Social Software 2.0: Enterprise Process Ubiquity

In the beginning, there were forums, blogs and wikis. And it was good.

In talking with people about the Enterprise 2.0 industry, I like to insert yet another versioning number scheme:

  • Social Software 1.0
  • Social Software 2.0

Social Software 1.0 was the era of actually creating these open, collaborative applications. The approach of these tools was groundbreaking. Apps for managing knowledge that are open, persistent, easy to create and accepting  contributions from many? This was groundbreaking. The tools of Social Software 1.0 are: blogs, wikis, forums, microblogging, activity streams, tags, social connections.

Social Software 1.0 is the “Tools Era”. Put these collaboration and information sharing tools in place, then let the benefits flow. And the benefits do flow.

But are they flowing fast enough? Will they assume core operational infrastructure status within enterprises? This is the crux of Dennis Howlett’s post, Enterprise 2.0 – the non-debate. It’s a fair question. Dennis notes this in his post:

I’ve also argued that I’ve never heard anyone ask for some Enterprise 2.0 though I’ve heard plenty ask for ERP, CRM etc.

Let’s examine that particular quote for a moment, on two fronts. First is the important point that CRM, ERP and other existing enterprise software address core company activities. Sales? No sales, no company. ERP? You can apply a thousand clerical workers for all the little things needed to manage resources, or organize information systematically to great benefit.

Second is the fact that markets demand these apps. Let’s take a ride in the time machine back to 2001. In the article, CRM Adoption Continues at an Aggressive Pace, this market growth was noted:

Spending on customer relationship management (CRM) applications will grow to $10.4 billion by the end of 2001, a 167 percent increase from the $3.9 billion spent in 2000, according to a report by eMarketer.

An industry on fire, with sales in the billions, that was started sometime in the mid-1990s, and Siebel Systems was started in 1993. So in the course of just a few years, CRM was a bona fide hit inside businesses. Enterprise 2.0 is at an earlier stage in its industry life cycle, but isn’t currently on track to be the size of the CRM market in the next few years.

This isn’t to say Enterprise 2.0 isn’t finding its footing with its tools focus. As Dion Hinchcliffe writes, there has been a significant pickup in corporations’ implementation of these applications: “Just as importantly, we are also starting to see customers implementing Enterprise 2.0 in scale. These typically include enterprise social networking, wikis, and social CRM.”

Look closely at the three types of implementations: wikis, social networking, and social CRM.

Social CRM?

That’s not part of the Social Software 1.0 canon. Rather social CRM is an example of the next generation of social software. Social Software 2.0.

Social Software 2.0: Addressing Existing Enterprise Workflows

Here’s how I define Social Software 2.0:

The integration of collaboration, increased findability, social networking and crowdsourcing into core enterprise activities requiring defined workflows, specific user sign-offs, results measurement and role-based access.

I’ll admit that comes across as a tall order. But it’s a worthy goal. Check out Ray Wang’s ten elements that define the next generation of enterprise business software solutions for a deeper look at these requirements.

The challenge is figuring out where social benefits traditional processes and systems. In Susan Scrupski’s great presentation, Enterprise 2.0 Demystified, there’s this slide:

Susan Scrupski - E2.0 Demystified

Credit: Susan Scrupski, SoCo Partners

There’s an aspirational component to the graphic. “Social ERP” includes a number of nuts-n-bolts activities that all of us can understand: order tracking, purchase orders, inventory management.

What we don’t yet understand is how social gets in there and improves these processes. But Nenshad Bardoliwalla starts us down that path in his post, Is Enterprise 2.0 a Savior or a Charlatan? In the graphic below, he fills in the white spaces of process flows with instances of social software applications (+ email/IM):

Nenshad - social software fills in process white spaces

The graphic starts to describe the way social software could integrate into existing activities of organizations. But it still leaves some questions. For instance, see that wiki in the Contact Center row, to the right of Campaign Management? It’s linked below to the Sales and Quotation Analysis process.

In Social Software 1.0, that’s a standalone wiki. I’m a fan of the notion that collaboration needs to occur in-the-flow of work. And having a separate wiki for collaborating on a customer quotation analysis makes it tougher to get usage.

In Social Software 2.0, that’s a collaborative space integrated into a sales force automation application. The customer quotation analysis occurs right where all the “action” occurs in the effort to win new business.

Some Examples of Social Software 2.0

With the luxury of a blank blog page, I’ve got the freedom to suggest a few examples where collaboration and crowdsourcing can be more integrated directly into corporate activities.

B2B Sales: The process of pulling together a proposal in the B2B market generally requires involvement of several parties. This is a process screaming for collaboration, visibility, searchability and persistence. It also has deadlines, and sign-offs by executives. Generally, tapping an existing database of customer information is required too. Embedding a wiki-like experience in CRM, along with the deep database access and project dimensions would be valuable.

Procurement: Enterprises buy mountains of things. Inevitably, some of it doesn’t work out as well as expected. As employees order and request items, allow them to rate and comment on existing contracts. By sharing their experiences, employees provide procurement managers with insight into the quality of suppliers. And employees can describe evolving needs. The workflow aspect of this occurs when the crowdsourced rating falls below some threshold, triggering a required review by the procurement manager.

Product Management: If you’ve ever done product management, you know that you’ll receive plenty of individual ideas on what’s needed. Business units, sales, marketing, engineering, customer service…all have strong opinions on what should be included. Putting all these internal constituencies together on a common platform to identify ideas and get crowdsourced input on the most pressing features would be a tremendously helpful. The process would need to include analytics to filter through them, and workflow to flesh out features and get sign-offs. Example: Spigit innovation management.

There are myriad corporate systems and processes where some elements of social can be leveraged to improve operations.

Sameer Patel, in his post Why Process Barfs on Social, includes this tweet by (now former) SAP EVP Zia Yusuf:

@dahowlett blog and wikis will not drive value alone, I think the trick here is to connect “crowd insight” directly into specific bizprocess

And Helpstream CEO Bob Warfield adds this thought:

What we’re lacking is simply a harmonious marriage of these two.  Social should be integrated into specific business processes, perhaps many if not most specific business processes.

What we’re seeing is the natural maturation of an industry. Tools were needed to establish the Enterprise 2.0 field in the first place. Now it’s time to apply these tools, and social computing concepts, to the mainstay activities that drive businesses.

What Form Will Social Software 2.0 Take?

The maturation of the social software industry beyond tools to deeper integration into existing business processes will have parallel development paths:

  • Established enterprise applications will add social elements to their offerings
  • General purpose collaboration and social network providers will develop features addressing specific types of traditional activities
  • Social software platforms focused on delivering value in a specific core business activity

Like most enterprise software markets, there will be room for all three types of offerings. I think it will be hard to dislodge best-of-breed for the biggest systems: ERP and CRM. Those vendors will add social elements as time allows, and nimble small companies will offer plug-ins that supplement their offerings. Most other systems in the enterprise will be up for grabs if there’s a better way.

I’ll close with another quote from Bob Warfield with regard to how the Social Software 2.0 landscape will play out:

No touchy feely stuff allowed.  You can’t just be about making things “better” or “empowering people.”  Passion is great, but call your shot, and if the ball doesn’t go into that pocket, you’ve scratched and forfeit the game.