Summary: This article is my reaction to the vast amount of reports and papers on the selection of social software. I have decided to formulate this article in a provocative way, hoping for feedback and other perspectives. So: I don’t believe that social software will replace e-mail or intranets and I consider a stand alone use of social software (aka internal Facebook or Twitter) to be a temporary echo on the enterprise 2.0 hype.
Quick definition to be on the same page…
Whenever I am referring to social software I am referring to stand alone business software that is built on the principles of social media. Activity feeds, pers. profiles, networking capabilities, information enrichment (eg tag, comments, likes, stars etc), information sharing etc. are key functions of social software. The more mature a solution is deeper and broader the feature set incl. unified communications, roles/rights and group/community management, search and convergence with established productivity and data management software.
For this article I am resonating only on the stand alone use of social software. I am not judging/evaluating vendors. The less social software is visible by itself (an explicit social service) to the user the less relevant the use case is for this article.
The temporary echo on the enterprise 2.0 hype
I believe that enterprise 2.0/social business doesn’t need social software. Enterprise 2.0 requires – beyond new ways of leadership and management – business IT that is inspired and infused by the principles of social and (explicitly) commercial internet services. The vision and mission of social software is to unleash the power of individuals and groups based on the principle of networking, transparency and access to expertise and experience. The digital workplace however, requires much more than social functionality. It has to provide information and knowledge workers with the means to be more productive, spend less time with routine tasks and thereby increase their available time share to be an active and valuable node in a network. Principles of relevance matching in the commercial space (eg search marketing, contextual advertising, behavioral targeting) are essential building blocks for the automation in information and knowledge work. Automation itself is a key building block for productivity. The more data, expertise and knowledge connects itself to a user based on situation, context and explicit action the easier it will be to make use of the entire intellectual property (= the corporate DNA).
Services to tackle the key challenges in information and knowledge work however, have to be an integrative part of the actual WORKspace. I truly believe that knowledge driven companies now have a tremendous opportunity to successfully address
- information distribution
- information retrieval
- data enrichment
- communication consistency
- activation of human capital
This has to happen in direct context with operational work and therefore the goals that individuals are measured against *. Limiting the availability of the functions that I’ve set out in the ‘same page’ section of this article to the social silo will not deliver the same value.
Social has to be integrative – not just as a single page element but in its principles and offerings towards the users of workspace services. Browsing through the latest Enterprise 2.0 User report from Forrester I actually feel confirmed in my perspective since only 22%** consider the social software as vital to their job – and those you might want to count into the early adopter segment.
Social software will not replace intranets
In line with the above statements I don’t believe that intranets will be replaced by internal social media platforms. What I believe in is that the concept of intranets will be substantially change. Two weeks ago I’ve attended the INTRAnet Reloaded conference in Berlin. A speaker (@IntranetMatters) of InfoCentric Research AG put the following slide up on the screen:
(c) InfoCentric Research AG 2012 at INTRAnet Reloaded 2012 (Berlin)
This way of describing it is spot-on. The intranet has to turn into a workspace. It has to become the main service (if not the single destination) for information workers. One might argue now that stand alone office software and the always-on requirement of such a workspace is some kind of k.o. criteria. Well…we are talking about the future of information work here, not just the outlook for the coming 3 years.
Back to the subject: social interaction and surfaced networks of people and content will be an essential (I might even say crucial) part of the modern workspace – there is no doubt about that. Information distribution that resonates very much on the formal aspects of companies, however, still has to have its place. That HR or quality management departments will publish key/mandatory content just through micro blogs and Wikis is highly unlikely. That employees will be guided to formal content via ‘Everyone’-emails in the future is as unlikely.
Intranets aren’t (in its current state) interaction or communication focussed services. They are structured (in the best case: transparent) data and information repositories. Therefore they cannot be replaced by social platforms per se anyway but they will benefit from a new way valuable (or mandatory) content can be distributed/promoted/enriched.
Social software will not replace e-mail
Period. To change behavior that was established and nurtured in companies for almost 20 years isn’t going to happen by just replacing one tool against another. No matter how many users are on Facebook or Twitter. The corporate side of things is different.
We will be able to re-channel 90% of all e-mails to more appropriate, consistent and sustainable channels – social channels amongst them and maybe even taking on a substantial share of the ex-email content. Thereby we will bring back life to a tool that enables asynchronous, secure and efficient (I would like to add attachment-free) communication between specific senders and recipients.
Referring to my recent posts on certainty for users I even dare to predict that this change/transformation will take a long time. Longer than many social business enthusiasts might think…
So, what do you think?
If you have made it down to here you must have found something in this article that you either agree or disagree with. See the comment field? Right down there? Yes 🙂 Use it! Now…