I’ve largely taken the last few weeks off from the consumption and production treadmill to frame what I see as pivotal data points that brought us to where we are and what’s on the horizon for the next 12-18 months. This was largely a rationalization based on what were seeing with customers as well as what I learn from the practical experience of others I have high regard for. Thought I’d put some thoughts out here on the blog.
A disclaimer: for those of you nice enough to read this blog often, some of the links will look familiar. I’ve resurfaced them to the degree they helped me look back, see where some of the pontification was ahead of its time, and where it may be relevant now. Here goes…
On Business and Measurement
2011 is when businesses will put serious effort behind the promise of enterprise social computing and get ready to navigate a complex business and technology landscape. The first round of embracing collaboration (via social concepts at least), has been characterized by a) experimentation in some camps, b) a concerted quest for general productivity improvement others and c) a sort of take 2 on knowledge management. That’s a fair start. Now lets look forward.
Coming out of a recession and with massive change ahead in terms of globalization and the changing contract with customers that will impact many an industry, most executives have critical business considerations to deal with before they can even fathom the creation of the social workplace on a little more than a leap of faith. On a more positive front, we’ve finally seen a few quarters of profit and good profit in many camps to match the hollow stock market uptick earlier in 2010. That means some budgets free up. But make no mistake – the queue for programmatic spend is now 2 years long since the 2008 crash. And so only the most surgical programs will move first.
Seems like a lifetime ago but back in the summer of 2009, I wrote that “Enterprise 2.0 is a state that Enterprises achieve by employing an appropriate set of social computing concepts.” The good news is that discrete value propositions are emerging to improve employee, customer and partner performance. Some of the largest organizations in the world such as SAP, HP, Dell, Nike, Kraft, The World Bank, Humana and 100s of others are planning or working on creating a collaborative fabric that’s constantly kept honest by decisive business process tie ins. We’re moving from touting technology and social religion to addressing business value in discrete areas. And increasingly its not a question of ‘if’ but ‘how’ and’ when’. We’ve seen good cases in the area of customer, prospect and employee engagement. We’re now seeing new cases emerge in our work on partner and supply chain performance as well. A great collection of view points on Oscar Berg’s this years prospects for moving the ball forward.
On the measurement front, the plumbing is being put in place to see how social computing concepts take foot in some of the largest enterprises. The first round of functionality has centered on platform and program performance. As much as that’s inadequate, that’s about how this starts in most cases. We can measure usage, sentiment, likes, engagement etc. in absolute terms. But we have some work to do to measure business performance. And silod efforts to measure performance of social initiatives based on social media monitoring tool functionality is akin to looking for a problem to solve just because you have the ability to generate a report. Expensive, anti-climactic and risky (just ask many big BI buyers).
If its not ultimately tied into central performance management efforts via the system of record enterprise bus, that makes a lot of what we have today to be analysis for analysis sake.As shiny as these new metrics units are, executives with numbers on their head can only pay so much attention to these in a vacuum. Thankfully, that’s going to start changing dramatically but that’s another show.
Yes, we’ve got ways to go. But it’s disingenuous to say that our old process-laden world excessively shackled by rigid ERP processes and experiences that don’t compute for todays workforce doesn’t require a much needed revisit. In hindsight, the repeatable part of the ‘repeatable process’ mantra, whilst brining efficiency, has been a myth in many business circumstances (more on that later). Collaboration will not fix all process failures but new innovations in engagement design and technology finally offer complimentary unstructured and fluid constructs needed to inject discussion between the “submit and cancel buttons’ on ERP screens. And that’s on the verge of becoming clear and will slowly become real as we proceed through 2011.
With coming maturity, this also means that executives will come armed with their most critical questions about the additive value of enterprise 2.0 /social business constructs to customer, employee and partner performance. That’s a given precursor to staking financial and political capital behind initiatives that can have serious business impact but can also uproot decade old practices if they miss the mark. Nothing to fret about – this is how big shifts have always evolved at every innovation inflection point. The hope of course is that its easy to separate wheat from chaff.
I’ve built a successful consulting practice over the last decade by staying away from FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). It’s something I abhor, and I don’t plan to start subscribing now. But if there ever was a time where utter confusion and an array of often contradicting technology choices are about to present themselves, its now.
- 1. Competing Forces: In 2010, we saw the most significant technology push in enterprise social computing with clear indication that the big players have joined the enterprise social party (SAP, Cisco, Oracle, SalesForce Chatter, and IBM). We now have 4 clear camps that bring social and collaborative technology to the market: Pure Play Enterprise Social Software Vendors, ERP and CRM providers layering in collaboration and community features, Networking and UC providers adding social networking to VOIP and Online Meeting offerings, and finally, specialist Innovation, HR and LMS vendors extending their offerings to include collaboration.
- 2. Go Deep or Go Wide? Consider Paul Greenberg has a 4 part Watchlist (all links included in his post) just on the CRM and Social CRM market. One particular thing that jumped out at me is a coming bifurcation of the pure play start up social software vendors either going deep into engagement and community on one hand or on the other, focus on light weight engagement add-ons to existing collaboration and knowledge management suites with API access to other business apps.
- 3. App Store Wars: Lots of focus on app stores that use the central activity stream as the command and control hub to access notifications and data from a host of applications. Force.com has some competition now but it’s a natural place to consider alternate appstore data touch points.
4. [Update] Microsoft SharePoint is here to stay. We’ll continue to see a relationship of co-existence between ShaprePoint and other platforms. The discourse on this issue has finally become more mature where customers are now left with options of co-habitation as well as rip and replace, appetite permitting. Thanks to JB Holston for bringing this up on Twitter.
- 5. But Wait: Elsewhere, the CIO is also going to be distracted with tectonic shifts in the vendor landscape. Oracle now sells hardware and application software in a box. Networking giant Cisco sells servers and collaboration software. Salesforce.com now wants every cloud buyer to move from Oracle DB to Database.com. And HP just hired a seasoned Enterprise Software CEO. Expect a lot of calls to Fortune 500 CEOs as the land grab for the enterprise IT stack starts all over again. And so, all the more reason for enterprise 2.0 and social business application vendors to get laser sharp in their messaging and go to market plans. If they had 30 minutes to make a business case in 2010, they will have 15 minutes to grab the CIOs attention in 2011.
Obviously there’s a lot more but that’s the high level backdrop from my perspective as we get busy with our lives for the rest of the year.
Lets get ready to rumble. Are you ready?
Ill close with this hilarious cartoon that Steve Wylie sent over a few days ago :–)