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What should companies look for in a social collaboration solution? An interview with Irwin Lazar: Part 2

On February 11, 2015, we’ll be hosting a live webcast, Driving Workforce Change with Social Collaboration, which features Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research. Irwin is a prolific author, blogger, and frequent speaker at industry events, and heads up a Nemertes research team that helps enterprises quantify the value of emerging technologies.

PILOTHOUSE_TOP_PROVIDER_LOGO.jpgIrwin and his team recently published a Nemertes PilotHouse Top Provider report that ranked enterprise social collaboration vendors for their technology, value, and customer service. Leading up to the webcast, we sat down with Irwin to hear his thoughts on the evolution of social technology – who the buyers are, why they buy it, and what buyers should be looking for.

In Part 1, find out who buys enterprise social collaboration tools and why they buy them. Part 2 continues below.

What should a company look for in an ideal social collaboration solution?

/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/headshot_irwinlazar_631660.jpgIrwin Lazar: As you think about buying a solution for your own organization, the first things that usually come into play are what are your retention requirements, what are your security requirements, and can you have sensitive corporate conversations in a system that lives on a cloud provider? For some companies, especially in highly regulated industries, that might be a factor.

Integration with the rest of the environment is another factor. As I mentioned earlier, the most successful social software deployments are those that are tied into business processes and business process applications. If you just throw a social platform out there and say, “Okay everybody, start collaborating,” it generally doesn’t work.

It’s also important to get support for things like developing custom applications and developing hooks into desktop and business process applications.

“The most successful social software deployments are those that are tied into business processes and business process applications”

I just had a conversation with a large financial services firm. They invested in one of your competitors but they’re finding no one’s using it. We talked about how they deployed it and they said, “We just put it out there and we identified some folks who we thought would be good candidates to start using it, but nobody joined in.”

We asked, “Have you tied it into your ERP or your CRM or your other enterprise software?” They said no. Well, there’s the problem right there. The single biggest success factor and the single biggest thing to look for is the ability to integrate with the applications that drive your business.

Another area we looked into in the report was the ability to support mobile work. We’re seeing massive growth in people relying on their smartphones and tablets. It’s the primary means of work for roughly 20% of typical employees now. They’re primarily using their tablet and then going to their desktop when they have to. So a social tool should support the mobile user as well as the desktop user.

The features that social tools support are also important. One of the popular use cases we’re seeing around social is innovation and idea management – being able to collect ideas, vote on them, discuss them, move them up and down, and then being able to share them or collect them from across business units. That’s a pretty powerful use for a social tool and one that’s pretty much impossible to do with email.

Another feature we see companies looking at are the analytics: What can I learn from how the social network is used within my organization? Who are the key connectors in my organization? What are the things being discussed?

One last one I’ll mention is that the tool should easily point me towards discussions that are of interest to me. LinkedIn, for instance, tell you a discussion might be of interest to you if people you worked with are in the discussion.

So all of those taken together are critical buying factors: The features, the ability to integrate with business process applications, the support for mobility, and the ability to support varying deployment models.

How should organizations respond to the growing number of millennials in the workplace and the popularity of social technology?

Irwin Lazar: I think the successful companies will invest in the kinds of tools that people are used to using in their personal lives.

“Successful companies will invest in the kinds of tools that people are used to using in their personal lives”

The kind of informal, chat-based quick communications that are available on mobile devices as well as desktop devices – those are the kinds of ways that people expect to collaborate. They expect to be able to capture videos, comment on stuff, share stuff that’s interesting.

Those kinds of social features are what the younger generation is living in. And that’s what they expect when they walk into the office. If you give somebody an email inbox or a telephone and say here’s how you collaborate, they’re going to go back and start using those consumer services for work – and it’ll get out of your control.

That’s how we see it time and time again with companies that we consult for. Everything under the sun is being used for work and it’s out of the control of the folks that are responsible for security, document retention, discoverability, and so on.

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