I wrote before about social business (three posts here exclusively— 1, 2, 3), I even defined it (at a very high level) as the convergence of internal collaboration tools under the name of Enterprise 2.0 and external customer interactions, under the name of SCRM.  It is supposed to be about bringing customers and organizations together to co-create better experiences.  It is supposed to change the social experience — both for the customer and the business.  It is the holy grail of Social X today.

There were others who wrote about it, some of them I agree with, some of them I think are not deep enough (won't name names, but feel free to Google it).  It is the next step in our evolution brought about by the latest generational shift.

I like to think and build with a long-term purpose.  The question that I keep coming up with is “What comes after social business?”

The idea behind social business of bringing internal collaboration together with external interactions has one major flaw — it attempts to integrate an action (collaboration) with information (data) as if they were equal.  It does not do what is truly needed: create open communities where customers and organizations can co-create.  The idea that just by analyzing the data from the interactions and bringing those insights into the organization to collaborate into creating better processes is all that customers want is both interesting and wrong (well, semi-wrong, it is right as the first aim for Social CRM — but not in the long-term).  

Thierry de Baillon wrote recently a post on Social Learning endorsing this view, and I commented (just take 2-3 minutes and go read it, it is a very good post) to the effect that Social Learning is incomplete because it transforms social into the old one-way communication where the company takes and the customer does not receive an equal amount.  In other words, there is a missing win-win situation.

The concept of simply analyzing data is interesting because it gives customers the sense that they are contributing to improving products and services.  Why, it tells them that things could not get done without their input.  Customers want to know that, they want to feel useful in charting the direction of the business and its products.  The concept of “closing the loop” (telling customers how their input is going to be used, use it, telling them how it was used) is core to feedback management and the only method that ensures high customer response rates and high engagement rates.

At the same time, it is wrong, because still leaves the control with the organization, not with the customer.  The generational shift we are experiencing now gives the social customer the power to control the conversation (not ownership, control).  That control manifests itself in the way of dictating terms and methods for interactions.  Support communities are a prime example: I don't want the company to tell me what to do, I want my peers to tell me what to do — I trust my peers, not the company.  Social marketing is another example: the organization can only market to me where I want, and how I chose to be marketed to — it is only going to happen on my terms.

The model we are using now for social business (we will collect your feedback, bring it into the organization and work on it, let you know how it goes) embodies the “closing the loop” model — but not the customer-is-in-control-of-the-conversation model.  It is not a true new conversation model; it is a half-way changed model where the organization remains in control, while giving the illusion to customers of being contributors to their destiny.  To be fair, in a sense they are — but only limited to a one-time contribution, followed by another one-time contribution (maybe) after the first one is implemented, and so forth.  This perpetuation of the traditional model of feedback is not what customers want, expect, or need.  They need to be brought into the organization, to fully collaborate throughout the process — not just at the beginning. 

Mea Culpa, there is a three-layers-of-feedback model (that is, more than one now and one later — maybe) in my Methodology for Crafting Awesome Experiences — but even that is limited.

How do we solve this problem going forward?

We need to create freestanding platforms for communities that can be shared inside and outside of the organization, that have modules (such as analytical engines) that can discern the value from the noise, and that has as the only purpose a free sharing of knowledge contributed from both sides.  It has to be a platform for joint-decision making that encourages all members to contribute and create a solution to the task at hand.  In other words, a platform for collaboration that spreads

This is the next model for Social Business. 

What do we want to call it?

Let's agree that the model is what is interesting, not the name.  Frankly, I'd call it Sally and get it over with, but most Sallies would be offended, and we would not easily know what we are talking about if we use that simple name.

In spite of having many meanings (Google dates the first use of the term to 1678, maybe Charles Babbage invented the programmable computer to create a technology solution to the first enterprise strategy; CRM was not the first technology to assume the role of a strategy), I like the term and the concept of collaborative enterprise.  It has been around the modern world since the 1950s (why, it was the precursor to the Enterprise 2.0 movement — the real, not the one about collaboration tools only) and it reflects the idea that an enterprise can only grow by being truly collaborative. 

There are two caveats: First, the previous book on “The Collaborative Enterprise” missed out on including the customer in the collaboration (it was mostly focused on how to share knowledge in internal communities to be more dynamic and flexible as a business).  Second, there is a vendor (nGenera — a client of mine) who is using the term to describe their product, essentially naming their technology after a soon-to-be enterprise strategy.  

On the other hand, there are others (as Sameer Patel from Sovos did in this wonderful post) working on the same concept, albeit not yet using the same name.

May be we can call it Collaborative Enterprise 2.0 (CE2)?

Just kidding

What do you think?  Is Collaborative enterprise a good term? Can we rescue Enterprise 2.0 from its current technology-only inclination and make it be what it was supposed to be? Can we bring SCRM insights into the organization in a win-win situation?

Can we build a social business on the way to become a collaborative enterprise?