The Next Layer of Social

By Christian Buckley posted 02-19-2013 11:47



Analysts and pundits love to talk about changes in the fabric of enterprise technology as if new entries are popping in out of nowhere, like a light switch being turned on. We were making due with steel and flint, and then suddenly….someone invents matches. And then a blow torch. And then lasers. The reality is that there is some time in between these technological leaps, and some incremental solutions, some more successful than others.


Social is not a light switch moment. It's been a long, slow burn. Granted, most enterprises just weren't paying attention to the incremental changes. It usually takes something grand -- like Microsoft's $1.2 billion acquisition of Yammer -- to grab people's attention. The problem is that all of the fanfare and attention around this "big news" tends to shadow what is actually happening with the underlying technology. And its those incremental changes, those small but constant shifts in the fabric that show you where things are really headed, and where your business should be focusing if you want to take advantage, build some competitive advantages.


Moving past the fervor for all things social, what you have at the foundation of any social platform is a massive amount of data -- some of it attached, associated with, in context of content within your environment, but much of it floating free, attached only to your profile (maybe) and other strings of data. Social thrives in an unstructured data world, helping individuals to achieve what no advance in artificial intelligence or machine learning can accomplish: connect people to disparate content and ideas that do not seem to have any discernable connection. The human mind is an amazing thing. A machine can connect points of data based on complex patterns, but the human mind can make connections that do not exhibit any pattern, based on history and experience and "gut feel."


Creating social connections between people and content is just half of the social equation -- you also need to do something with the data created from those connections. My vision of the future of social computing is one of deeper analytical capability, business intelligence solutions that generate, read, and take action on the data created. The future of productivity is a socially connected web of structured and unstructured data that interprets the patterns we generate, and quickly learns from and takes action on the actions we take outside of these perceivable patterns.


The future of social is the future of Big Data, mixing much more complex automated or machine-based data capture, blended with the rich, user-driven context and metadata that cannot be duplicated by machine, to enable organizations to more deeply understand, and provide products and services for, their customers. Platforms should not limit your ability to take action against the data they generate, but should ensure that all data is accessible, consumable, and social.


What can you do today? Similar to the Big Data problem that most companies are pondering today, we don't yet fully understand what we may do with this data in the future, so we better store everything we can today. For organizations, this means tracking versioning, capture trending data, create connections through social interactions, comments, and sharing as a way of generating more rich metadata and content around your experiences.


The future of enterprise social collaboration will be an incremental change in how we connect and consume this data. The competitive advantage will go to the companies who can ride the incremental wave, using this data now instead of waiting for the next light switch moment.

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