I recently viewed a video titled The Future of Social Inside the Enterprise, a thought leadership presentation from the recent Dreamforce 2012 conference. The presentation is delivered by Dion Hinchcliffe of the Dachis Group, and Alan Lepofsky at Constellation Research. This is a fifty minute journey through the past, present and future of social business. You’ll find some content on the business value associated with social, and some good examples of how social is evolving to support the way we work.
You can start to see how systems of record may integrate with systems of engagement. Two examples are given by Mr. Lepofsky. The first describes a stream level integration, which allows system of record events to be broadcast into the activity stream. This stream level interface is envisioned to be the place where people spend time doing their jobs. It is pointed out however that stream level integration has its issues, the biggest in my mind being the loss of context. Comments made in the activity stream do not work their way back to the system of record, so context is lost. The other critical issue is the noise level associated with these streams. Without robust intelligent filtering, these streams become worse than email. This filtering – finding the actionable insight among the noise – is critical to the effectiveness envisioned by future systems of engagement. I had a discussion this week with senior executives from a large Financial Services firm, and the general belief is that this critical filtering will take years to develop and optimize. It took IBM four years to tune IBM Watson to compete in the Jeopardy challenge. This is not simply a sentiment analysis exercise.
The second integration example is called embedded experiences. In this example, social experiences are embedded directly into the system of record – the example given is Radian6 information (social insight) embedded right into the CRM record. Taken to its furthest degree, this becomes a stream that enables a tighter integration with objects from the systems of record world. Interaction with these objects (e.g. approving a time sheet) happens from within the stream – and new objects can be created as well. This level of integration takes us from a collaboration tool to a platform for getting work done.
The presentation then focuses on social business futures. The first area of focus is social task management, where the ease of the social experience is married with the world of project management and tasks. For example, tasks that are broadcast into the activity are assignable for action. Taking it a step further, these assignments can roll up to end of year reviews. The second area of future focus is personal workflow automation. Instead of top-down rules that drive workflow, these are personal rules that an individual creates to automate some element of their work. Example: if a new lead is created, broadcast it into the activity stream for the team to discuss. I think this is one example of the movement towards enabling decision making at the edge. The last future area of focus is collaborative applications: socially enabled applications that solve problems and function across silos.
The last very critical point in the video is in my mind the key point. We are quickly heading down a path where potentially three separate and distinct social ecosystems may emerge. The first is the social customer ecosystem represented by social media efforts initiated by sales, marketing, product development or customer service. The second is the social employee ecosystem focused inside the enterprise and aimed at how work gets done. The third is the social partner ecosystem focused on more effective relationship management. These ecosystems cannot be silos – they must be one connected social ecosystem. To take it a step further, our social ecosystem must be connected to our mobile agenda, driven by analytics, and enabled by the Cloud. There is just no other way to drive the effectiveness required by this emerging digital enterprise.
There are too many other critical business objectives across the risk and opportunity spectrum to view the digital ecosystem as strictly a social business story. The future insight that flows through the connected enterprise – in real time in many cases – will enable many of the business outcomes that are critical to success. Separate ecosystems -whether social or other – create more walls and hinders the path to insight. Those companies that effectively solve this problem will thrive.