The Social Enterprise: What is it? Does it really matter to enterprises?

August 30, 2011 Appirio

Balakrishna Narasimhan

As we kickoff Dreamforce 2011, an event that’s bringing together more than 40,000 cloud innovators this week, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on this year’s theme around the social enterprise.

Wikipedia defines a social enterprise as an organization that applies capitalistic strategies to achieving philanthropic goals. While Salesforce is a socially responsible organization, that’s not what they mean by social enterprise. Salesforce defines a social enterprise as one that collaborates, sells and operates socially, that engages and markets to its customers on public social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and makes its own products and applications social.

So, you may say to yourself, sounds great but what does that actually mean? That’s a question that we’ve been spending a lot of time answering this week, both with our customers and with the community in forums like Computerworld and The Huffington Post.

At Appirio, we’ve had the privilege of working with 250+ enterprises including many of Salesforce’s most innovative customers. We’ve been delivering elements of the social enterprise for a while now, ever since we first brought together Salesforce and Facebook on the Dreamforce stage 3 years ago. So we’re able to look at each part of the social enterprise through the eyes of our customers, to better understand how to make this important trend a reality in your business.

The Social Enterprise: Through the Eyes of Appirio’s Customers

Employee Social Networks: Making Sales, Marketing, Service and Operations Social
Brown-Forman: One of the world’s largest spirits producers, Brown-Forman, owns and makes brands like Jack Daniel’s, Herradura and Finlandia.  They wanted to find ways to help their employees collaborate better. One would think that a company that produces Herradura tequila would have no problem being social, but their employee portal (like most at large enterprises) was largely unused and static. Appirio started by examining their internal processes to see where cloud-based collaboration tools could have an impact. We then helped them customize and roll-out Chatter for their US employees. Adoption and usage have far surpassed expectations and led to an estimated 50% increase in collaboration effectiveness.

Yahoo!: Like many sales teams, Yahoo’s sales teams had to navigate more than 10 different systems to find what they needed and had no easy way to share best practices. We helped them design and roll out a new sales portal, called “The Source”, which replaced all their other systems, integrates both Salesforce Content and Chatter, and gives their sales team a single source for everything they need to sell. Yahoo’s Kristen Sanders, who led the effort, tells us in this video that everyone at Yahoo! wants access to “The Source”. Bet that never happens with your Sharepoint portal!

Perceptive: Perceptive Software (a Lexmark company) was using a call center and Lotus Notes-based applications to support 6000+ customers. When we modernized their support processes with Salesforce Service Cloud and Portal, we saw an opportunity to use their customer community to give them new product ideas and feedback using Salesforce Ideas. Now Perceptive’s customers can not only get answers whenever they need them but can also actively make Perceptive’s products better. Read more about their success here.

Dunkin’ Brands: Appirio recognized Dunkin’ last year as a cloud pioneer, for their success replacing multiple disparate franchisee-facing systems with a single scalable and flexible system. We built a custom portal on to help Dunkin’ onboard and manage new franchisees. While this app wasn’t originally designed as a social app, Dunkin’ is now using Chatter to collaborate around franchisee management processes. This is one of the benefits of building applications on a platform like – your apps keep getting better.

Customer Social Networks: Listening, Engaging, Marketing and Social Products
Starbucks: When Starbucks launched a national call for community service, they knew they had to engage their large Facebook community. In less than three weeks, we helped Starbucks build a highly scalable web app to help volunteers find opportunities, pledge their time, and encourage their friends to do the same, using a viral Facebook app. The campaign was a huge success, generating over 1M hours of service, driven largely by the social nature of the campaign. See Starbucks CTO, Chris Bruzzo, talk about Pledge5 at Cloudforce, or read an interview with Chris on the topic.

Avon: A few years ago, mark, a division of Avon that empowers young women to build their own businesses, realized that their next generation of customers spent far more time on Facebook than they did on websites. Word of mouth referrals have always been Avon’s biggest source of business, and mark wanted to use Facebook to encourage, manage and measure word of mouth referrals. We built a custom application to encourage Avon customers and reps to make Facebook referrals by showing them relevant offers and friend suggestions in Facebook, all linked to campaign metrics in Salesforce. See Avon’s Annemarie Frank talk about social marketing in this Dreamforce keynote.

Rypple, FinancialForce and Appirio: We helped develop FinancialForce’s PSA application which was the first social services management application (seen here in action on the main stage at Dreamforce). We’re also helping Rypple, a social employee recognition application, integrate their application with Chatter. And finally, our Cloud Management Center uses Chatter to help our development and support teams collaborate effectively. All of these are examples of using Chatter to make your actual offerings more social.

Getting Started with the Social Enterprise
Clearly, the social enterprise requires you to rethink the way you engage with customers, the way you collaborate internally and even the way you build your offerings. It’s an enterprise-wide effort that starts with a plan and creates real business impact. We’ve seen many, ourselves included, start out by assuming that it’s as easy as turning on the technology but it’s not that easy. Paying attention to the fundamentals around your processes, policies, governance, culture and the way information flows through your organization is critical to ensuring success with the social enterprise. This is why we usually recommend that our customers begin with a social enterprise blueprint to define how and where to apply social technologies to address your business priorities.

We’ve covered a lot of ground here so I’ll leave you with something that really crystallized the social enterprise concept for me. A few weeks ago, one of our account executives asked if he could get a mobile app that would let him know what Dreamforce events were happening beyond our own and if any of his customers were planning to attend. That’s a request that would’ve been inconceivable even a year ago. But now, thanks to the building blocks of the social enterprise (and the power of the cloud community), we were able to deliver exactly that mobile app to not only our sales team but to all 40,000 attendees of Dreamforce (you can get the app yourself here).

Enterprise end users and customers who are used to Facebook and Foursquare are going to demand mobile and social apps that help them do their jobs better. The only way that IT can adapt to this new world is by building their cloud powered business on social platforms like Salesforce. Welcome to the Social Enterprise, it’s going to be a fun ride!

Previous Article Apps without Data are Dead

Ryan NicholsVery exciting to see Salesforce announce today, in partnership with D&B, the leader in...

Next Article
Want a social enterprise? You’d better be in the cloud. – Blogging for Computerworld

Glenn Weinstein The notion of building a “social enterprise” is taking root in customer relationship manage...