Deloitte CTO Mark White on the Social Enterprise in the ‘Post-Digital Era’

In the not-so-distant future, says Deloitte CTO Mark White, "digital forces will be baked in, not bolted on." In his explanation of the company's fourth annual "Tech Trends" report, White illuminated a few key changes in the way that companies will be using social media in the next 18 to 24 months.

In the not-so-distant future, says Deloitte CTO Mark White, “digital forces will be baked in, not bolted on.” In his explanation of the company’s fourth annual “Tech Trends” report, White illuminated a few key changes in the way that companies will be using social media in the next 18 to 24 months.

The report is based on the feedback of industry experts and executives at businesses of all sizes, although many of the findings apply specifically to larger corporations. With this year’s theme, the “elements of post-digital,” White compares the post-digital era, in which companies will have to rethink their processes to accommodate new technologies, to improving workflow in the post-industrial era.

“Centuries ago,” said White, “You needed to be physically close to make decisions.” Now that communications can take place remotely, the platforms can be rebuilt to organize a business around things like physical proximity, hierarchies, command-and-control, or the concentration of resources. With social media adoption comes the idea of engineering a social platform for a specific context.

In 2013, he added, “social business goes to work.” He identified three phases that companies move through as they develop their social media strategies: aspirational, experimental, and intentional.

In the aspirational stage, a company might create a Facebook page just because it’s popular to have one. Experimental companies don’t exactly know what the budget, schedule, or end goal of of their social marketing campaigns should be, said White, but “they might be creating a “‘lessons learned.'” A fully social company goes into each campaign with a specific objective and understands how to reach it.

Previous studies failed to show “statistically valid patterns” in how businesses use social media because too many of the test subjects were still in the aspirational or experimental phases, said White. “Now, you’re going to see adoption in most places.”

Companies that make consumer products, especially in the retail sector, are the closest to becoming fully post-digital, he said.

To create a successful social media campaign, companies should determine a business objective, identify the right social network to use, define the incentives for engagement, figure out the technology or medium to use (such as a mobile app or HootSuite), revisit the business practices that existed before social media to see if they still apply, and then implement, test, tune, and repeat.

Data visualization will continue to improve as more companies learn to make complex data actionable to an executive rather than a specialist. “Don’t stop at data mining,” said White. “Include pattern discovery, too.”

Even gaming has a place in the social enterprise. Both games and work provide opportunities for achievements, quests, status and recognition, and “epic meaning,” or understanding how a task will fit into a larger goal.

In a call center, for example, each agent can earns points by resolving an issue quickly or by referring the customer to the right specialist. The points would feed into a leader board that management can later use to make decisions about promotions and raises.

Businesses can a lot about game mechanics from watching people playing “World of Warcraft,” said White.