Social media and business change

Can emerging technologies enable us to deliver change better and faster than ever before? Faith Forster believes so.

Social media and business change
Can emerging technologies enable us to deliver change better and faster than ever before? Faith Forster believes so.

Change complexity
The pace of market-driven change has increased substantially since the financial crisis, and will only continue to increase as technology revolutionizes and democratizes how ideas and information are shared.
Ten to fifteen years ago, the change agenda was about cost reduction and efficiency; doing more with less. However, today, the change agenda is about innovation and agility. Where once a business strategy used to have a five year plan, organisations today need to be able to respond and adapt much more quickly to remain competitive.
Consequently an organisation’s ability to leverage the expertise and insights of its people, to execute change, is paramount.
Changing employee expectations
Many of our business practices were developed to support the industrial age where processes and productivity could be optimized in predictable, stable environments. In a technological age, those established systems and procedures can become an impediment to business and barriers to change.
Consumers have embraced new technologies a lot faster than organisations have. Old mantras like ‘knowledge is power’ and ‘there is no I in team’ which served to maintain the status quo are being challenged by informal media networks.
Today, employees are better connected and consequently they are beginning to demand a greater say and want to contribute to the conversation about change.
Which begs the question, what will organizations look like in the future? What tools will they adopt to drive and reinforce change? 
Change communications
The evolution of business communications has changed dramatically over the last few years. From the introduction of email and the internet, to instant messaging, voice and video conferencing, smart phones and now social media, the ability to connect with colleagues anywhere, at any time, is greater than ever.
Change no longer has to be ‘pushed’ from the top down – leaders are able to share new ideas or ‘crowd source’ initiatives. Rather than being limited to the odd meeting and workshop to engage stakeholders, social media is able to communicate through a many-to-many channel: people can be found and mobilized quickly behind a common purpose.
Social media also provides a powerful platform to gather instant feedback and have a two-way conversation. The introduction of social media tools and analytics provides measurable and more accurate data on how people respond to change, rather than relying on selected anecdotes and limited surveys.
It is important to note that introducing ‘social business’ or social media into the workplace requires more than just switching on an enterprise social tool. It is a significant culture change in itself, which requires reciprocal trust between employees and leaders.
Managing change
The change agenda still requires the need to ‘sell’ the change initiative, address resistance and gain ‘buy-in’ from managers. However, change management programs often fails because not all stakeholders or business impacts are being anticipated. To make the situation more complex, there are often multiple change initiatives running concurrently.
Whilst the change profession has become better at articulating the skills and processes (methodologies) for managing change, the tools we use, mainly Microsoft Office, limit our ability to deliver change quickly and effectively. Social media offers another powerful toolset but still requires a structured approach to realise new data, insights and conditions.

About the author
Faith Forster, a senior change consultant based out of the UK, was a guest speaker at the Inaugural 2013 Global Change Management Institute (CMI) Conference. The CMI has 6 regional chapters in Australia and has established international country chapters in the UK, NZ, China, India and most recently Brazil. see link to conference video


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