What's the Problem We Are Solving with Social X?

I had an excellent lunch with my friends at Simplybox (great company, killer idea, well implemented enterprise collaboration- not a client) on Wednesday and we had a sensational discussion on solving problems.  They are going through a growth phase and are trying to position their product better based on their customers feedback.  We discussed several things, but we ended up talking about the title of this post.  As we began to discuss the different things that the product can and should do an idea came to me — which I’d like to get your input so I can understand it better and see if I am right or wrong.

Software is not a solution, we all know that.  Software is a tool, an aide to solving a problem.  The question that always arises is what is the problem we are solving. The best way to look at this is to say that there are two types of problems: pain-points and inefficiencies.  Bear with me for some definitions, it is important to distinguish them.

Pain points is what we all think of when we think of using software: a very specific function or process that is not working well and it is either costing more than it should, or not yielding as much as necessary.  Taking five days to answer a customer service email, using two weeks to process a database for a marketing campaign, or not being able to score leads —  these are pain-points, the problems that software is supposed to solve.  And, for the most part, it does.

Inefficiencies, on the other hand, are problems that exist within the process but they don’t hinder the normal operations of business.  For example, if an employee cannot get all the information they need in one screen and instead they need to go to three screens to collect it or if the phone system drops calls once in a while.  These issues will not cost us to consistently lose  business, and if we improve them it is likely that we won’t notice the betterment in the existing processes.

There is one more, rather two, distinctions:  buying centers and ROI.

The people who buy these solutions are different within the organization.  Inefficiencies are tackled by CIOs and IT.  Pain points are tackled by business units and stakeholders (some cross-over, but it does not last long — IT does not want to solve pain points, and business units are far from maintaining systems).

Then there is the issue of ROI.  It has been debated plenty and I will let you to Google or Bing your way to illumination in the matter. My point is that business units must show ROI for their investments.  They have no other way, in a civilized company, to get their funds approved.  Some of them try to skirt the issue by going the SaaS way – but CFOs and procurement officers are coming around to that idea, so it won’t last too much longer.  IT, on the other hand, works on the infrastructure.  Their initiatives are not ROI-driven (if you are going to call me stupid and tell me you are in IT and you have to do it, fine – lack of vision is rampant and your management has it), rather driven by the needs of the business to leverage technology and data.  They don’t prove ROI, they prove need.

This is, to me, the most important part of placing Social Business as a priority in the business.  It is a strategy, thus driven by the business side, that leverages technologies (Social Media) to accomplish what needs to be done (customers jobs, co-creation, customer experience, socializing applications – your call).

The strategy part has to prove an ROI and solve a pain point.  The technology part needs to prove a need and solve an inefficiency.  You cannot sell them together as one, nor can you make a business unit buy Social Media or an IT department buy Social Business.  You are no longer moving one project forward, you have to move two — with different players and different business models.

You are either going to solve a pain-point or an inefficiency.  Or both.  However, you need to do it differently.

What problem are you solving? What are you doing to sell the need and the solution? Are you talking to the right people about it?

6 thoughts on “What's the Problem We Are Solving with Social X?”

  1. I think this is right on.

    It’s almost exactly what I was trying, feebly, to say in our Twitter exchange with @MarkTamis about Social Business. The reason I don’t find “Social Business” compelling as a rubric for action is that it doesn’t address a problem. It attempts to address every problem.

    The key point is here:

    This is, to me, the most important part of placing Social Business as a priority in the business. It is a strategy, thus driven by the business side, that leverages technologies (Social Media) to accomplish what needs to be done (customers jobs, co-creation, customer experience, socializing applications – your call).

    Another way of putting this is that there is not one initiative called social business, there are many. And so “social business,” as such, is not something the “business side” can own or drive. SCRM, social partner management, social supply chain management, etc. are business-side functions.
    .-= Phil Soffer´s last blog ..Open Sesame =-.

    1. Phil,

      I am indebted to you, as you put into simple words what I was trying to say in a very complicated way: social business is not one, but each business initiative to deal with the social evolution.

      I have said things around this before, but the personalization aspect is quite an interesting spin to it. Will probably write something on that (I know I probably wrote it before in some complicated way, but your simplification is what makes it a very interesting proposition).

      Thanks for the read! (sorry for the late comment, just catching up)

  2. Esteban – I, too, think this is spot on, and agree with you, Phil and Mark about Social Business is a business strategy.

    Adding a bit of complexity to this – by taking into account what Mike Fauscette says (see link above), and what Wim Rampen says about customer value – (ie; they do not value a relationship with a company, but value what you do – in products/services – to help them solve their problems, these highlight issues on the client side (not neccesarily the vendor side, though they should be aware). The issue is: who is developing the strategy on the client/company side, are they listening (LARA) to the customer to help solve their needs AND are they siloed internally (and only attempting to solve their portion – which 1) doesn’t neccesarily solve all customer’s needs and 2) can have tremendous ramifications up-stream for duplicated/disparate/competing solutions – adding extra expense and dysfuntionality).

    Just adding my two cents in from a life on the client side.

    1. Scott,

      that is quite an interesting observation and from recent experience chatting with customers i can see that you are correct in the assertion that they are duplicate efforts. This won’t be the first time it happens, but this is the time when it makes more sense to be just — well, act as one and let the right hand know what the left foot is doing.

      Great comment, and something that I will likely be addressing soon — started doing that today at TheSocialCustomer with the questions to ask for a social business, especially the WHO question.

      Thanks a lot for the comment and the read (sorry for the delay in replying)

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