Creating value with social collaboration platforms

I've been lucky enough to be able to listen to a couple of webinars recently on collaboration using different enterprise social networking tools. The first of these was "Creating value with social collaboration platforms" which was hosted by Jive.

The webinar started with Larry Cannell, Research Director at Gartner outlining the evolution of social (software) business platforms. In general what we're seeing now is products that contain functionality we might have once called called a wiki or a blog, but we don't use those terms anymore. Possibly because people don't understand what those terms mean, or might likely because we want them to focus on the collaborative platform as a whole rather then a small but significant element of it.

Larry also outlined some of the drivers behind the development of collaboration platforms, these are;

  1. Consumer social media sites
  2. Smartphone and tablet applications
  3. Business applications that are starting to use activity streams

What these drivers do is two things; they change the type and variety of conversations that are taking place within enterprises and they influence the design of software.

So what we're beginning to see within enterprises are 3 very distinct types of collaboration platforms, which will all incorporate activity streams to some extent, these are:

  1. Enterprise social networks (Facebook clones) with social messaging features, but for internal use only
  2. Enterprise 2.0 suites. These would originally have been a collection of tools (wikis, blogs, document libraries etc) They will also include activity streams to "wikify" the experience
  3. Finally we have Business applications and middleware, these will include Event notifcications and Exception handling notifications. For example you might choose to follow a record in a CRM system these systems would allow you to do this 

Were also increasingly beginning to see the development of social online workplaces, these are workspaces that contain activity streams, collaborative content, business applications and notifications. These workspaces keep track of conversations in activity streams which are surfaced in prominent places. These activity streams can be used to create social graphs (much like the new Facebook social graph) which can provide a more relevant search by telling us/showing us things that we may not be aware of.

For example one way social graphs can be used is to recommend friends and to show the link between different friends. Social graphs can also include application data, for example information from Customer relationship management systems.

Larry finished by providing two recommendations in relation to social collaboration platforms:

  1. Important to focus on providing people centred experiences. Whilst these require deeper engagement it means that the collaboration platform is seen as as extension of key business processes/functions.
  2. Do not push social networks and collaboration platforms as the next email system

Next we heard from Simon Levene of PWC, who talked extensively about their experience of using Jive to create a "socially networked organisation" The main driver behind this was to improve the organisations ability to connect and collaborate with each other and create more value internally and for clients. PWC were also looking to:

  1. Make a large network (organisation) feel small
  2. Bring fragmented groups together
  3. Accelerate insights (sharing of insights)
  4. Engage clients in issues that matter to them

Whilst Simon's presentation was interesting, there wasn't a huge amount to take away from it apart from the following tips on getting buy in, which I thought were useful:

  1. Go where the energy is within an organisation
  2. Let usage emerge and then encourage it
  3. Be aware of some of the risk issues associated with technology
  4. Deal quickly and effectively with any IT issues

Overall this was quite an interesting webinar. Sadly we didn't get to see any screenshots of Jive being used, which I think would have been interesting.