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Blogs > Office Jotter

Thinking again about the ingredients of enterprise social software
Roger Whitehead By: Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures
Published: 24th October 2011
Copyright Office Futures © 2011

Two years ago, I posted a list of the tools and abilities you would expect to see in an enterprise social software product. I have since added to the list.

Here in outline are the sets of tools I then felt were needed in the enterprise:

  1. Publishing
  2. Interpersonal communication and collaboration
  3. Searching and navigating
  4. Community creation and management
  5. Managing the system.

You can see the full detail under “What should you look for?” in Social netting—the whats and whys (Part 1 of 2).

What has happened?

Success, in a word. Where internal social networking was new to most adopting organisations two years ago, it has spread within those enterprises and has also been taken up by others. Users’ demands are maturing, as is suppliers’ ability to meet them.

Most of the changes have taken place at the back end, the part that users don’t usually touch. Managing the system – item 5 – has become more important and more complex. Integrating the system has become important enough to warrant its own class.

Part 4 of my recent short series about social networking and business processes contained this diagram. It gives an idea of the range of connections a modern social networking system might have to make.

Figure 1:  Where social fits

Note that I assumed that communication with social media takes place only via the enterprise social network and that that system links to the line-of-business systems or soon will do.

Today’s list of tools and features

Here is the new, six-item list. It contains everything the earlier list identified and adds to it.

  1. Publishing. This is largely as before. It includes blogs, microblogs (as in Twitter), wikis, podcasts, videocasts and content feeds, such as BI, RSS or newsflashes.
  2. Communicating and collaborating, using channels such as instant messaging (IM), texting (SMS-short message service), email, conferencing / forums (text, voice or video) and shared editing. Polling. Shared diaries and task lists. Ideation (meeting support, as it used to be known).
  3. Searching and navigating, including presence indicators, content maps, user profiles, user directories, and categorisation (bookmarks, tags and ratings).
  4. Community creating and managing, including forum moderating, user rating, content promoting and invitation issuing.
  5. Moulding and managing the system. Necessities include security, access control, audit trails, authentication, and content management. Also, tools for, and possibly help with, installing, running and expanding the chosen software or service. Performance management. Customisation by users (incl. skins & themes). Mashups. Access to app and widget catalogues & markets (the supplier’s or user organisation’s own or possibly somebody else’s). Sign-on management. If the system is publicly accessible, tools for search engine optimisation.
  6. Integrating the system. Connectors to enterprise systems (ERP, CRM, CMS, supply chain, etc.) and directories. APIs to Web services (including social media), tools and applets. Own API published.

Note that some of these integration tasks might be hard or even impossible with SaaS-based offerings.


All this of course assumes that the user organisation wants a fully featured and industrial-strength product. If not, there are plenty of lightweight, easy to install local products available, whether hosted on-premise or off. These make good starter systems but will, as always, tend to be for local application, whether vertically, horizontally or functionally.

A current trend is for a supplier’s social networking offering to be an outgrowth of its main ‘big engine’ product range. TIBCO, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft are following this path. The back-end features of these social products should already meet the requirements I have listed. The question is whether the social aspects will be good enough.


Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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