Socialized Purchasing (Part 1): All that glitters is not necessarily social gold!

Posted on July 26, 2011

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Social networking has redefined how we interact and do business.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in the way associations and information sources are attempting to transform themselves into real-time, globally connected intelligence providers.

It is an important step as professionals are looking for a collaborative forum that extends beyond the mere provision of data, but instead provides context through an interactive dialogue with other professionals.

For example, and within a matter of hours of posting an article I wrote titled The Web 2.0 Association, I received more than 20 comments expressing similar opinions to the one I will share with you below:

Where it once did, the value gained from the traditional association model can no longer compete for my attention.  I need to collaborate bigger, faster, stronger – and at my convenience.

Information, Insight, Intelligence is a real-time collaborative process that has been fueled by the growth of social networks and the specialty groups that operate within their platforms.

It is no wonder that an ever increasing number of companies have chosen to establish groups within the social networking world.  Groups which facilitate the kind of one-to-one, and one-to-many interactions that enable members to obtain, filter and ultimately gain the insight that impacts and enhances their capabilities to meet the demands of the increasingly complex world of global supply chains.

While there is no cost to join a LinkedIn or a Facebook, nor the actual Groups within these networks, the value that can be delivered will provide members with a global perspective of the emerging practices and trends that are reshaping procurement and the supply chain world as a whole.

Of course the critical point with this previous statement is whether or not the “can be delivered” part of the equation can ultimately produce tangible versus empirical benefits, without collapsing under the weight of unrealized expectations or concerns surrounding security and risk.

In essence, is the flurry of activity in terms of group membership numbers and Q&A exchanges a handsel of the meaningful or quantifiable value of return for these social interactions?  After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the majority of businesses actually restricted employee access to social networks during working hours, considering such exchanges to be either a waste of time or a potential risk to competitive advantage.

Within the public sector, and in particular the military, said risks extended to include serious concerns regarding national security as illustrated by a February 2009 article, which reported that British soldiers were told to stop using social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook, after military officials ruled it could lead to a security breach.

However a seemingly contradictory announcement by the U.S. DoD that they were “formally encouraging the use of social media” in a separate 2009 article titled “Defense Department to Announce Balanced Social Media Policy,” highlights the continuing uncertainty surrounding the social networking question as it relates to risk versus return.

Perhaps the real question is not if social networks should be utilized but, how they can be utilized both responsibly and effectively and of even greater importance, how the benefits of said use can be calculated so as to make it measurable in terms of business and individual or personal value.

In the next installment in this week’s Socialized Purchasing Series, we will delve deeper into the question of how to go about calculating the true value of your social networking strategy.

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