Enabling a social enterprise – the Social Platform
As covered in my previous posts – Social Enterprise – What, Why, How? – Social Enterprise: What, Why, How? ad Social Enterprise – What, Why and How? – Part 2, a Social Enterprise could be people driven, or technology driven. In either case “leveraging social computing” shall be a key preamble. Another key preamble is, “the transition to a social enterprise needs to be non-disruptive and organic”.
The physics of Enterprise 2.0 behavior
(In this section, I take the help of physics, to avoid falling into the buzzword trap)
Enterprise 2.0 workforce breathes social communication.
Social communication can be directional or mass cooperation. The unit of collaboration/communication is a Signal.
A signal is a measurable quantity of information between multiple actors over space and time. Signals can be bidirectional, multidirectional, or unidirectional. A signal is echoed over a media.
An echo is a reflection of signals, arriving at the listener some time after the direct signal. A true echo is a single reflection of the source signal. An echo could also be reflected multiple times, getting enriched at each reflection. Listeners could pick up these echoes and reemit enriched signals for e.g. feeds, tweets, etc.
Interesting signals can yield to crowd effects such as flocking (where people coalesce towards a particular type of signal), reflexes to the signal stimuli (for e.g. re tweet, comment, share, etc), conformity based on identity, reputation, etc. and Intelligence (for e.g. presence based advertising)
The social evolution of the Platform architecture
A successful social enterprise needs organic adoption. Adoption is a direct function of value provided and ease of use. Traditionally computing platforms have addressed “ease” of use and “provided environments to develop valuable content.”
In the new age of social computation, a computing platform needs to be “social.” A platform is as social as the behaviors it implements. A social platform enhances the features of a stack approach and also enables easy value creation.
Let’s take a look at some of the key features in such a platform.
Security consists of Authentication, Authorization and Administration.
Authentication is a familiar and solved problem. A Social platform can implement well adapted security protocols such as SSO, OAuth, OpenID, etc.
A social platform should have the capability of object/user based permission control. An end user should be able to lock down who can read, write, update, delete the content he is creating. Of course, the traditional access control based on roles and user co-exist.
User Administration should also cover privacy policies which can span some users, groups or an enterprise. User profile/settings are a good tool to realize such policies.
A social platform extends the account management by providing capability for easy provisioning users onto the system. Provisioning could range from inviting users by email, to setting up an account for a company, or to instantiate a tenant (in a multi-tenant architecture). At the same time, the foundational content to be able to use the platform should be instantiated for every user/company who signs up in this process.
Also, since many users co-exist in the same platform a robust data segregation strategy is needed.
The traditional scheduler, dispatcher, and processor model needs to work for massive loads of signals
On a social platform users are allowed to live and grow organically. Each user has a profile (A profile consists of user data, preferences, and technical settings) and is listed in the directory where other users can find him. He also has the capability of making new connections and be a part of the community. A social network analyzer helps in finding and building relations
The basic constructs as highlighted here, profile, directory, connections, community form the underpinning of a collaborative platform.
Collaboration/ or mass communication lies at the heart of a social platform. The environments enables people to freely team up and drive value/solve problems.
The platform should have inbuilt capability to process signals. Special constructs such as feeds and streams enable information delivery over a timeline. Filters embed context for these.
A platform should also have Unified Communication to enable flexible collaborative paradigms (case based, user based, object based, conversational, etc.). Capabilities such as Live Messaging, Notifications, Echo, Broadcast mechanisms provide the flexibility.
The data store in a social platform needs media storage and the capability to optimally process such content. Media Stores contain unstructured content such as images, videos, links, bookmarks, pages, notes, comments, etc. Some new ideas for storing data, e.g. Hadoop, Cassandra could help achieve scalability, reliability, and performance.
Robust and Fast functions such as search, filter, indexing, backup have to be supported ( mapReduce could be of help) .
In addition to the features listed above, with the glocal village of Enterprises Internationalization and Integration to 3rd Party is a definite must.
The recurring themes which we notice above – massively scalable, parallel computing, data isolation fit well with cloud computing paradigms. Cloud computing infrastructure could be envisaged for a Social Platform. Many vendors have PaaS (Paltform as a Service) offerings. All of them are not social though.
A platform with the above features will enable the easy creation of value driven content. The sense of ownership behind content will eventually result in an organic adoption.