We weren’t able to attend Dreamforce 2012 as we were preparing for a more-focused, less-hyped conference, TUCON 2012 in Las Vegas the following week (humor, folks). Always wanting to know what’s going on, I spent time looking through the Dreamforce presentations on YouTube and enjoyed this one on the future of social business. The presenters were Dion Hinchcliffe of Dachis Group and Alan Lepofsky of Constellation Research.
Social is not a new idea
One of the most important things pointed out was that Social is not by any stretch an new idea. Initially, computers were designed for individuals working on individual machines. A 1991 Lotus Notes commercial points this out and describes the importance of people working together to be effective, the first real sign of social. Just a few years later, the Internet brought the wiki and Web 2.0, but social didn’t hit critical mass until after Facebook’s rise. We’ve narrowed down to a few large social suites after the shakeout that always follows an explosion of new ideas.
We now have the perfect storm, where people are organizing themselves without the help of HR or management and ‘Podularity’ is the term used to describe this. Process is now affected by social, led by customer service, engineering, sales, CRM, and HR use of social media. Technology is now aligned as customers use mobile devices to move across apps, giving ever richer data for analytics and the need for in-memory data management and its faster response times. These concepts are ‘rotating’ around each other like an Atlantic hurricane, gathering force that can be good instead of destructive.
The benefits of any new way of work or technology are always the contentious part. Social is no different, but we’re now able to see those benefits clearly around increased productivity and cost reduction as information and people find each other. We’re also seeing revenue creation from better sales collaboration, and we’re seeing innovation through more new ideas from more places. The ROI evidence is now in with McKinsey’s extensive study of the benefits of social media in the enterprise.
Rather than information overload being social’s problem, we have,as Clay Shirky predicted in 2008, filter failure. This is a very important point to take away, as more companies haven’t yet become social enterprises than have arrived. If we think data is enormous now…just wait until everyone has it.
The biggest challenge of data is becoming awash in it. It can swamp and sink the boat if there isn’t a way to stay on the surface and reap the benefit. There will be data disruption and an increased focus on analytics to reach the important information despite the clutter.
The great shift
People are moving away from conversations about ‘the social enterprise’ and toward language that is about getting things done with social platforms. “How do I engage with _____” is the new speak. Social is now becoming about structured requirements and less about the ‘wonder’ of it all.
But is it all unicorns and rainbows? No. There are challenges with social conversations being out of context as they leave systems of record and become free-floating. It can also be like managing ‘everyone’s inbox’ rather than just your own. The answer to this is to embed social in systems of record and to keep the conversation streams aligned with contextual information.
People now see the importance of having executives and workers equally engaged and having online community managers. We’re ready for social to stop being the adjective and for this to become simply, ‘getting work done.’ Where things get most interesting is where we go from here.
Future of social
Embedding is a no-brainer for some things, but feeds into social media are the platform for getting work done. Feeds allow concepts like approvals to be passed through a social platform for action rather than just as comment. This then becomes task management. Think of Asana as a great example.
Personal workflow automation is on the horizon as we need to allow collaboration to occur simultaneously with the details of the work itself. This is bringing all of the context from many systems to the individual performing work rather than asking the individual to reach out into disparate systems. This is a major turning point for work. It wraps in personalized business events, personalized rules, and personalized work flows…the employee as the builder and manager of the steps to get their work done.
Local (departmental), mobile apps are now being built that are socially enabled. Monolithic applications are no longer the efficient way to spend money or harness collective work. As Dion Hinchcliffe says, “Social business is one unified ecosystem.” He’s describing moving from transactional systems to engagement systems that bring people and technology together seamlessly. Without this, we have today’s environment of multiple systems that aren’t connected and sharing the same context.
Lastly, Intelligent filtering is about activity streams that have intelligence built in, somewhat like the rules, colors, stars and other things we can already do to filter email. Analytics will allow us to automate the filtering of streams and search. Think of the value of getting information filtered internally based on where you work, who you’re following or followed by, and what projects you are assigned to. It incorporates sentiment analysis. This is a quantum leap from where social is today and the most important solution to filter failure.
If you’ve read this far, watch the video embedded above. This presentation is very valuable for seeing into the future of social as it moves through its teen years very quickly and becomes just ‘the way work is done.’