Taking the next steps in social productivity

By Christian Buckley posted 10-12-2011 21:45


The problem with social computing is that it's just such a huge waste of time, and drives absolutely no value to the business. At all. Period. Nope. None. Well…..Ok, sort of. Alright, maybe I was too hasty. Yes, there's a lot of value there -- the problem is harnessing it. The difficulty is figuring out a way to provide both management and end users with value.

Social needs to become effective, measurable, repeatable. Sounds sort of like your commitments, or management objectives (MBOs), and rightly so. It's about deriving business value from the digital candy you spend your time licking all day, that everlasting gobstopper of interweb splendour. Ok, just being silly. But there must be some kind of connection to business process, a direct correlation between collaboration and action. Far too many social tools are about being social for the sake of being social, instead of social driving business action.

There have been plenty of attempts to achieve this connection to business ROI, some more successful than others. But is adding an otherwise disconnected social layer on top of a business platform really what we're looking for? And then there's the issue of taking people outside of their comfort zones. Jive has been very innovative from a market research or product development standpoint. Their tools pull together ideas, discussions, and activities from internal groups -- as well as allowing the organization to identify movement outside of the organization, on the web and in offline activities. The problem is that it is an entirely different way to do your business. The features themselves may not be overly complex, but (in my opinion) it’s a new way to work, a new way to think about information gathering and sharing. It's very different from what people are used to. Oh, and integration with other enterprise platforms can be painful (yeah, like SharePoint is a walk in the park).

I believe the next step in social productivity should closely match the way we work today. That improves its chances of adoption, and makes incremental changes more palatable. Social in the enterprise should be more than real-time connectivity, more than an unattached conversation. Social  should enable tighter communication across the team, it should have context, and it should be able to demonstrate business value. This is even more true within the SharePoint sphere.

I love the tagline of social startup SnapWorkSocial: "Social without purpose is just chat."

My bread and butter is SharePoint. To date, the platform has offered more of a "vanilla" offering in merging social with productivity. But then again, the platform is so broad and deep in so many areas, and the partner ecosystem so strong, that Microsoft has been able to slide a bit. I don't think that's going to be the case in the future. While partners like Newsgator, and startups like Attini and SnapWorkSocial are quickly filling the void, expectations are increasing faster than the speed of innovation. The next version of SharePoint needs to step it up, impress us, and provide a clear roadmap for social in the enterprise.

So lick away at your gobstopper, but just remember that the clock is ticking on quantifying social's business value. 

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