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The enterprise goes social: tips and predictions
COLLABORATION

The enterprise goes social: tips and predictions 

However, they are still trying to figure out exactly what role social technologies should have. Ruven Gotz, director, collaboration solutions, Avanade, shared his perspective on the impact of social in the enterprise.

The enterprise can benefit extensively from external social technologies. “A social enterprise may be engaging in multiple social initiatives including the use of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to engage directly with customers, gauge their sentiment about the organization or its products, recruit new staff and promote non-business initiatives such as charitable programs,” Gotz explained.

Does social have an internal role to play? Gotz believes it does. “A further component of a social enterprise is to use social tools internally,” he remarked. There are business-focused tools to enable social networking and collaboration amongst staff. Gotz referred to this as “enterprise social.” “This can also extend to social interactions with partners and suppliers, but generally is done in the context of a controlled, robust, business managed social tool, as opposed to public social tools like Facebook,” he added.

Just because a company has implemented these tools does not mean collaboration will take place. Gotz noted that a new solution has to exceed its predecessor in a number of ways in order to be successful. “It’s been said that getting people to shift from an entrenched way of working means that the new technology/ tool has to be not just better, but ten times better than what came before,” he stated. “Despite the pain that we all feel with overfull inboxes, too many files stored in email and too many ‘cc’s just to keep you in the loop, we haven’t had tools that are ten times better than email. Collaboration tools like SharePoint have not felt ten times better.”

He acknowledged that “ten times better” will take some time to achieve. “I realize that it’s not going to be smooth sailing, but I think that application of the right tool for the right job, a combination of IM, DM, Social and email all tied together with common search may bring us into the ten-times-better world,” Gotz suggested. “It won’t be easy, and a lot depends on cloud technologies that many organizations are only now starting to investigate.”

Gotz expects to see some major changes in this tool box in the near future. “I believe that the incorporation of enterprise social tools into collaboration tools are about to usher in a new world of ‘frictionless collaboration,’” he said. Avanade’s director of collaboration solutions cited some examples of enhancements that will be announced in the coming months. “The next steps for collaboration in the cloud with Microsoft’s Office 365 tool set will see the best of document management from SharePoint combined with the best of open communication from Yammer and web-based document editing tools,” Gotz commented. “Microsoft knows that more people live in their inbox than in their Yammer feeds, and so they are creating a version of Outlook for Office 365 that gives you one place to go to see you email inbox and Yammer inbox in one place. The other game-changers in this new, cloud based collaboration/social space is the use of the enterprise social graph.” The “social graph” refers to the representation of online
social relationships in a network.

These changes will have a major impact on businesses. “Businesses that can engage their workforces and respond to their customers more rapidly at lower cost will win,” Gotz asserted. Engaging workforces and responding to customers is part of the shift that social technologies have brought about in the enterprise. “The old systems and hierarchies that have governed business since the start of the industrial revolution are being superseded by social tools that allow the general public (i.e. customers) to get answers from friends, colleagues and vendors almost instantly,” he commented. “When a customer calls for service, or to report an issue, the old ways don’t cut it anymore. Outside the organization, people are communicating with their network. Inside the organization, we now have tools that allow for that same noisy but responsive interaction.”

The future looks bright for the firms that can use social technologies to their advantage. “Those companies that can adjust their cultures and teach their people how to get business value from these tools will lead the way in the coming five years,” Gotz predicted.

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