The social business Organization Audit serves as the second half of the due diligence process that is the foundation of the social business strategy. The first part is the ecosystem audit by which the firm has assessed the external digital world that’s relevant to its business. However, this is only half the picture: now we need to assess the firm’s capabilities to engage the ecosystem, so this is an internal analysis.
By conducting external and internal due diligence, we arrive at a social business strategy that optimizes the what the ecosystem values most highly with the firm’s ability to deliver. The social business strategy marries the ecosystem audit with the organization audit to determine optimal sharing scenarios (pilots).
The social business Organization Audit begins with a basic core competency analysis, drills down to stakeholder issues & actions and synthesizes these steps into several “trial pilots” that it will then vet through several other steps: social business good practices uses the ecosystem as a filter to learn from other firms’ similar initiatives, resource analysis gauges employees’ knowledge, experience and skills, and organization analysis uncovers organizational strengths and weaknesses that could affect pilots.
This is a “back of the envelope” core competency7 analysis of the business for which you are preparing the social business strategy. It could be the enterprise, a business within the enterprise or a brand. Core competency is based on the business’s unique combinations of knowledge, expertise, skills and insights that arises from its “core” operations. Core competency distinguishes your business because the way you conduct business gives you the ability to differentiate. It answers the questions, “Who are we?” “What makes us different and unique?” “How do we create and maintain differentiation?”
Moreover, the core competencies must be reflected by your online presences. You conduct the analysis by comparing your online presences with competitors’. In order to collect valuable data, you need to create a basic rating system. This is a case in which you do not want to perfect to be the enemy of the good. The main function of the core competency analysis is to get your team focused on your uniqueness and to use that to help decide what you can share in the ecosystem that’s unique and difficult for competitors to emulate. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Stakeholder Issues & Actions
During the ecosystem audit, you used the workstream lens to analyze the ecosystem and rank its venues. Stakeholder issues & actions is a deeper dive that should have two parts: an online survey and telephone interviews. You made assumptions about stakeholders’ workstreams, that is, their intentions and goals, based on online conversations. Issues & actions deepens your understanding of what they were doing before and after you observed them online, and what their goals are.
Depending on the quality of your ecosystem audit, your assumptions were probably correct (CSRA typically analyzes thousands of individual conversations). The online survey tests your assumptions and invites people to opt in to telephone interviews. Good sources of leads for online surveys are people whose conversations online were exceptional, your email or customer/prospect/stakeholder email lists. Use on online survey solution with good data handling capabilities. The results will probably confirm your assumptions. If not, you can iterate online surveys until you have a firm understanding. Then interview several dozen people on the phone.
Stakeholder issues & actions will provide rich peripheral vision and insight into stakeholders’ goals.
Social Business Trial Pilots
Create trial pilots by overlaying stakeholder issues & actions onto the core competency analysis. Pilots answer the conceptual question: “Given stakeholder issues & actions, how can our core competencies add the most unique value?” and the practical question, “Given the ecosystem’s highest ranked venues, how can we create pilots in which we interact and engage?” Going through this thought process, you want to create 6-10 “trial pilots” that you describe in 3-4 paragraphs each (we use slides).
Trial pilots are only the first iteration that you will now subject the trial pilots to several organizational tests to prioritize them further.
Social Business Good Practices
Using your descriptions of trial pilots, search the ecosystem for examples of similar initiatives. This enables you to conduct an information feasibility analysis. The concept behind a pilot may not be feasible if no one else has tried it or something similar. You should encounter some mentions of other firms that have tried some aspects of the trial pilots in similar projects. If not, reevaluate the trial pilots. If you find no mentions, that is an indication that the risks and rewards of those pilots are higher. Social business good and bad practices is an excellent means to vet and refine the concepts designed into trial pilots, using the ecosystem as a filter.
At this point, you have vetted and reprioritized trial pilots. Resource analysis is an internal online survey that you distribute to potential Contributors to pilots, who are usually your employees, business partners, interns, contractors and anyone else you consider to be “resources” for your organization’s projects. Given trial pilots, create an online survey that queries participants about their personal and professional interests, social business skills and relevant [core competency] experiences. Keep in mind that you will ask people to get involved on a volunteer basis at first, although some management will give part of their employees if the initiative is very important to them. To work, you want to engage Contributors personally and/or professionally in the pilots. Query them about their experiences with social technologies. Ask for handles (accounts). Finally, ask them about their experience in the core competency areas. Resource analysis enables you to shift the priority of trial pilots based on your people.
The last screen involves two channels of organization analysis: existing organizational initiatives may strengthen or weaken certain pilots. You are looking for entropy or synergy. The second channel is the organization itself. CSRA usually interviews executives in relevant areas, usually adjacent to the organization sponsoring the social business strategy. This often means marketing, communications, public relations, product development, sales, customer service, human resources, channel management, etc. Make sure these interviews are confidential. Establish trust with the interviewees, so they open up to you and disclose friction between organizational silos. You want to discover strengths and weaknesses now to reprioritize pilots. During the interviews, make sure participants understand the motivation of the analysis, give them a sense of mission, and ask open questions while being respectful. This is one area in which external consultants can get better results because they are often considered impartial. If you use someone internally, make sure that they have a similar profile of impartiality.
Creating the Social Business Strategy
The social business strategy should be actionable, so it should be short. Its audience is any internal or external stakeholder from whom you are requesting support of some kind. Each stage of the ecosystem and organization audits should be documented (CSRA uses briefs that are usually 2-4 pages each), so you have excellent data that very few people have to see, but your external and internal due diligence is the foundation of your authority to lead the organization’s social business initiatives. The best social business strategies synthesize all the work down to 25 slides or so.
Start with summarizing the findings of the ecosystem and organization audits on one slide each. Lay out the sequence of the pilots and rationale based on the stages of vetting. Lay out proposed timelines, and describe each pilot in terms of concept, goals, procedures, interaction strategy and measurements. Assuming you began with 6-10 candidates, you will probably have 4-6 now, so describe each on one slide or two.
It is crucial to describe the key elements of social business management and governance. Describe your plans for social business training and mentoring of Contributors, how relevant parts of the organization will collaborate during the pilots (given that pilots are small projects, usually one organization will lead, but peripheral areas may have supporting roles). Describe your approach for managing social business pilots and their risk mitigation features. For example, using agile methodologies, scoping pilots small, short and specific. Tying explicitly to business strategy, having realistic staffing plans.
Two management tools CSRA uses are pilot charters, which are 3-5 page project plans, and staff templates. Pilots generally are staffed with people in 3 roles: Champion, Manager and Contributor. Often, depending on the pilot, there may be several Contributor roles that are designed to be complementary. Since pilots are small and short, they usually have one Champion and Manager each, but this can vary. The point is that templates describe each role in detail, and the Charter explicitly shows how they knit together. In addition, scope Contributor roles very small, so it’s easy for Contributors to roll on and off. Templates make it much easier to staff because potential Contributors can see exactly what the commitment is.
Charters describe: goals, project plan, interaction strategy (of the pilot in general), resource requirements and measurements (quantitative, qualitative).
Templates include: pilot summary, goals (for that Contributor role), activities, performance measures, interaction strategy (for that Contributor role), actions and workstreams, time commitment/allocation and tools. The latter usually involve specialized searches for Contributors that are sharing content. By programming the searches for them, you drastically reduce their time commitment.
Keep in mind that the social business strategy does not include charters and templates, only a description of them. Once the pilots get the green light, the Champion and/or Manager writes the full charters and templates.
Assessing Current and Past Projects
In almost seven years of social business client work, we have yet to encounter firms that have conducted reasonable due diligence before kicking off “social media” initiatives. Most firms have ongoing initiatives, so the social business strategy and its diligence can be used to evaluate and reprioritize them. Of course, most firms would not unplug their Facebook or LinkedIn presences, but they could significantly change the resources dedicated to them. However, the social business strategy should not cater to sacred cows: by following the steps outlined above, you will significantly reduce most of the major risks.
These Organization Audit case studies show the how the process unfolded for other firms.