The power of social

A couple of weeks ago I caught up with Lora Cecere, a well-respected and knowledgeable supply chain analyst who was over in Melbourne for a conference. I tweeted a; ‘welcome to Melbourne’ to her and so it came that a couple of days later we had lunch together. I have a passion for creating and sharing (supply chain) knowledge so I respect what she is doing with her new company supply chain insights.


The power of social made me connect to her and provided me a free lunch as well (thanks Lora). The power of social media got me a job once. Lora also just wrote a blog on social media and supply chain which is worthwhile reading and where she concludes we have to start listening first. I fully agree.

My view is clear; social is here to stay. It will be as normal as the water coming out of your tap and the window that make you look outside your house. Like that window it can make you look outside in to the world at any time in the convenience of any place you like. I believe it has enormous potential, as it has shifted power to people, voters, the end user, consumer or employee. If you’re willing and able to listen to those individuals you can unlock a lot of value and power. If you’re not willing to listen…social power has overthrown dictators in the Arab spring, it has punished monopolistic behaviour of banks, made politicians swallow their words and apologise and created serious brand damage to Goldman Sachs when the money obsessed culture went publically viral when an employee was sacked.

On the other hand, I’m also a critic of social. This week Facebook announced their 1 billion active users and 140 billion friends. Friends? Really? Let’s just call them what they are; mostly shallow connections that indeed create a fantastic distribution network. Some say, most of the accounts are fake. Furthermore, the social world doesn’t represent the real world. How many bad pictures did you update on FB? How many times did you share with your social friends that you actually felt like shit? I hardly spend time anymore in LinkedIn groups as in most of them the value of the conversation has gone down dramatically. It’s full of spam. There is also a dark side to social as individuals can easily be targeted in bully campaigns. But then, social is still young and I suppose we’re all still learning, as well personal, within companies and in the end to end value chain.

McKinsey recently valued the social economy up to 1.3$ trillion, due to increased social collaboration within and between companies, which will translate to a 20% to 25% improvement in the productivity of knowledge workers. I believe there is value, but I’m also sceptical. Can you implement a social platform in a company and expect people to start communicating and sharing information more effectively? What about checking if the employees are engaged in the first place? What about checking if there is any cross functional communication or collaboration happening now? If not, you can bet it won’t happen with a cute little social tool in place either. Otherwise a money obsessed company culture becomes a money obsessed social company culture. Where is the value in that? Would Enron have been saved with social?

In the external value chain the possibilities of social are endless if we’re willing and able to listen to suppliers, customers and consumers. In my 2012 S&OP pulse check, participants indicate that only 21% have collaborative planning with customers or supplier integrated in their S&OP process. That means we’re not really listening yet to our closest partners in the value chain. Let alone listening further up or down the value chain. About 1.5 year ago I wrote a top of mind blog
on some social possibilities in the supply chain.

I’m still excited about the prospect of having real time insights in consumers’ needs at the point of purchase. What is their real need? What are they thinking and feeling when they buy your product?

Social makes that possible and more. Still we first have to fix internal company communication to create a value proposition out of that insight and execute any of that social insight effectively. I’m not convinced we’re ready for that, but my hopes are up that social will eventually be the common denominator that crosses the language barriers we have between people, cultures, different functions and businesses. Only then we will unlock the real power of social.

Ps. Lora asked me what it would take for companies to start listening. I’ll answer that in my next blog

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