There has been a huge amount written, and posted, around the “social enterprise” in recent weeks and months, even more so since Salesforce announced that they have reached 150,000 users on Chatter. There does seem to be some confusion around the whole concept of this “social enterprise” and its implications for enterprises, so here I wanted to run through the ins and outs of the social enterprise and most importantly how it may, or may not, affect both you and your business.
What is social enterprise?
This is the first and probably most contentious issue around this whole concept; the naming. Traditionally, and by definition, the social enterprise is “an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximising profits for external shareholders.
Social enterprises can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit, and may take the form of a co-operative, mutual organization, a social business, or a charity organization” However, more and more when the media are talking about the social enterprise they are actually talking about an enterprise that has embraced social media to interact with both customers and employees. The biggest driver behind the terminology in this context has to have been Salesforce.com with the promotion of their collaboration tool Chatter.
But collaborating is nothing new
It is very true that collaboration is nothing new, especially within in the enterprise, we have been chatting via email and MSN for years, so why is this any different? Well in truth collaborating isn’t anything new but what has changed is the ability to communicate in a way that is protected and integrated into the main in house systems like the CRM or the ERP.
In these new tools collaboration is integrated into these in house product themselves allowing colleagues to easily share sensitive information. For example one sales person might share an opportunity he is working on or a quote he sent with a colleague or a team, whilst you would never want something like that on a consumer tool like Twitter sharing it on a tool integrated to in house system allows for secure collaboration.
Why is this important?
This leads us to ask ok why should I care? Why is this important? The most obvious answer can be found in recent research by the Financial Times which makes very interesting ready and suggested that there are billions of dollars in annual value to be unlocked through the use of social enterprise tools. The theory is that these tools will result in better collaboration and an improvement in customer and employee experiences with obvious value to be gained by greater insight into all stakeholders and a 360 degree view of all communication.
The ultimate view is that in one instance you may have employees collaborating and sharing information which is all safely stored behind company lines with no need to worry about corporate data being shared across insecure networks. In another instance you should be able to store interactions with customers across social networks in the in house systems to maximise the information gained through those interactions so we can better market to and understand our customers.
This sort of socially interactive enterprise will also benefit us in the long run as Generation Y are soon going to enter the work place expecting this sort of interaction to be both possible and easy to access. The argument stands that if this is not possible they will use the networks they are familiar with which exist outside corporate control. Embracing social now will allow enterprises not only to maximise collaboration now but will also ensure that in the years to come the best and the brightest will be drawn to organisations who have adopted these strategies.
So what about mobile
This while trend toward social interaction is of course a direct result of the Consumerisation of IT whereby employees expect to be able to use the tools they use in everyday life from their iPad to Twitter in a work environment. I have discussed this trend in great detail when it comes to mobile devices but what we see here is this trend moving in to every aspect of the workplace while beginning to touch on enterprise software.
Many of the large incumbent software houses do not provide tools for such collaboration and this is fuelling the growth of SaaS offerings but this doesn’t need to be the case there are tools that allow these social interactions to be integrated into any application. More and more Magic customers are asking us to help them to offer integration as part of their application, or to help them allow this sort of integration with their existing systems, we of course are more than happy to help as we know this integration and collaboration is the way the future lies and can help provide a significant competitive advantage.