Luis Suarez: To make social work there needs to be a business purpose!

Only few days away of the start of this year’s edition of the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT we are still collecting exciting answers to our questions on state of the journey towards the social enterprise. This time we like to present the extensive ansers of Luis Suarez – the former Lead Social Business Enabler of IBM, Corporate Rebel and self-proclaimed Hippie 2.0.

e20-luis-suarezLuis Suarez is adding his experience and insights also again to this year’s conference as participant of the panel about how to drive the strategic relevance of the social within the business strategy.

1) How do you evaluate the status-quo on the introduction and establishment of social initiatives in the workplace?

In general, and while it may seem that social technologies are well embedded into the workplace with hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses already embarked on their own Social Business Adoption efforts, I think we are still at the infancy of the unprecedented business transformation that Social Business and social networking tools currently offer. If you look into it, we have learned over the course of the last few years and deploying social tools for the sake of social is not going to take us anywhere. There needs to be a business purpose, which, in my opinion, has always been about addressing and fixing urgent, poignant business problems. One of them, in particular, rather endemic of the people aspect of any corporation and which you would have expected social networking would have helped address somewhat, yet, it hasn’t.

If you look into the recent studies conducted by Gallup on the worldwide levels of employee disengagement (See link over here >, you would be able to see how the number #1 business problem from today, i.e. employee disengagement is at the highest levels possible, and while I firmly believe that social business and social networking can help alleviate such rampant issue with our knowledge workforce, judging from the results it looks like we are only now getting started. It still is our number #1 problem to fix. It’s all about helping businesses understand how the overall client experience is very much a result and an outcome of the overall employee experience, and for as long as the workforce remains disengaged at such high levels the social business transformation is not complete. Only just getting started.

2) What are the biggest challenges the projects are facing at the moment?

While I know that this may sound as a cliché, throughout my over 15 years of experience with social networking for business, I have always believed it’s all down to a single aspect: corporate culture. And in this case from one particular group: Management / Leadership. They are starting to become, if not already, the main obstacle towards the realisation of the full social business transformation, because the traditional hierarchy and status quo of how things get done at work *do* certainly understand and comprehend what social networks can do for business, yet, they neglect not only supporting and sponsoring the effort, but also their active involvement in the process, mainly because they think the moment they do, they would lose their power, i.e. overall control of the information to make business decisions. Management needs to understand that this is no longer about command and control, managing your employee workforce to make the decisions for them, but it’s about how you lead them, as a servant leader, to make proper business decisions with the information freely available through networks by providing proper counselling and support vs. becoming the main obstacle. The rather high rates of actively disengaged employees would certainly confirm that challenge as the most critical one for the successful adoption of the social business philosophy and mantras.

3) What are your suggestions / recommendations to advance the projects?

Along the lines of what I have suggested above as one of the main challenges, I think may main recommendations and suggestions would be along making the transition from a technology focus deployment and adoption (The good old Enterprise 2.0) into thinking that the real transformation happens with the right mindset, the right behaviours that would reflect on the corporate culture transformation. Yes, you can certainly start off with a focus on technology, as a means to an end; you can then transition into a task / activity focus, rightly aligned with business process, but eventually the full adoption lifecycle should happen when you transition from Technology, to Processes (Tasks and Activities) and right into Behaviours. Those behaviours are your new business practices that should reflect the transformation of the corporate culture. One of openness, of collaboration, of knowledge sharing, or caring and showing empathy. All of those, and many more, traits of how the employee workforce needs to evolve as part of that transition from thinking that Social Business is a bunch of new fancy tools, into more of a philosophy, a new way of behaving and getting work done. One that introduces the concept of Open Business, where openness, transparency and employee engagement at right at the heart of the transformation of businesses entering the 21st century.

4) How can the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT 2014 contribute to the progress of this evolution?

It may sound a bit too obvious, but the Enterprise 2.0 Summit could certainly contribute by understanding how a key element of the success of the event will be about how generously people attending the event, whether as speakers, or as attendees, would be keen on openly sharing their own experiences, their own journeys on what it is like becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise. All in all, year in, year out, the Enterprise 2.0 Summit gathers an absolutely stunning round of rather smart and talented 2.0 practitioners and thought leaders in the space, but the open knowledge sharing activities need to increase a notch or two. And I am certain this year’s event will help facilitate that transition into a whole new learning experience with all of the various different breakout sessions and keynote speakers, as well as the many different networking capabilities. Something I hope we all do extensively not only during the event, but before and, much more importantly, after the event. What matters is not necessarily the destination, the goal, but more the journey, the one we have all embarked on at different times, but on the same, similar path: not only *do* social, but LIVE social.

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Rogier Noort
I'm a Social Business addict coming from the technical depths of IT and rising from these dark ages, through web and social, to the enlightened field of Social Business. Also blogger, podcaster, talker and listener.