We attended the IoM conference in Cologne last week, at the same time London Social Media Week was happening. (David gave a keynote talk, the slides are over here). It was interesting to juxtapose the core themes of these 2 events (incidentally, it was our Patchwork Elephant Conference held during last year’s Social Media Week London that persuaded us to set up Agile Elephant).
In a nutshell, I noted the following large differences in themes on my twtstreams:
- In Europe, a large amount of the case studies are based around improving operations, all over the business.
- In the UK, most of the focus is on customer attraction – marketing, lead generation and sales.
- Where the UK is looking at operation improvement, it tends to be around customer facing operations, typically serving existing customers.
Now to be fair, IoM is about “social business” whereas “Social Media Week” has a wider remit, but it’s interesting to note that even “Social Business” conferences in the UK are often focussed much more heavily on the sales/marketing arena. (Which is why we are running a more operations & customer related conference in November – see last paragraph of this post)
When we were kicking around the “why” this might be so, we came to the following hypotheses:
- The UK has a more mercantile industry structure, but Europe has retained a lot more of its manufacturing industry – so by definition there are more European companies interested in operations improvement.
- It is very likely that the CXO power base area is different – UK companies tend more often to be run by ex salesmen or accountants, European by ex operations people – the path to the CEO office usually tells you where the major power in the organisation lies, so its more likely that new projects in these areas are seen as priorities.
- It may be cultural as well – in the UK my observation over many years’ consulting is the culture is more “sell it first, we’ll work out how to deliver it then” than European comapnies. As one delegate at IoM told us, to not have its operational side ticking along like a well made clock is painful for for a Germanic or Nordic company.
Whetever the reasoning, it leads to an interesting conclusion – best practice on customer attraction areas is in our observation coming from the UK and US, best practice in operational areas from Europe. Customer service examples seem to be coming from everywhere (it was after all a Swede who invented the concept of Moments of Truth in the customer value chain).
On implementation of social business projects, it seems that the same lessons are being laerned no matter where you are in the world, in that:
- Projects should address an area of real business need
- Pilot first
- Use enthusiasts from the Pilot process to help spread the new system
- Nothing will take off easily without CXO involvement
- Nothing will scale easily without IT involvement
- These projects put pressure on existing organisation structures, so education, and careful and sensitive change management is required.
There is a lot of discusion about what future organisation structures could or should be, in the UK and Europe, but after speaking to Jane McConnell, who has done quite a lot of research on this issue, I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that it’s more the culture than the structure or anything else that make the major difference in an organisation. As one person noted at IoM, “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker).
The speaker roster at our Social Enterprise Summit in November tries to reflect this observation, in that we have invlited some real “best of” practitioners from Europe and the UK to speak. We are also giving a 1 day workshop the day before where we will present a wide array of “best practice” case studies from all over Europe as well as the UK.
Update – interesting article over here by Gloria Lombardi on the Northern European view od Social collaboration