Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why Getting Social Is Necessary (But Not Sufficient) For Business


image courtesy of HubSpot

There's a lot of social in the air these days. I was chatting with Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group, and he said that there was even talk of scrapping the term "Enterprise 2.0" in favor of "Social Business".

While I do believe that social is necessary, it's definitely not sufficient, and the current craze for bringing social to the enterprise threatens to do more harm than good if companies don't recognize that social is only part of the picture.

A number of collaboration vendors are betting heavily on social business. The theory is that the consumerization of IT means that Facebook and Twitter for the enterprise will be a huge market. The problem with this overly simplistic view is that it fails to consider the difference between the consumer and enterprise environments.

Take Facebook, for example. I use Facebook to keep up with my friends, to organize events, and to snoop on people without their knowledge (whoops, did I say that?).

The essential purpose is to have a good time. Some might even say its purpose is to waste time.

Within the enterprise, the ultimate purpose of any tool is simple: to help get work done. Thus the approach that works so well for Facebook may not work quite so well within the business world.

The way I think about the market puts the focus squarely on getting work done. I call this the Collaboration Triangle, but it applies throughout the enterprise.



Getting work done is the ultimate goal, and to achieve this goal, we need to bring together the People doing the work, the Processes that manage the work, and the Product they produce, be it work-in-progress or final deliverables. Only by bringing together these three parts of the triangle can we get work done.

Social media helps with the People aspect of the triangle, but we must not forget that it is a means to an end (getting work done), not an end in and of itself. The work is what makes the technology relevant.

When we added social aspects to PBworks, at every step along the way, we tried to keep the focus on getting work done.

Over and over, we asked, "How will real users apply this technology to help them get work done?"

The result is a Social Collaboration release that takes the familiar social tools (networking, microblogging) and tweaks them for a business environment.

For example, the social networking-style profiles allow each company's administrator to set up custom fields that are useful for getting work done, things like product expertise, skills, interests, etc. The PBworks user profiles also integrate activity and tasks, so that everyone can see what each person has done, is doing, and plans to do--far more useful in the workplace than photo galleries or games.

The story is the same for microblogging. Because these status updates are intended for use largely during work hours, there is no need for Twitter's SMS integration, which means that we don't have to stick to a 140 character limit. And while the following mechanism is the same as for Twitter, we let you follow a user's complete activity stream, including edits, file uploads, task updates, etc., in addition to the status updates.

Social media technology will have a major impact on business, and will be extremely useful within the enterprise, but we have to make sure that the tail doesn't wag the dog.

Social media works in the enterprise only if it helps businesses and their people to get work done.

4 comments:

Paul said...

Hey Chris, I still own iCoCreate.com -- the best domain name EVER(imho) for collaboration, whether in the workplace or in a social type environment.

Allan said...

Outstanding post, Chris. Do you know of any companies that did this optimally before the age of social media?

I'm thinking an outfit like IBM or Accenture would have had some internal system that inventoried the skills and areas of expertise of the individuals in their workforce. This would help managers assemble relevant teams for ad hoc projects. IBM must have done this as it was notorious for moving their talent around like chess pieces.

As soon as Facebook attempts to design its service to appeal to consumers, it will muddy its mission and fail.

Chris said...

Paul,

ICoCreate is a good name, but a but lengthy. And technically, shouldn't it be WeCoCreate?

Allan,

Some companies like McKinsey were always known for their knowledge management efforts. The only problem was that such efforts were notorious for quickly fading from relevance. Without proper motivation, people never kept them up to date. Contrast that to the obsessive way some people update their Facebook profiles!

Paul said...

Chris,

LOL, well if you're going to get technical... but WEcocreate only works if you're already a part of a team of creators... if you're looking for others to cocreate with, I is obviously the way to go...

Now, I've thought about pitching you a porn site - IProCreate - I'm pretty sure that'd make us some money.... or just be fun...