The other week I wrote about the critical importance of finding answers to questions you didn’t even know you should have asked. With an ability to combine big data and in-memory computing, accessible through whatever user interface is most appropriate to the individual seeking answers, there are worlds of opportunity just waiting to be discovered. Conveniently, that brings us directly to some of today’s burning questions about the role of social media and social intelligence within the enterprise.
When you think about it, your enterprise is itself an ongoing conversation — and many social media software providers promote the value to the employees of being able to provide instant status updates, chat about projects, movies and the like.
But those “benefits” miss the more important value of a social enterprise solution. The real benefit of social media tools to the enterprise itself lies in the capacity of those tools to capture and analyze that enterprise conversation for relevant insights, connecting it to the business process it relates to. That’s the social intelligence portion that makes it deliver business value. The social stream, which can underpin every critical process in your organization, is really just big data waiting to be analyzed, waiting to reveal its secrets, waiting for you to discover the answers to those questions that you had not realized you should have asked.
More than just a status update
In this light, all the social enterprise features that we typically hear about are important — live streams, status updates, instant chat, and so on — but two aspects of social software are even more important. First, the software needs to be able to capture those conversations as data that can be analyzed. Second, the social software needs to integrate with the key workflows within your enterprise.
Imagine that one or two employees are informally chatting about a product or a service and one of them suggests something that the other thinks is brilliant. There need to be mechanisms in place that would enable them to spin that casual conversation into a collaboration workspace where they could brainstorm that idea in a more formal manner — and share those thoughts later with others as the idea takes shape.
There also need to be mechanisms that can track those conversations and workspaces so that others in the enterprise who may be thinking about the same topics can become aware of those conversations — without having to spend a lot of time looking for them. Social software that could intelligently monitor and track my CRM activity threads, for example, might see that I’m preparing to visit a customer to discuss a particular business challenge her company is facing. That same social software should make me aware of other conversations in my company involving either that customer or other customers facing the same challenge.
Crowd-sourcing the enterprise
Beyond making me aware of relevant conversations taking place elsewhere in the enterprise, the software should also be able to identify the trends and topics bubbling up in the enterprise conversation. We might be surprised by the issues that rise to the top, but if we’ve never had a viable mechanism in the past to monitor and analyze the informal enterprise conversation we should not be.
What will we find of we look to the crowd within the enterprise? Sometimes nothing relevant. At other times, though, those insights could truly be game-changing. My expectation is that we’ll see more answers to the critical questions we had not thought to ask — and that will make a huge difference going forward.
Are you capturing the enterprise conversation in useful ways? Share your experiences in the comments.