ImageSocial is sending a shockwave through the enterprise and challenging organizations to rethink the way they are organized and how all of their processes work -- both internal and external. This is part of a bigger trend, often referred to as "digital transformation."  In short digital transformation is the process by which organizations are rethinking all of their activities in light of the increasing capabilities of information technology, eliminating the non-digital elements of those processes, implementing new social, mobile, and cloud enablers, and retraining their employees.

But digital transformation is frightening because in rethinking our organizations and the way we work, all of the dysfunctional elements of our current organizations are surfaced. For the first time we are asking, why aren't the CMO and CIO on speaking terms? Why do we manage our service centers as costs to the business that need to be driven down as opposed to recognizing that they are marketing and sales channels to create a more positive brand image and upsell our customers? Why can't marketing and sales agree on the definition of a "lead" and have a consistent process for managing them? Why doesn't R&D ever speak to sales about what customers are saying about our products?

These and hundreds of other similar questions surface when we begin to use technologies like enterprise social networks to connect our employees to one another across organizational boundaries. The repercussions go all the way up to the C-Suite and require a thoughtful strategic answer from leadership to this question -- should our company work and be organized differently in a post-digital world? Not just a veneer of process changes but deep and fundamental changes that make us think differently about how value is created for our customers, how our products or services are created and delivered, what the motivations are for our employees to be engaged in and passionate about the company's mission?  Should we be inventing a new organization and implementing a new set of measurements at the same time that we are implementing "digital" technologies?

The best companies have embraced this challenge and will look very different five and ten years from now than the way they have looked throughout the previous decades. The M-Form corporation has served its purpose and we now have the opportunity to create a new form - the connected enterprise. This challenge must be led by the c-suite to be successful because it will change the fundamental power structures in organizations -- how budgets are allocated, how people work with one another, and perhaps most importantly - how companies engage with their customers.

The future belongs to companies that are able to think Outside In -- understanding how their customers see them and organizing their business processes to suit customer needs and expectations instead of the "efficiency" of their own businesses. Every function within a company has a role to play and is a part of the network that creates value for customers. Every function will have to think through that role though the Outside In lens.

The role for social in this process is three fold:

1) Connect your employees - invite them to start working together to understand the connected enterprise future

2) Connect to your partners - they also have a critical role to play in supporting the future of the connect enterprise

3) Connect to your customers - listening and talking with (and not to) your customers is the key to knowing whether you are really understanding their needs and expectations, and are forming a realistic Outside In perspective.

Social media, public social networks, enterprise social networks, customer communities -- these all have a role to play in your journey toward becoming a connected enterprise. In my next article I will outline an incremental approach to success in transformation.

image: transformation/shutterstock