Opinions & Thoughts.

Inject Social into the Enterprise like Drafting in NASCAR


If you look beyond how social media is used externally, the opportunities and capabilities these principles present can literally transform from within how large corporations do business. Social Business in the enterprise develops value from within for the business. A recent blog post ‘The Elements of a Social Business‘ highlights the key traits observed of versatile and innovative enterprises. That blog post reminded me of an experience working with a large enterprise client and getting leadership buy-in to achieve many of these elements for a social business program, but not under the banner of Social Business. Maybe call it ‘right place at the right time’, but like a NASCAR driver, I led my effort closely aligned with existing transformation initiatives to reduce institutional resistance.

In NASCAR, it’s called ‘drafting’, a driving maneuver used by two cars that drive very close to one another in order to eliminate friction of the head wind to Car 2, and the friction of drag to the tail of Car 1. This technique allows both cars to be more aerodynamic and race at a higher speed. In an enterprise, both the head wind and drag can be substituted by a number of examples that would stand as barriers to changing the culture of a business, especially going about it alone. I thankfully found myself in a situation that I could seek out ‘another car’ to help ‘draft’ with me and accelerate both our goals.


As the digital communications lead, the more social the organization, the more effective our client’s communications would be internally and externally. In addition, as a communicator, you can’t have a group stay on message if they are in their own silos and can’t talk to one another. A more social organization would present a greater form of engagement for our organizational leadership and their stakeholders. I sought out my drafting partner in the form of the organization’s IT transformation effort. To seek your own drafting partner, set yourself in a position to obtain valuable insight into the core businesses of the enterprise and identify the prevailing winds of where resources are headed.

As our client’s organization was moving to cost-saving cloud and SaaS solutions and desktop applications were becoming the new legacy systems, here was the time to get behind these efforts and inject social business into the enterprise. In speaking to leadership about social business principles in a form that supports your drafting partners goals, you may experience less resistance along your path. In the example of IT transformation, here is how we can apply social business elements to the existing on-going efforts.

  • Automating processes. A social business takes advantage of the many tools available to connect and stay connected. These tools help automate many tasks that allow the social business to dedicate more grey matter to business strategy and innovation. Internally, a social business that thrives is one that can automate processes such as sharing of information, identifying skill-sets across the enterprise, etc.
  • Orchestration of work flows and integrating data. To integrate new technologies and business processes, work flow is a vital piece of the puzzle. As the Dachis Group observed, ‘people are at the heart of every element of the enterprise’ in a social business. Use this opportunity in work flow changes to align them with social business goals, or augment the new technologies with supporting tools that enable collaboration and innovation.
  • Mitigating dependencies away from the system owners. New technologies are helping to reduce bottlenecks and single points of failures for business processes. A social business fully supports the distribution of decision making and empowering many to act and conduct business, as identified by the Dachis Group. If an organization moves towards a more flexible network, system owners can gain allies and more support in their roles across departments, business units, etc.
  • Web services that push data closer to the stakeholder interface. Social Business calls for engagement that is more authentic in it’s conversation with it’s partners. As IT evolves to make more data accessible and malleable to achieve business objectives, a social business strategy will take it the remaining quarter-mile of the race to build relationships.

Social Business itself is still evolving as the dialogue among analysts and practitioners becomes richer and social technologies are more widely accepted, so there is not yet a blueprint for ushering in the Social Business culture. Without a blueprint however, there are still ways to effectively build a social process into many aspects of a business and at least sow the seeds of culture change. Have you tried ‘drafting’ with other departments or business units? What other examples or techniques have you tried to make an organization more social?

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