Enterprise Social Computing: Moving Up the Value Chain

 Author(s): , Posted on September 26th, 2012

The value Enterprise Social Computing provides around employee collaboration, knowledge management and customer engagement is now well understood and we are seeing good adoption across several industries. What I would like to highlight in this blog is a number of emerging social computing scenarios which go beyond these common uses and push Social Computing a little bit further up in the enterprise value chain while delivering new capabilities around so far unmet business needs.

The first one of such areas is Social Workflow. As organizational and product complexity increase so does the need for collaboration for daily ad-hoc tasks and workflows. Enterprise Social Computing has the potential to go from being a platform on which employees can connect and share content to a platform for decision support, task management and execution. Socially-enabled daily workflow can spark a new burst in office productivity by automating highly-collaborative, improvisational tasks and inject social collaboration into the flow of everyday work. Today, these tasks are hardly addressed by office productivity tools, email or enterprise applications. Social workflow can bridge simple to-do lists and complex, rigid business process management (BPM) systems, bringing value to an unaddressed functional space in the middle. It seems the market has already started to address this space (see Sparqlight Ramps Up Enterprise Social Workflow Capabilities).

The second potential area is using Social networking to deliver more relevant and contextual content to enterprise users. Today, in most cases, knowledge workers are either overloaded with a large amount of out of context data or cannot have timely access to relevant information to do their work. Providing highly-relevant information within the right context will greatly improve the productivity of workers. Enterprise Social networks have the potential to become the prime distribution channel for highly relevant and contextual content, providing the much-needed tacit context for business transactions. This context is derived from the user’s identity, intent, history and environment – core information found in social networks – and is used to filter and route information enhancing the effectiveness of traditional Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems and again we have already started see initial implementations of this concept (see Salesforce Launch Social Workflow, Merging Analytics Rules with CRM).

Last, but not least, we have been talking about the Enterprise Social Layer – social integration or enablement of enterprise applications for a while. Nick Evans’ bylined article, Moving the new wave of technology from disruptive to productive, he talks about the importance of integration for adoption of Social Computing in the enterprise. Unfortunately, today some organizations still see Social Computing as just another standalone platform for collaboration – an oxymoron by definition. What is worst, there has been a proliferation of siloed Social Computing solutions since most of the new ERP, CRM and ECM applications have started to come out with their own social capabilities and various departments around the organization adopt different social computing solutions. This ever increasing complexity of enterprise integration presents significant challenges to the realization of a “social layer” – a vision for broad, unified social capability across the enterprise. Enterprise Social Computing should be seen and developed as a true horizontal business capability which can integrate collaborative tasks across business units and functions, realizing the Enterprise Social Layer vision.

In summary, Social Computing can go beyond the core premise of improving business collaboration, going further into improving enterprise workflow, streamlining business processes, enhancing the value of enterprise content and integrating collaborative tasks. It is time to get your enterprise strategists and architects to explore future uses of this promising new capability with a futuristic perspective.

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