When it is Appropriate to Outsource Your Social Business Strategy

March 8th, 2011 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

This could be my shortest post ever… in a word – “NEVER!”

Seriously, biggest mistake that we are seeing senior executives make is to defer to an “expert” their strategic responsibility.

Why are some executive doing this?

  1. Not Comfortable – The social technologies and the interactions don’t seem natural to an older generation of executives that is used to a more straight forward business model.
  2. Trust the Expert – The experts, whether external or internal subordinates, seem to talk a really good game. Whenever a business question comes up, there is a very technical and detailed answer that is designed to lull the listener to sleep
  3. Don’t See the Business Value – Social hasn’t hit the Top 100 things in their to-do list. Yet….
  4. Don’t Own It – social is crossing lines of traditional responsibilities. We are seeing a lot of organizations decentralizing the management and allowing the business functional groups to do their own thing. The problem is that you can’t create strategic impact by managing tactics.
  5. Moving So Fast – blink and you find that the technology is accelerating. The amount of data, noise, and speed of change is just overwhelming.

But, let me frame this a different way…

  • If you step away from your strengths; which is your business acumen, how can you drive business impact?
  • If you think about the web in the mid-90’s. CIOs and CMOs were struggling to adapt to the web. You wouldn’t have recommended a senior executive go out and learn how to code HTML to understand the web. They could hire people to do the execution, but they needed to focus on how to leverage the web for competitive differentiation, market growth, and business value.
  • If you are a senior executive and your extensive knowledge of social is Facebook and Twitter, you are short-changing your extensive business experience.
  • If you are defaulting to a junior subordinate to manage “social” without understanding the business fundamentals, you are short-changing your company.
  • If you are in the back-seat of the car, how can you effective steer? Defaulting to your junior teams means that you are at risk to missing a strategic business impact that they may not have the business acumen to realize.

As outside consultants, our job is to facilitate strategy. I usually don’t have any more business acumen than our client executives. Yes, we were on their side for many years and we look like they do; a senior executive, but we are coming from the outside. Our experience in their shoes allows us to ask the right questions and to build a standardized methodology to lower their risks, but we are dependent upon their knowledge of their own business.

Our clients are confident in their in their understanding of business in general, their knowledge of their business, their organizations, and their understanding of their markets sufficient to make decisions. What they usually lack is the understanding of the nuances of how social business is affecting customers buying processes, the details on the unique requirements for implementing these technologies, and the impact on the economics on their business if implemented. We bring a team of folks and a methodology that enables us to bring better insight, drive faster decisions, and identify risks and opportunities much faster than if they tried an incremental approach, but that is our job as consultants.

Our job is to enable the internal teams to understand the business impact, understand the business requirements, understand the execution requirements, see the resource gaps, and assist them in building the internal business case. Once they have command of the strategy, we then transition to assisting them in the execution; either augmenting their teams or bringing the right resources to help them. The realization that no single organization has all the answers nor can they move fast enough is becoming clear to all of us. It is a team effort that requires close coordination internally and externally.

Whether an internal resource or an external consultant, the bottom line is that our job is to help the executive sponsors to be in position to put their stamp on a social business strategy. The social strategy should not be silo-ed from their business strategy, but rather a branch off the same tree.

If we have done our jobs effectively, the net result on the business is speed to market and a strategic business impact on performance.

Nor does it mean that the “boss” doesn’t trust their subordinates. On the contrary, we find the best engagements involve multiple levels within the organization. But, by helping the senior executive team to see the big picture and see the business impact, they are better able to assist the tactical execution teams and guide them the right way based upon their insider knowledge. If we are leveraging their organizational structure to implement social business initiatives, we are helping the business to internalize social business. There may be a transition period, but the point is that this must become a core competency to realize the full value.

When senior executives defer, we find that the more technical, tactical folks struggle as they don’t have the business acumen or the experience to drive the roadmap or sell the vision. Not a reflection of the abilities, but rather recognition of the depth of experience of a truly senior executive.

“How does this impact our business” and “how does this help us compete in the market” should be the first questions asked, not the last.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at www.socialgastronomy.com/blog. For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/rosenhaft or contact him directly at mrosenhaft@socialgastronomy.com.