Talking digital. It really is good to talk!

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This morning, I met a bunch of like-minded (and like-roled) folk at the VMA Group offices to chew the cud about the issues we’re facing in the corporate social media environment.

While the session was under Chatham House rules, I thought I’d expand a little on some of the points I made and where we are on our journey to a social business future.

We mainly discussed the way digital and social is perceived in our respective organisations, and then what opportunities and challenges it brings. The startling reality is that digitalisation is here and is only moving in one direction. In 2012, over two billion people were online and regularly using the Internet, twice the number than in 2007, and cloud computing entered the mainstream. By the end of 2015, tablets and smartphones are likely to exceed personal computers. Digital is so integral to all our lives – both personally and professionally – and it’s not over yet. The Internet of Things is moving from concept to reality and it’s one of things that just wont un-exist in the future.

So, with that context, we discussed the way digital is perceived in our companies. For me, that’s pretty straight-forward. Everything we do is around the customer and achieving good customer outcomes in all our dealings with them. It’s about our systems and processes to make it simpler for the customer/broker. And with that comes productivity and effectiveness of our colleagues no matter where they are in the business. We’ve invested in a new claims system which is bringing a root and branch reform of how we manage customers – for the better. We’re developing our Salesforce CRM capability – for the better. We’ve relooked at the platforms our propositions are built on – our new SME platform is the beacon platform. For the better. We’ve brought in a new Chief Digital Officer and a new Chief Data Officer. We have full time social media capability and a new UKGI Chief Executive who is coming into post with an internal focus on engagement. We’re also starting to use enterprise social networks. All great statements of intent! So I think digital is perceived rather well in my world.

But with all this, comes challenges. The ability to remain agile is crucial. This isn’t linked to digitalisation but the mindset large organisations have when it comes to large ongoing concepts and projects. We have to remain agile so events and technology don’t overtake us. Reversing the juggernaut is nigh on impossible.

From a comms perspective, one of the main challenges (I actually see it as an opportunity) is that comms becomes more channel-neutral and widespread. Internal and external social networks are a leveller – they don’t care for structure or hierarchy. As communicators, this is surely a good thing – letting people communicate and collaborate with anyone in the company they want to. But you can easily understand why leaders in a traditional ‘command and control’ culture are nervous, given they have little of either!

Digital is going nowhere. We have to make the most of it – we can’t stand still here. Everyone else is moving. We have to improve and learn from it, and from those who are doing it better than we think we are. If we can focus on where we can deliver positive outcomes and draw a direct financial benefit to our digital and social activity, then we can grow revenue and profit for the business. Sounds simple. Right?

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