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Trends from Enterprise 2.0: The Move to Social Business

November 11, 2010

Introduction

I attended Enterprise 2.0 in Santa Clara, CA this week.  I predict that in 2011, “business as usual” will move to social business.  As usual. Meaning, social tools will be enabled across the enterprise and they’ll quickly be ingrained as the “new way to do business”.  Here are specific trends and observations from Enterprise 2.0.

Start-ups on Equal Footing with the Technology Giants

Social business, by way of its “newness”, evens the playing field.  In fact, it actually provides an advantage to the start-ups, who built their business (from the ground up) on a foundation of social features.

The established giants, meanwhile (e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.), need to retrofit existing offerings – adding social into (or on top of) what already exists.  Or in some cases, the giants are developing new social platforms that live in parallel with their legacy systems.

Commenting on a T-shirt that poked fun at “jive talking”, Christopher Morace (@thinkoutloud) said it well when he tweeted, “How in a space with IBM, MSFT, & SFDC did Jive become ‘the man’? I’m still in my 30’s!”

Social Business UI – New Models Needed

During the event, I tweeted that if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Facebook should be quite flattered.  In other words, everyone’s social business UI looks and feels like Facebook.

Conference attendee Robert Lavigne (@RLavigne42) agreed and tweeted back, “good from a cross training point of view, bad from a breaking that mindset in the sales cycle though. Need innovation not UX copy”.  Robert continued, “Time for something innovative in terms of UX”.

If we do not see UI/UX innovation and differentiation, then the market will face commoditization, where everyone’s platform looks the same.  And that’s not good for the market.  Expect to see fresh, new looks in 2011, especially as some of these platforms evolve to version 2.0.

The Intranet (As We Know It) Is Dead


The Intranet, as a self-standing web site, is now dead.  In its place will be social business platforms.  Do you really use your company’s intranet?  It’s good for routine activities (e.g. look up phone numbers, find the expense report template, etc.), but it doesn’t significantly improve employee productivity.

The typical intranet doesn’t get much activity and it’s hard to find what you need.  Now consider the likes of the Socialtext, Yammer, Salesforce Chatter and others. Common features they provide are:

  1. Follow and be followed – people, documents, sales opportunities, etc.  Need to track an important document?  Follow it, and be alerted to all updates on it.
  2. Crowdsourced answers – need to find a nugget of information or an obscure document?  Ask your followers via a status update and you’ll likely receive an answer within minutes.
  3. Polls – want to know how Marketing is doing with sales collateral?  Create a poll and invite employees to participate.  Publish the results via a status update.
  4. Collaboration via 140 characters – OK, most social platforms don’t impose Twitter-like character limits, but you get the idea: status updates are the new water cooler conversation.
  5. Mobile – access to social business is enabled on your smartphone, via apps provided by the social platforms.  How often did you access your intranet from mobile?

What This Means for Virtual Event Platforms

In my 2011 predictions for virtual events, I wrote about “Market Expansion”.  Guess what? Social business platforms do, in fact, look a lot like virtual event platforms.  Some striking similarities:

  1. A move from point features to a “platform”
  2. Presence
  3. Private and group chat
  4. Collaboration

Some social platforms provide capabilities not found in virtual event platforms today, such as wikis and real-time collaborative document editing.

Virtual event platforms will continue to have the upper hand in supporting live/scheduled (online) events, but will face expanded competition in the area of “virtual communities”.

Conclusion

(A tag cloud generated from the session descriptions at Enterprise 2.0 – using wordle.net)

It’s an interesting time.  2011 could be a year of battles, shifts and migrations.  With the move to social business, along with the larger shift to cloud computing, expect 2011 to be  The Year of the Shakeout.

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How To Create A Vibrant (And Virtual) Business Community

September 25, 2009

Source: flickr (User: Samuele Storari)

Source: flickr (User: Samuele Storari)

The virtual events industry got its start in replications of a physical trade show or conference – the very first virtual events were virtual tradeshows, whereby platform providers re-created the look and feel of a physical trade show within a web-based environment.  These sorts of virtual events continue to gain traction and I expect to see continued growth as additional corporations (and entire industries) enter the mix this year and into 2010.

Due to the flexible nature of virtual event platforms, however, we’re seeing parallel growth occurring via many other virtual applications that ride atop the same shared infrastructure and platform.  As I wrote in a blog posting titled “Virtual Events: Available In Many Flavors“, we’re seeing virtual job fairs, virtual sales kickoffs and virtual partner summits running on vendors’ virtual event platforms.

Another application/venue that’s gained traction in 2009 is the virtual business community.  Rather than a discrete and fixed event that occurs over a live date (or a series of live dates), the virtual business community is a 365 day/year service that users leverage for explicit business benefits.  In my opinion, the Intranet of 2001-2008 will be moving towards virtual business communities, powered by the same platforms that service virtual tradeshows.

For me, the concept of intranet does not inspire much excitement or enthusiasm.  I’ve used intranets to find information (specifications, pricing, a phone number, etc.), but have never yearned to log into the intranet while bringing up my morning email.  “It’s just there” was the mentality I used to have.  I believe that virtual event platforms can create a vibrant and virtual business community, significantly moving the intranet concept up the value chain.  In fact, the business community becomes a virtual office, tearing down physical walls (and cubicles) to turn a globally distributed workforce into a close-knit and collaborative team.

Here are key tactics in building a vibrant business community:

Get users to keep coming back

You want your user base to login to the business community each morning before they even fire up their email client.  In fact, a truly successful business community may support email-like communications within the platform, making users less dependent on email.  To get your users to return over and over, you need:

  1. Content – it needs to be timely, relevant and useful.  Business-critical content should be housed here – the type of information that users need to get their job done – pricing sheets, internal contact information, customer contact information, product documentation, competitive analysis, etc.  Don’t lose sight of the timely angle – have your executives post company updates/news and make them available via videocasts or video webcam.
  2. Network effect – a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here – but, you need to get a critical mass of engaged and sought-after employees interacting in the business community.  Once you have that critical mass, you’ll see the community grow, as the “draw” will be access to and interactions with key colleagues.  This is the same network effect that AOL Instant Messenger, Facebook and Twitter enjoyed – users sign up because their friends, family or colleagues were already there.
  3. Enable social and interactive tools – today’s intranet needs to be empowered with the capabilities of AIM, Skype, Twitter and Facebook.  This way, I not only find documents to download, but I interact with key people who have the answers I need.  If I’m a product manager and need an answer from a lead software developer, he might not answer my phone call or return my email right away, but if I connect with him via text or video chat, perhaps he will.  After all, I’m finding him in an (online) environment that he’s most comfortable operating in.

Enterprise-enable your Business Community

Today’s most successful social networking sites/services are used in a consumer setting (i.e. friends and family) – ask yourself what makes them successful and determine how those features can be adopted in a 100% (internal) business social network.  I could see parallels of the following services made available internally within the business community platform:

  1. flickr
  2. Yahoo Answers
  3. Skype
  4. Facebook
  5. Twitter
  6. StumbleUpon
  7. del.icio.us
  8. Google
  9. digg

The key, I believe, is not just to enable social tools for the sake of being social – it’s to enable social tools while simultaneously connecting those tools to your business applications and business processes.  Possible ideas:

  1. Integration with your HR / Human Capital Database – if you have a rich profile on each employee (birth date, interests, job function, etc.), expose shareable information within your social tools and auto-fill that information to make it convenient for all users.  So if I’m sending out an internal tweet, my user ID is hyperlinked to a rich profile that describes all shareable information about me and my job role.
  2. Integration with CRM Database – are users posting links to industry news and analysis?  How about doing a keyword search by company and matching those up to sales opportunities in your CRM database?  If an article was posted about Acme Corporation’s latest product launch, let Acme’s sales rep know, so that she can contact them about applicable services that you offer.
  3. Integration with ERP systems – perhaps a crazy idea, but what if you could tweet about your latest business trip and have the expense management system parse your (internal) tweet and auto-generate a row in your online expense report?

All told, the possibilities are endless and quite exciting.  I foresee the virtual business community (powered by a virtual event platform) to be a significant trend in the coming year.  I believe this to be the future of the intranet for 2010 and beyond.


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