Can any organization, regardless of their business vertical, benefit from the adoption of social technologies? Absolutely.
Peter Evans-Greenwood recently authored a thought-provoking post entitled "The myth of the inevitability of social organisations", proposing that the majority of organizations will only gain marginal benefits from social technologies. Peter makes a series of insightful observations, but misses an opportunity to expand the examination of how Enterprise 2.0 can be used to enable benefits for even seemingly mundane business verticals.
Peter states that "Today’s business are built around the concept of managing a central asset. This asset might be a factory, it might be a fleet of trucks, the deposits from a community of investors, it might be the methodology and tools a skilled team use, or it might be a brand.... the nature of many businesses that exist today will limit the utility of these tools. Until we change that we can expect E2.0 etc to provide a lot of benefit to a few companies, but little benefit to the majority."
Facebook and Twitter may garner the attention of popular media, but an entire world of Enterprise 2.0 platforms are enabling businesses to succeed behind the scenes.
Take the Social Web Inward
Thinking of social technologies exclusively in the realm of customer service within popular commercial web networks definitely limits the utility that is available for any business. If most business have a single central asset, they can benefit from
refining the delivery of that asset to their respective customers / interactions with business partners
delegating non-core functions to experts to allow them to maintain focus on their core processes
Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing excel in helping businesses, regardless of size or vertical. They are examples of creative thinking powered by Enterprise 2.0 strategies that can supply value to any organization. They can have a significant, sometimes even breakthrough impact, in some of what might be considered to be the least social business verticals.
Many now speculate about the real value of these newfound approaches to providing services to business, but after a wave of initial hype (Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything & McKinsey's The next step in open innovation), a few concrete examples of success stand out. Organizations like 99 Designs and Innocentive leverage Enterprise 2.0 strategies and have broadened access to skills unavailable at certain organizations prior.
99 Designs is an example of services via Enterprise 2.0 strategy, whereas Innocentive offers potentially game-changing breakthroughts through an Enterprise 2.0 strategy. It is critical to note that neither of these approaches require any sort of "new new" technology either. Access to them simply requires an awareness of innovative socially-powered offerings and perspective on how each one can be leveraged - even to an organization that may never find itself within the pages of Facebook.
Even Trucks and Factories Benefit
How does this relate to a factory or truck fleet? These business always have room for improvement and Open Innovation / Crowdsourcing facilitated by Enterprise 2.0 technologies can provide them access to world class talent to solve incredibly difficult issues that have the potential, once solved to drastically accelerate their businesses.
Let's consider the relationship of Zappos (a industry legend in the area of using social technologies to create an excellent customer experience) with some of their suppliers and how they both can benefit from social technology
"Think of the contract manufacturers who make the clothing that Zappos sells, or the outsourcers who run the supply chains to and from Zappos’ warehouse. These companies are trying to sweat an asset – the factory or a fleet of trucks and planes – and are usually chasing costs, often by moving to second or third world countries where wages are lower, or by automating first world jobs."
This is actually exactly where and why additional capabilities of Enterprise 2.0 can supply benefits to enable organizations searching for cost reduction in manufacturing processes, supply chain and automation to reach talent that would otherwise be too costly or not provide a diverse enough range of abilities to creatively solve a problem.
If an organization has 100 employees, all focused on tending a central asset, it will be difficult to grow by way of new perspectives and or deliver on projects outside of their core competency (marketing, branding, etc) - Enterprise 2.0 broadens their capabilities, enabling them to hedge against competitors and drive up margin in their business.
Enterprise 2.0 Expands the Boards of any Company
E2.0 is not in and of itself a solution. It simply provides a series of collaborative and communicative constructs to act as an enabler. This enabler can benefit any type of organization, specifically focusing on enhancing their core capabilities, regardless of industry vertical. Crowd Sourcing and Open Innovation are two examples of Enterprise 2.0 capabilities being effectively leveraged outside of the realm of social networking.
The Social Web gave birth to Enterprise 2.0, now Enterprise 2.0 is giving back to the social web in the form of innovative business services, born from a social heritage.