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The Changing Landscape of Enterprise Social Software

What is happening in enterprise software today that is different from the traditional social IT tools such as email and instant messaging? What’s the value of these socially enabled enterprise solutions, and how do these tools help us do our work better than before we had them?

/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/tom_petrocelli_118096.jpgI had the opportunity to talk with Tom Petrocelli (@tompetrocelli), a Senior Analyst from Enterprise Strategy Group, who recently published the Market Landscape Report on Socially Enabled Enterprise Solutions. Tom shared his views about the current state of enterprise collaboration and how things will change as socially enabled solutions evolve. MLRcover.png

Keith Hamrick: Tell me about yourself, and Enterprise Strategy Group’s focus.

Tom Petrocelli: Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) is a market research and consultancy group that has been around for about 13 years. We do all the traditional things that a traditional market research firm does. Most of our analysts come out of the industry as practitioners.

My background is as a marketing person as well as a software engineer, and that is similar to many of the analysts and senior analysts at ESG, who tend to come from the IT industry. We look at enterprise solutions through a lens of industry knowledge. We have the ability to look at solutions and imagine if we were buying, selling, or using them, and we back up that perspective with world-class research.

Keith Hamrick: What motivated you to write the report on socially enabled enterprise software?

Tom Petrocelli: The reason we wanted to look at socially enabled enterprise software is because we realized that it’s the kind of software that a lot of people operate in every day. In many people’s jobs, part of their work is managed by processes, and some of that process is enabled by an enterprise application.

Some of those processes may extend outside of the enterprise application in informal social interactions. We wanted to look into how social enterprise helps enable those informal processes. We asked the question, “How does social enterprise help people to get their jobs done better on a regular basis?”

Keith Hamrick: What’s going on in the social collaboration space today, and how is it different than Email and IM?

Tom Petrocelli: Social collaboration is a really lively space, and ESG started looking at this space because we realized that it’s at an inflection point—74% of companies we surveyed use some sort of social software in their toolkit, and there are many others interested in the space.

Social tools are beginning to be framed around the context of workflows that make sense for enterprise users. For example, there are many informal processes that occur within an organization are forms of social collaboration, and now some enterprise software can enable them with social tools in order to confront particular collaboration problems. The social tools are so flexible that the processes don’t need to be charted-out ahead of time.

Let’s take the specific example of sales automation; there are a series of steps that are taken from having a lead to an opportunity to a prospect and then to closing the deal. To create this end-to-end process takes a lot of effort. Inside of that end-to-end process there is a lot that goes on that currently takes place outside of the formal software tools organizations have to tackle those problems, such as generate a proposal, and that is really the great realm of the social collaboration space for two reasons:

  1. It is a more socially interactive part of the process.

  2. It changes all the time.

Now with tools like SAP StreamWork we have the ability to create a proposal and get the people involved to help in that process, which will be different every time depending on the circumstances. This creates a great agility in organizations, and that helps them respond to the changing environment.

One of the problems with these social tools is that once you extend them past the physical firewall and the corporate firewall, you can’t talk about certain things. You need a different toolset for that type of communication, and a lot of these socially enabled enterprise solutions haven’t addressed that yet.

Keith Hamrick: Do you think that companies that don’t invest in socially enabled software will have trouble competing against companies that do?

Tom Petrocelli: I do. On the other hand, our survey data indicated that most companies are considering adoption of these tools. One of the things we are seeing in the research is that companies that have socially enabled software are at an advantage because they tend to be much more responsive to the forces within their organizations than companies who don’t have these tools at their disposal.

Companies that are able to collaborate better are at an advantage because they are more innovative, and they are able to respond to potential customers more quickly, and how can you win against that?

Keith Hamrick: Could you give us an illustration of how people can benefit from a socially enabled enterprise solution?

Tom Petrocelli: Sure, I can give you several.

IT Support

I’ll give you the example of an IT troubleshooter at a call center with an escalation use-case. Let’s say a customer calls into the tech support hotline because there is a problem, and the IT person isn’t able to solve their problem.

The IT person is going to need to escalate the issue, which typically results in the customer being put on hold while the solution is being found. That isn’t the best experience for the customer. However, if the IT person is able to continue to talk to the customer while also talking with an engineer through a socially enabled tool, then a better customer experience is created, and loyalty is created—the customer is grateful that they aren’t put back into a queue again to be put on hold.

Customer RFP

Another example is when creating a proposal for a customer. There are many different people that are involved such as a product manager, subject matter expert, sales contract person and so on. Most people have a basic proposal template, but every proposal is different.

What many organizations do is have meetings, and send emails back and forth. However, using collaboration tools everyone can work on a document together—so the workflow is on the fly. Bits and pieces of the proposal are created fluidly while the combining efforts of individuals from the organization, which is much more efficient and the proposal can be generated much more quickly for the customer. This responsiveness of the organization makes the customer feel good.

Hiring Manager

One of my favorite examples is that of a hiring manager who needs to hire employees—engineers, IT people, marketers, business developers, salespeople, etc.— the process is similar at any large company where they fill out a recommendation and give that document to a subject matter specialist.

The way that hiring managers traditionally go through the resumes is very inefficient, because they need to share their recommendations with certain groups of people and it is traditionally done through email. On the other hand, a socially enabled enterprise solution which allows them to give the ability to show the specialists the recommendations is very beneficial for this process.

Everyone is able to discuss and share with each other quickly, which gives the hiring manager a chance to get better candidates for the job because of this ability to collaborate in a flexible way. Furthermore, the hiring manager wastes less time on the backend trying to share information through email, and saves money because they are not wasting time interviewing the wrong people. Simultaneously, they market their organization much more effectively because of their responsiveness, and that gives a warm-glow to the interviewee who will be more predisposed to accepting the offer when given to them.

This same thing is going to happen when HR has to put together the offer, there are lots of people involved in accounting for the budget, HR, hiring managers, and other people that are all necessary to make a decision. There are different people that are involved every time. This isn’t necessarily a formal, step-wise workflow; it screams out for a social workflow that can be tailored to that moment and situation.

These social collaborative workflows exist but organizations tend not to have the software to be able to handle these types of interactions. The one big payoff with social software that we should be able to say in 10 years when we look back is that “I didn’t have to sit in so many meetings and I like my job better because of that”. Because we use these kinds of social tools here at ESG I’m in a lot less meetings, and I’ll tell you I’m more efficient in my job because of it, and I’m happier with my job because of it.

Keith Hamrick: What do you see as some of the barriers to adoption of these socially enabled enterprise solutions?

Tom Petrocelli: The big barrier now is poor alignment. The social collaboration tools are not aligning with everyday work problems. Many of them are similar to Facebook for the enterprise, or microblogging such as Twitter. However, we see a whole other wave of social enterprise really taking off, for the large part now because it is becoming more relevant to the way that people work. Also, there are many questions about privacy.

Furthermore, there’s a sense that people aren’t seeing the value in socially enabled enterprise solutions. There are responses from companies such as “end user resistance”, “lack of executive buy-in”, “too costly”, and so on. If something is really worthwhile, then cost is irrelevant. Basically the big inhibitor right now is that it’s not connected to the way people do their work right now.

Keith Hamrick: Where do you see social collaboration solutions going in the future? What are the types of innovations we should expect to see in this space?

Tom Petrocelli: Workflows—the most innovative companies are building the tools that allow people to create social workflows that allow people to get work done instead of just chat.

Secondly, I think we are going to see integrations with social analytics for these socially enabled enterprise solutions, which will create “social business intelligence”. We’re going to see much more analysis of what’s going on socially within organizations for two reasons:

  1. Managers will start to understand and see what’s going on in a company, so they can manage better and be able to pick-up insights and ideas that might be missed otherwise.

  2. Employees will more easily find out what other people do in their company and connect with them so they can get things done better. At all levels of a company this will help build the right teams and get people to do their jobs more effectively.

We will also start to see the ability to reach-out beyond the corporate and physical firewall. It’s hard to do this in a way that satisfies this within the regulations of corporations, but I think this extension will be important. This is something that we’re currently doing with social media, but we need to have this interaction between specific groups of people and be able to adapt things for specific customers. These interactions need to be done safely so that all company regulations are followed.

In a nutshell, social enterprise needs to be more enterprise.

What are your thoughts on enterprise social software? What would you like to see? Please share your ideas with us in the comments section below.

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