This is my third try with this new book. That's not nearly as bad as it may sound.
Scoble and I tried seven names before we came up with Naked Conversations. I don't even have a proposal yet, never mind a publisher or publishing date, so there is still lots of time.
But having a working title, even one that may change a few times, makes it easier to talk about my book. And the process of name requires me to focus thoughts on what this book is about in the simplest, clearest possible terms.
So let me try again:
--How Online Enterprise Communities improve products, markets & profits
This is a book about large enterprises and how their dedicated social networks are lowering the borders between them and their customers and partners. It is an attempt to address the lingering questions of social medias business value as well as where and how social media teams and programs fit into existing business practices.
In my prior two books, I've championed the tools of social media. I have argued that their business use was early and disruptive; that measurement was early and primitive. Over time, I argued, the early disruption would come to an end and that standards for measuring value would become more refined and easier.
My overwhelming focus in writing more than one million words about social media has looked at public venues such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the rest. So have the traditional media and most of the burgeoning social media community. It's where so much action has been. There's conflict, adventure, celebrity walk-thrus, natural disasters and occasional sexuality.
It makes good copy, and yes, it also makes good business.
But where most of us have not looked is behind the firewalls of some of the world's largest organizations; companies with tens of thousands of corporate customers and partners; companies whose products are in the hands of hundreds of millions of end users who depend upon those products to conduct a majority of the world's business.
It turns out that there is a great deal of downright exciting social media action going on in the bellies of some of the biggest--and perhaps most boring--of technology enterprises.
The result are networks of online communities, built by huge enterprises for developers, customers, partners and employees to come together and share information and ideas. These private and semi-private social networks rarely have discussion of lunch menus and in my research I didn't find a single flirtation.
But I do see real business going on. I see new marketplaces that independent analysts say have values in the tens of billions of dollars. I see ideas and information being shared at high speed and with great accuracy in communities that are usually under a half-dozen years old but have attracted tens of millions of users.
This book will explore online enterprise communities. Much more than my previous books, the primary focus will be on business-to-business, which it turns out, has developed pretty much in the same way as business-to-consumer and peer-to-peer communities.
Blurring Boundaries will examine in depth six enterprises: IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and possibly SAS. I will report on the history, structure and issues of their online social networks. I will look at how these communities are changing or have changed business models and strategy for the better during a period of great economic pressure.
A few days later Scott Gulbransen at Intuit, a company serving consumer and small business markets told me just about the same thing, despite clear differences between how Intuit and SAP's communities are organized and who they serve.
This book will explain that online community collaboration is shortening product development and improving product functionality and design because the people who use them are talking directly with the people building them. They are likewise, reducing time-to-market and marketing costs.
Online enterprise communities are also bring sanity to Terms of Agreement, product standards, developer certification programs, appropriate community behavior by allowing those who must adhere to these governing factors contribute to the rulebooks as they are written.
Blurring Boundaries also examines the issues of where social media teams and online communities belong on an enterprise org chart. Almost invariably, social media in corporations, began as skunkworks projects, places where small teams of bright people were allowed to experiment. Allotted small budgets, they were protected from the sea anchors of labyrinthine enterprise processes so that they could move with greater agility than systems in place would allow.
But they have grown fast and that speed is accelerating with millions of community members participating and billions of dollars of value in the marketplaces being created, the managers who recently disdained social media projects as having no real business value are now struggling with the inevitable process of assimilation. Each of these companies has dealt with this issue in different ways. This book will examine each and compare the results.
Blurring Boundaries will not answers the ubiquitous question of where's the ROI of social media. That question remains as daunting to answer as placing ROI on email or a telephone.
But it will show that there is real business value being generated because of online enterprise communities. And that billions of dollars in products and services are being generated as a real result.
People will walk away understanding that social media in business is at the end of it's early disruptive phases and is now entering the longer period in which use of the tools are normalizing, are becoming part of business practices and are valuable centers for the modern enterprise.