Next month on June 8, the Social Business Forum 2011 organised by Open-Knowledge srl, will take place in Milan. This is Open-Knowledge’s fourth European-wide Forum examining the impact of social media on the enterprise. This year’s event looks set to be one of the most interesting and important event of its kind globally.

The business impact of ‘social’

At first glance the term ‘Social Business’ appears trendily tautological. After all, what business is not social in the sense of being part of the social relations of modern society? The fact that the discussion about social media remains so pathetically superficial and impressionistic should not, however, blind us to the fact that there is something new about social media. And that newness is the potential it has for transforming business practices and processes.

The impact and potential of social media on the enterprise (what is described in more techie-speak as the impact of Web2.0 technologies) lies in the increased ability these afford to easily reveal, capture, analyse and visualise the social networks underpinning practices  and processes inside and outside the enterprise.

In one sense there is nothing new in this. Since the Depression of the 1930s sociologists and economists have stressed the importance of social networks in business motivated as they were by the need to explain why some companies succeeded while others failed. But what is new in this debate is the emergence of social behaviours and technologies (a closely interrelated phenomenon) that have brought social networks to the fore in everyday life. The systematic application of this new environment remains poorly explored in the business world. And this is what the Social Business Forum 2011 (SBF2011) aims to address.

Socialising inside out

The three tracks of the SBF2011 all focus on the impact and potential of social networks for business transformation.

  • The first track aims to examine how uncovering the informal networks underpinning how enterprises actually function day-to-day (as opposed to how the org chart would have us believe they function) reveals where and how collaboration and efficiencies could be improved or fostered. Revealing social networks can be the key to improving productivity, fostering innovation or culture change programmes as well as a device for more targeted reward and incentive schemes.
  • The second stream looks at this from the perspective of the networks outside the enterprise – the connections with suppliers, partners, and most critically, customers. This stress upon external engagement explores how linking internal and external networks has the potential to fundamentally transform internal process; what is now being referred to in some literature as the socialisation of business processes.
  • The third stream focuses on innovation and the evolving open innovation paradigm. With the insight that ideas are in reality a network of other ideas, this track looks at the networks underpinning innovation within and without the enterprise. The radical insight to be explored is that like many other processes now being increasingly influenced by social networks, the innovation process itself needs rethinking in these terms. What for example, is the relationship between the explorers inside the enterprise (those who bring new ideas into, or who might even be outside, the organisation) with those who engage with these ideas (those who have connections or resources to influence innovation decision-making) and with finally, the exploiters – those who implement innovation. Like the other processes mentioned above, a networked approach to innovation represents the socialisation of innovation which has enormous potential for the future.

In each track numerous case studies will be presented to demonstrate that this is not wishful thinking or academic. Real life examples will be presented and explored that demonstrate both the potential of these insights but also that we are only at the very start of realising this potential.

If you are thinking about these issues or are engaging with these changes, then SBF2011 is where you need to be!

Register now! Join the debate. Meet hundreds of people struggling with the same problems and potential. Participate in what promises to be the premier social business event of 2011 in Europe.

You’ll also be able to eat and drink some great Italian food and wine. Always good for social networking!

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