Don’t confuse Enterprise 2.0 with social computing concepts

Earlier this week, a post by Thomas Vanderwal on Microsoft SharePoint 2007 caught fire on Twitter and a few blogs. What started as a spirited discussion on whether Sharepoint is a respectable Enterprise 2.0 offering or not, quickly turned into a debate on Enterprise 2.0 definitions. Mike Gotta masterfully jumped in front of  the parade and steered it hard right, questioning whether Enterprise 2.0 is even a category or a rather, a philosophy around the use of social computing within existing business processes. With due respect to Forrester, I’m convinced it’s the latter.

In preparation for a meeting with an old client next week about social computing and the opportunities it presents for lead generation and sales operations, this discussion could not have been more timely for me. Here’s how I see it:

These are social computing concepts. Not Enterprise 2.0.


Enterprise 2.0 is a state that Enterprises achieve by employing an appropriate set of social computing concepts.

The promise of transforming to a next generation enterprise (2.0) involves enhancing or even ripping apart traditional processes by leveraging social concepts, to accelerate performance. Organizations do that by starting simple and applying social computing concepts carefully on a process by process basis. As basic as this message is, it’s clear that it bears repeating given the lengths Mike had to go to, to make his point.

To me, the unsung heroes of Enterprise 2.0 are the vertical offerings providers that eat/drink/sleep solutions to specific business problems, everyday. These solution providers get plenty of coverage but surprisingly, almost zero credit for the role they play in transforming their customers into Enterprise 2.0 structures. This is hardly exhaustive but here are some examples:

Lead Management: InsideView helps sales reps qualify and accelerate the sales cycle by folding in relevant structured social data from LinkedIn and Facebook, based on leads in Salesforce. The service helps you call the right lead at the right time and accelerate the sales cycle. That’s it.

Viral Marketing: Appirio‘s referral management solution helps you find leads by connecting campaigns entered in Salesforce to connections on your organizations Facebook fan pages and with employees friends and contacts. Appirio brings more qualified leads using Facebook user profile data to campaigns.

Product Development: UserVoice, and Salesforce Ideas remove risk from product development processes and drive innovation by enabling you to ‘crowd source’ features and product designs before you spend gazillions designing and developing solutions.  One objective – innovate via social leverage.

Customer Service: GetSatisfaction improves the quality of customer service and cuts costs by letting users help each other.

Brand Management: Radian6 and Visible Technologies keep brand marketers informed about market sentiment regarding their products and organization.

I could go on and on.

It would be unfair to imply that so called Enterprise 2.0 vendors are doing nothing in this area.  For instance, Telligent, Jive Software, Lithum and others have customer facing offerings designed to help enterprises generate brand awareness, engage with prospects and customers and surface important analytical data. Newsgator offers social widgets help distribute and monetize content for media companies.

Does that mean horizontal platform solutions, especially those that are behind the firewall are a lost cause? Absolutely not. There’s ‘massive’ opportunity for these solutions to rally around specific business processes and design versions of their products to accelerate and transform specific internal tasks. There’s billions locked up in Supply Chain, Product Development, Retail/POS etc., that represent a mammoth opportunity for social computing technologies. Emulating the portal business of the 90s and sticking to a horizontal solution would be tragic, in my opnion.

The truth is that IBM, Oracle, SAP, et al dominate systems that enable business activity. That said, in my opinion, social computing concepts represent the first opportunity in two decades to successfully move the nucleus of business process management from structured, data centric ERP systems, over to people centric platforms that break silos and artificial firewalls in the enterprise. That entails strategically unleashing social computing on each of these processes and owning the environment where significant improvements in business performance are realized.


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  • Marcel LeBrun
    Mar 13, 2009

    A most excellent post! I like that you bring the focus on the business activities vs enterprise 2.0 “things” like forums, profiles, blogs, etc.

    I am clearly seeing the social web expand in terms of its importance to a broader set of business functions within the enterprise. When we help our clients focus on listening & engagement, it isn't just “brand monitoring”, but in fact touches an increasingly broader set of functions such as customer service, sales/leads, etc.

    Considering sales, for example, I often talk about “listening for the point of need”. This is listening for conversations that are broader than your brand, but that your brand relates to. If you listen for expressions of need that your brand can help with, then you can reach out, help, connecting with prospective clients to build a relationship earlier in their buying process.

    That is just one example, but we are seeing the social web touch more and more processes.

    I like your idea of social computing concepts representing an opportunity to move business process management from structured, data centric ERP systems, over to people centric platforms.

    Regards,
    Marcel
    CEO, Radian6

  • Blake Cahill
    Mar 13, 2009

    Sameer,

    Nice post and appreciate the mention of Visible Technologies. I would add to your post by saying that social data or conversations are in many respects just that — a new form of data or a channel for consumers to voice their opinions. Organizations have had unique and powerful data via existing channels for years and have failed in many cases to leverage the voice of their customers or transform their organizations. The “power” of social data is that it is public and there for anyone to consume whether it's good or bad. The public nature of this is what is accelerating enterprise transformation.

    Blake Cahill
    Visible Technologies

  • Thanks for your comment Marcel.

    I agree – there's much more that listening systems can do beyond brand monitoring. Critical insight for a sales rep is just as likely to show up on a blog or support forum as it would on a CRM system. Whilst I was trying to make a point about applications such as Radian6 focusing on a finite set of needs, there's certainly other problem points that you can service.

  • Hi Blake,
    Love your point about how the public nature of social data compels organizations to participate. Its true that this time around, in certain areas such as where Visible plays, transformation is happening, whether customers like it or not. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Rotkapchen
    Mar 13, 2009

    I am a bit confused/conflicted. The right column is outward-facing (market-facing) — that's Web 2.0. Enterprise 2.0 is focused on the business of optimizing 'doing' business, yes, facilitated by all the things on the left, but the output is not the list on the right…it can support some of the activities on the right, but you've got a lot of mixed fruit in the right column.

  • Hi Paula
    Thanks for your comments. Both sides are representative elements. Hence the (…).
    As to your point about the right side being market facing: actually Lead Qualification, Sales Ops and Innovation etc., are not market facing and the list to the right is intended to sample both. That aside, the lines are blurring by the day on what’s inside vs whats outside. For instance, innovation used to be largely internal in a lab, with some controlled testing with users. Now you can crowd source feature ideas with hundreds of real users before making the leap. Similarly, lead generation used to be primarily external but organizations can now find new leads by leveraging employee (internal) connections on Facebook (external). As long as they have thought through the entitlement model, organizations can carefully push on breaking down the barriers.
    Finally, the list on the right is not meant to denote output. I’m implying that these existing processes are nourished by the strategic use of the social computing elements on the left.

  • kimhogg
    Mar 14, 2009

    Great Post after a long time. “The truth is that IBM, Oracle, SAP, et al dominate systems that enable business activity. That said, in my opinion, social computing concepts represent the first opportunity in two decades to successfully move the nucleus of business process management from structured, data centric ERP systems, over to people centric platforms that break silos and artificial firewalls in the enterprise.” Well said.

  • John Tropea
    Mar 14, 2009

    Totally agree, I posted on this a while back, in that Enterprise 2.0 is a really big statement.
    http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2008/11/14/are

    Rather than knowledge hoarding we would have a culture of knowledge sharing and transfer, and I'm not talking in social computing islands or just in a horizontal way. I'm talking one of the company top-down strategies and performance measurement is based on group effort and your collaboration and networking efforts. Social computing are the tools or the way to achieve enterprise 2.0…this may take 10 years.

    This would be a true change from the industrial age to the network age, one based on adaptability, innovation, effectiveness, sustainability, and human purpose, rather than efficiency, economies of scale and homogenisation (which has made us consumers, rather than people).

    At the moment I doubt companies will include this is their mandate or performance reviews, but workers will continue social computing islands, and hopefully this bottom-up approach will gain enough momentum and display benefits, that the powers at the top finally make it part of the ingrained culture in an official way.

    It's about social productivity, it's about emergence, it's about sense-making, it's about adapting…at the moment companies are not tapping into people's know-how effectively…it's like only using 50% of the features on a machine…people need to be able to self-organise and tap into know-how beyond the cubicles they can see, and companies need to be able to crowdsource ground zero, and apply that input to solve issues, new strategies.

    Social computing is doing these things now, but is it the ethos of the company.

  • That's a great post John. Thanks for the link.

    My sense is that social computing islands will yield enormous, quantifiable results on a per business activity basis and serve as the trampoline for enterprise wide transformation or at least intent. This compliments the grass roots activity already taking place at the other end of the spectrum. And i think that's when we will see what you so eloquently describe as:

    “its about social productivity, it's about emergence, it's about sense-making, it's about adapting…at the moment companies are not tapping into people's know-how effectively…it's like only using 50% of the features on a machine…people need to be able to self-organise and tap into know-how beyond the cubicles they can see, and companies need to be able to crowdsource ground zero, and apply that input to solve issues, new strategies.

  • Hi Kim
    Thanks.

    P.S. I hope that by “Great Post after a long time.” you mean its a great post that you've seen across the blogosphere and not “Great Post after a long time.” here on Pretzel Logic. If its the latter, I better step up my game :)

  • Rotkapchen
    Mar 17, 2009

    Leave it to John to bring up the K-word again :P *sigh*

  • Wow, were down to just K? Not even the dignity of the complete acronym? :)

  • kimhogg
    Mar 19, 2009

    Yes I mean its a great post that you've seen across the blogosphere :)

  • Gadget_Blog
    Aug 9, 2009

    Great post, really help me alot. Thanks.

    Cheers,
    gadgettechblog.com

  • Jeff Wilfong
    Jan 2, 2010

    You cannot measure engagement and innovation without talking about some of the fuzzies you mentioned in the social category. People come together and innovate through a network effect.

    Everyone seems to focus on performance, ROI, KPIs, etc when measuring the success of social-oriented processes such as social networks, social tagging, blogs, etc. What about the pure product of a more robust social network within an organization? Is that not of business value? Most businesses create value through knowledge, wisdom and the process effects resulting directly from employee social networks [although interfacing with customers, stakeholders, and the like also help]. We need to balance our view points and remember that business has a stronghold of types who support only the numbers. How do we increase growth 5% for the next quarter?! Well, we all know that this is not sustainable.

    I think you are right to talk about people-centric viewpoints, now we need to clarify a just assessment of a social network.

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