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Thursday, 16 May 2013 03:16

Social Business Not Dead, Just Business As Usual

Written by Information Week

It wasn't long ago that companies such as Jive and Yammer were proclaiming the era of the social enterprise. Knowledge workers no longer would be slaves to email. The best parts of social media would find their way to the workplace (sans photos of drunken friends). Knowledge and data would be found and shared with ease. Communication would be neither push nor pull but one or the other in the most appropriate times.

And indeed the social enterprise has shown its worth. Insurance giant Allstate's 10-day innovation blitzes spring to mind: Practical applications of internal crowdsourcing and collaboration techniques to inspire new business ideas have become part of Allstate's culture. In vertical industries like education, social collaboration solutions like Edmodo are re-writing how teachers and students interact and learn.

The question now isn't whether such tangible results, or even less lofty ones, are worth pursuing. They are. The challenge now is how to wire social constructs into all business practices. Soon enough, social business will simply be business as usual.

The technologies and platforms are still important, and will become more so, but companies will harness their power more in the context of business tasks and within "non-social" applications.

[ Join us at the E2 Conference in Boston, June 17 - 19, where we will feature discussions like this in our conference tracks and on our keynote stage, including some of the companies discussed here. ]

Adam Pisoni, Yammer's co-founder and now the general manager of engineering in Microsoft's Office division, talks about a future filled with context. "Social feeds are just a user interface," Pisoni says, emphasizing that social messages are encoded with information such as location, conversation participants, roles and other data often derived from mobile (and, in the future, wearable) devices. That infusion of informational structure and relevance is changing the potential of social interaction. Business users connect not for the sake of conversation (being social), but to complete a task, share knowledge and discover opportunity -- doing so with context is far more efficient and effective. Marketing opportunities might be more ripe for exploitation when, say, location and weather data are factored in, for example. (Pisoni will be part of the E2 keynote lineup, and we'll cover that ground.)

Yammer competitor Jive, another early social business leader, finished its most recent fiscal quarter with 33% year-over-year revenue growth, including strong customer renewal numbers. The vendor's latest product reflects its work on partnerships: integrations with Box.com and Salesforce.com -- to drive specific business outcomes, around shared documents and projects, or sales opportunities, for example. Jive's goal is to make other business processes work better within Jive, to make it a hub of communications to simply "get work done," a company spokeswoman says.

Jive's recent acquisitions of Clara and StreamOnce point toward that more streamlined social future.StreamOnce, for example, brings LinkedIn, email, Marketo (marketing automation), Salesforce (CRM) and Workday (HR) into the social sphere. (Jive CTO and co-founder Matt Tucker and Marketo CMO Sanjay Dholakia will also be part of the E2 Conference keynote lineup.)

Social Business In Context

Salesforce is the most visible driver of social business in the context of an enterprise application, making Chatter a core service of its cloud-based CRM offering. Now, having hammered home the social enterprise message, CEO Marc Benioff is talking more about customer-centricity, where other data points, such as location awareness and identity management (read: more context), are important. "All of these things are taking us to a customer revolution, and it's the next logical step for our industry," Benioff said at a recent gathering in New York.

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