want to do INTO the IT department. And many IT folks definitely give the vibe that they don’t like outsiders. In fact, it’s the rare CIO that can bridge that gap. As a result, there is often open hostility between IT and the rest of the organization. It’s almost like a dentist. Man, you gotta go, but you don’t want to. In my Boot Camps and Seminars, I’m often speaking to the sales and marketing folks, sometimes HR, sometimes compliance, claims… They all nod their heads when I mention things like Crowdsourcing and how it could solve the IT programming ‘priority list’ and yet most CIO’s and Directors of IT, let alone programmers, know very little about Crowdsourcing – or Social Tech in general. But they often run the Web properties that dictate the online reputation of the organization.
The list goes on. Compliance disconnected from Sales & Marketing. Executive disconnected from the rank and file because of the traditional “Command and Control” corporate culture. Customer Service disconnected from Compliance and Sales & Marketing. What are your examples and stories? Do share.
Disconnected from Their Markets
Tell you what… It’s the rare company that is truly embedded in its markets. Perhaps you know of a good example. I’m not sure I can really come up with one. But one thing I CAN say for sure is that Social Tech is definitely a key component of being embedded and connected to the marketplace. In my mind, you can’t be truly connected to your markets unless you have a Social strategy. Really, I’ll go a step further, and this will blow the lid off most organizations – you really need to be a Social Business. What does that mean? Well, I’d encourage you to spend some time on Google, keyword Social Business and see if it doesn’t connect some dots. In general, it means employing the concepts of Social Networks, Social Media, and Social Relevancy up and down the organization – embedded, ingrained, culturally, practically, tactically, with long-term and short-term strategies. It’s a huge shift for companies that pre-date the Social Tech era. The older and bigger they are, the greater the shift. P&G laying off over 1000 traditional marketers in the last 18-24 months in favor of Social Tech SME’s is a great example.
Need to see and example in the insurance space? The first company that comes to mind is American Family. A quick pass through the Web properties of American Family seems to show a higher level of connectedness with its markets than others in the insurance industry. The “Pursue Your Dreams. We’ll Protect Them.” concept is really good. Isn’t that what people want to do? They want to live life to the fullest – but without worries. They want to do Bucket List stuff, but not have to be dying of cancer to be doing them. “Teen-Safe Driver” is also spot-on. It’s been around for several years, but never gets old. Peruse the footer links across the AmFam Social Graph – 58k Likes on Facebook, lots of engagement and positive sentiment, 10k Followers on Twitter, solid YouTube presence. Area’s of improvement? Linkedin, although it’s hard to see where they are using Groups, if any. They also don’t appear to be using a Blog strategy on AmFam.com - a big opportunity.
Disconnected from Constituents
Similar to Markets, the disconnect with Constituents also seems apparent, especially in insurance markets. For example, have just past my birthday, I have personally NEVER received a birthday greeting from ANY insurance provider of mine – Home, Auto, Life, Health – nuttin. Obviously, they ALL know my birthday. Do I really need to go into all the things they could be doing with that ONE data-point? Wow. That could be an extremely connecting event. Consider all the other data they have on me – spouse, kids, life-style, Social graph. Man, there are so many things my insurance providers could be doing to connect with me.
In general, I observe that companies today are only connected to their constituents at the point-of-sale, at points of cross-sell and up-sell, and at points of service provision and service cancellation. There’s very little contact outside those points. To me, that’s a huge miss. Engaging with me, in my life, coming along side me, especially with all the automation and CRM capabilities insurance companies have, would be the definition of a true ‘connection’, not just a sign-up, pay-the-bill, and use the service when appropriate style relationship. But in order to have that true connection with me, it’s not hard to see why the entire culture of the organization, from top to bottom, would need to change, obviously starting at the top.
I think you get the point. Do you know any companies that are better than average at Social Business? At connecting with their markets and/or constituents? What are the barriers to moving in this direction? What are the benefits and competitive advantages from being connected, both internally and externally? What recommendations do you have for successfully transitioning to a connected enterprise?
Part 2 – Future State
Part 3 – Getting There
Part 4 – Consequences
Meantime, I’m excited about the Chicago Social Tech Boot Camp for Insurance Executives this week and the PIMA MidYear Meeting in Santa Fe next week.
Thanks for taking the time to share insights.