Let’s Get Some Work Done! Why Enterprise Social Is Not about People Collaborating
By Michael Weir, Sparqlight.com
I know this sounds paradoxical, but hear me out: Let me start by talking a bit about the consumerization of IT (CoIT). This was a fairly easy hill to climb for IT admins when it came to hardware, since there were a limited number of platforms and devices folks wanted to use at work – MacBooks and iPhones (Android too!), followed by iPads. But now that the ease of use and “coolness” factors have moved on to business applications, the hill has gotten a bit steeper.
A generation of folks who have become accustomed to instant-on collaboration over social media like Facebook and Twitter, free cloud storage and new, cool, cloud-based apps (insert name here) are now demanding that wow factor at work too. (Why is it so darn hard to have a consumer-like experience with enterprise apps? That’s a discussion for another time.)
As a result of their personal experiences, workers have high expectations when new enterprise social apps are deployed. However, the goals are different at work, where you are no longer the boss and you’re working toward company – not personal – goals.
It’s important to note that social is just another collaboration channel, albeit with some awesomely useful characteristics:
● Can be synchronous or asynchronous
● Easy to use
● Easy to discover and connect with people
This powerful list of features helps explain why consumer social networks have exploded (for once, I can say this and have it not be hyperbole), and why many companies have deployed their enterprise counterparts. The problem is, Enterprise Social is not about collaborating, it’s about getting work done! If you are not laser-focused on getting work done, your Enterprise Social network cannot succeed.
But most Enterprise Social efforts are primarily tied to broadcasting, discovery and collaboration with others. That works for consumer social because there are no requirements for visibility and measurement – just timelines, ease of use, and a way to count how many friends and likes you have. Yay me!
The consumer social experience is doomed to fail in enterprise for two reasons: first, the unstructured noise that you find charming and fun to weed through on Facebook becomes a massive time suck if you try to use an enterprise version of Facebook as a collaboration tool; second, in Enterprise Social what’s key is what you are working on and the relevancy of your collaborators – not how many, but who.
To make Enterprise Social useful and measurable, you need to track and broadcast events that affect your bottom line. If you make people’s tasks the focus of the network along with the accompanying metadata, you then get visibility into something useful to the business, AND it will be measurable.
Therefore, while Enterprise Social is often hailed as the next savior of the collaborative, agile business, it can ONLY succeed if we can track, measure and improve our work within that social channel. If I am trying to grok what is going on in thousands of individual posts across my network using AI or big data techniques to search sentiment or keywords, then I am chained already to imprecise, soft analysis. Sure, I can easily see levels of engagement or pinpoint inter-departmental relationships that were impossible to catalyze using existing, outdated collaboration methods, but it’s still impossible to measure the impact on my bottom line.
Now imagine the WORK focused Enterprise Social network. I have a discrete unit of work – a goal with associated to do’s or a single task. This record has all kinds of structured (easy to analyze) data associated with it, including who it is assigned to, priority, due date, tags, date created or modified, milestones and their completion, how many times it’s viewed or opened, whether it is public or private, and so on. It’s easy to see how powerful this data could be. Oh, and you can do the analysis of the unstructured data as well, it’ll just be way more useful in combination with the structured analytics.
So now you have an Enterprise Social network that relies on transparency, streaming actual hard data about what people are working on and how they are doing it. It’s possible to have a level of visibility, measurement and control you could never have had with a traditional ESN. And you can measure and fine-tune it to increase your ROI. The number one pain point for enterprises deploying ESN’s, according to Charlene Li at the Altimeter Group, is “Lack of Metrics Means Business Impact Goes Unmeasured” (from Making the Business Case for Enterprise Social Networking — AltimeterGroup). With an Enterprise Social network focused around making work social, rather than people, you can have your metrics and see the business impact.
New platforms for Enterprise Social come out every day, so choose wisely and make sure you are set to get work done. When you plan and execute your work socially, a cool thing happens: collaboration occurs with a purpose, and you can track how you’re doing – as a person and as a company.
Michael is CMO at Sparqlight. Most recently, Michael was the VP of Marketing of DataStax, responsible for all GTM, customer acquisition and communications activities. Prior to DataStax, Michael was Senior Director of Marketing for ParAccel and was responsible for product marketing, sales enablement, and analyst and press relations. Prior to ParAccel, Michael worked at Cisco Systems where he held multiple marketing roles, most recently as Manager, Product Marketing for Mobile and Web Security. Michael has held senior marketing roles at IronPort, PostX, ActZero, WebMD and E*Trade. Michael received a BA with Honors in Media from the University of California, San Diego.
Published: April 15, 2012 By: