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Technology Changes, People Don’t … as Quickly

Guest post by Ayelet Baron -- After 13 years in corporate America (and one very bad flight for this 1.5 million mile flyer), I realized that I needed to make some significant changes in my life and focus on what I am passionate about in my work: social business and online communities.

Most recently, I was the chief strategist for Cisco Canada and in that role I helped take Canada from the #4 revenue generating country at Cisco to #2. There was no way we would ever make it to #1 because the US will continue to hold that spot. Canada’s success was a combination of excellent leadership, a great team of people across the country with strong customer relationships, and a passion to win in the marketplace.

While it was not part of my day job, I continually worked at integrating social into our business strategy. I didn’t create a “social media strategy” because I believe the platforms will change and we don’t know who will remain standing in the social space. But what I did know was that people don’t change as fast as technology and the best way to improve customer and employee loyalty was to bring people together using the tools they adopt. It was also increasingly clear that some of these tools were all about relationship building and communities. That is, if you invested the time and energy to use them for these purposes, the returns to the business would be significant.

That background and experience brings me to today and the main reason I have joined The Community Roundtable, because of the relationships that were built using social tools and my passion around working with like minded leaders (like Jim and Rachel) on the importance of communities in business. It is a key differentiator that will become increasingly important as people focus on having online conversations instead of broadcasting information. The “secret sauce” for successful implementation of social business is integrating it into the overall business strategy of the organization, department or team. And from personal experience, I  have a lot of scar tissue on what works well and what doesn’t.

I launched the first online community at Cisco in 1999 and it failed miserably because the organization was not ready for it. I could say that I was “way ahead of my time” but I learned some important lessons about adoption from it and the need to integrate the tools into workflows and map how they enable the business. And today, many are still way too focused on the tools and the hype. Practitioners need to ask themselves 3 key questions at the outset:

  • What is the Return on Investment (ROI) of incorporating tools like online communities in the organization? [Isn't this what every executive asks and how he/she measures success?]
  • How do the tools and communities enable our business?  [Wouldn't it be easier to "sell" the solution if it was integrated into the organization's business strategy -- regardless if you are in the private, public or non-profit sector?]
  • What are the key risks to implementing communities and other social media tools? [Do you have the executive sponsorship you need to maintain and grow your community, does the solution align with the current culture, do people have the skills they need to adopt new behaviors?]

I look forward to meeting the members of TheCR Network and TheCR’s greater community and engaging in conversations that will help integrate social tools into business — whether you’ve mastered it and want to take it to the next level or whether you are just starting out. Please feel free to reach out.  I am very excited about moving the conversation and execution to new heights and hope that my business strategy experience can help us advance the business of community.

My guiding principle is that the most profound changes are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of every day work and life and are indistinguishable from it.


TheCR Network is a membership network that provides strategic, tactical and professional development programming for community and social business leaders. The network enables members to connect and form lasting relationships with experts and peers as well as get access to vetted content.



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  • RachelHappe's picture
    Jun 8 Posted 4 years ago RachelHappe

    Just a clarifying note - this post, while on my feed, was written by our new parter at The Community Roundtable, Ayelet Baron (@ayeletb on Twitter)

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