In two recent posts (If you build it, will they really come? Getting the conditions right for viral adoption of social collaboration and No really, social collaboration is NOT a waste of time), I discussed some of the key challenges associated with adoption and cultural change when improving collaboration. So this month I am switching focus to talk more about the technology itself.
With all the hype that has stemmed from the success of consumer services such as Facebook and Twitter, there is a lot of confusion about what social collaboration software is, and how it applies in a business context. Often, the problem is that it is discussed in terms of features and functions—wikis, blogs, microblogs, comments, ratings, connections.. the list goes on. The issue with this is that it is difficult to step back and focus on the overall purpose of social tools, to consider the macro, rather than the micro effect. It also tends to lead to social tools being treated as a new silo of activity, rather than as the connecting, pervasive fabric which will underpin the way organisations communicate and collaborate.
This diagram is one I have been using for a little while now to express the way I see this concept. Instead of viewing social as another category of collaboration software in its own right, we need to look at it as a set of features which apply a new, social lens across the spectrum of tools and technologies that we already use to collaborate. This includes communications tools such as email or instant messaging, tools for creating content such as blogs or productivity tools, and also business applications such as CRM or ERP, for example. This social lens has two facets—social networking, which focuses on capturing and exposing people relationships and networks, and using that information to make informed suggestions about potential information that may be valuable to us, and social interaction, which is about facilitating an open, communicative environment where people’s opinions are shared and valued.
Social should be the glue that connects all our existing tools and activities together, turning them from being disparate systems to a network of information sources that can be leveraged and shared right across the organisation.
While social collaboration software is evolving all the time, the reality is that we are not quite in a position to make this a reality at the moment—there is not enough in the way of standards and integration to make it happen in the real world of heterogeneous IT environments, never mind the fact that few organisations are ready to go this far with social yet. But I think it is a mistake not to be reaching for this in the long term; social offers us huge opportunities to fundamentally change the way our organisations work on a day-to-day basis, and we would be foolish to ignore that. Vive la Révolution!
(A note from the editor: This post was originally published on the AIIM community blog, where Angela posts monthly as an invited ‘Expert Blogger’.)