We live in the age of ‘social’ software and ‘smart’ devices, which could make you cynical when you hear terms like ‘social-this’ or ‘social-that’. However, sometimes the use of ‘social’ as a prefix is indeed merited.
An excellent example is the maturing field of social-style interaction incorporated into enterprise software, to create what is being considered a ‘Social Business’, or ‘Enterprise 2.0’.
Basically, it is an additional layer of communication and sharing capabilities that is added to already existing online software which enables employees, customers and suppliers to collaborate and organize information, using web and mobile platforms.
Software as a Service (SaaS) has been a prevalent model in modern organizations for a few years now. Every major software vendor now enables company staff to work from anywhere by incorporating core business functions of the organization into an interface accessible from any device.
What was missing, though, was the adoption of some of the best ideas and functions available through social media from the consumer side. Chatting and messaging, posting on forums or user groups and collaborating on shared content are all clear examples of what can be taken into the organization for its benefit.
Analysts and consultants call this the ‘consumerization of business’; but to keep it simple, it’s just businesses being smart and capitalizing on the changing nature of the typical employee.
People want the same communication experience they enjoy in their personal lives, to be available in their professional life; to share data with co-workers, and seamlessly communicate through messaging instead of just using email. If this increases their productivity and happiness, companies should realize its impact on the bottom line.
With the entrance of millennials into the work place – those born between the early-eighties and the turn of the century- it has become imperative to adopt such communication and collaboration abilities to retain younger employees.
That’s why the biggest players in enterprise software are getting in on the act.
In 2012, Microsoft acquired Yammer, a private social network, which puts people, conversations, content, and business data on one platform. At the time, more than 200,000 companies worldwide were already using Yammer to collaborate with employees. It was an example of businesses seeking out a solution, even from a small vendor, if the bigger software companies weren’t providing it.
So, Microsoft jumped at this opportunity demonstrating that social media in the enterprise is much more than a fad. Yammer is now part of Microsoft’s Office division, and is major part of its Office 365 strategy, within the SharePoint Online service.
Oracle, another major player in enterprise software, has recently purchased Involver, to create what it calls ‘a cloud-based social platform across marketing, sales and service touch-points’. Oracle is now presenting an expanded social platform using Involver's SML (Social Markup Language). The result will be a more comprehensive, and consumerized, experience.
The enterprise software specialist SAP has also launched “Jam” which is a secure, social collaboration solution that extends across SAP’s entire technology landscape to give social capabilities.
IBM already has a Social Business division, and its aims in this field are well articulated. IBM says it wants to “connect employees and customers to share their best ideas and new processes’.
It would appear that the customer is now, finally, in control! Enterprises will also reap the benefits of enhanced feedback for the purposes of product and service development.
This is an ‘open’ age of information. So, enterprises are going to have to open up too.
There are, of course, software security challenges involved. But that’s part of this evolution, whereby the benefits truly outweigh the potential concerns, which can be tackled.
Empowering employees and communicating better with consumers must be every company’s goal. Positive experiences create satisfied customers, and more revenues. That’s the optimal goal that corporate IT departments aim to achieve.
For decades, businesses have claimed to be ‘at the service of the customer’. Now, such claims are being truly tested as technology weeds-out those who cannot deliver on that promise. Beware the rise of the ‘social enterprise’, you have been warned.