Enteprise social business: Integration matters

Enteprise social business: Integration matters

Summary: It's now time for social business to embrace integration with legacy enterprise systems.


At last week's Enterprise 2.0 conference, held in Boston, I was taken aback when one pundit explained that organizations must learn to "do social." This surprise kicked off my comments on a panel discussion about integrating social business tools with traditional enterprise applications.

Click the audio player at the top of this post to hear a recording of the entire panel.

Organizations exist to achieve defined objectives -- Fedex strives to deliver packages faster and more reliably, Starbucks wants sell more coffee, and so on. The entire notion that companies should "do social" as an end goal is just silly. Make money as a goal? Yes. Deliver goods and service as a goal? Yes. Do social as a goal? Resounding no! Social software only has meaning when it adds value to concrete organizational business processes and goals.

Business processes define how people accomplish their work; these processes describe the flow of activities such as collecting money, paying vendors, and so on. Processes enable organizations to execute activities in a consistent and repeatable manner.

Processes also create information silos, which is a problem. For example, the accounting department may use a computer system that does not share information with manufacturing or sales. In many organizations, hodge-podge legacy systems, built over time, create islands of information that drive poor communication across departmental boundaries.

The traditional solution to this problem involves deploying systems such as ERP to connect and integrate diverse systems. While ERP does a great job moving transactional data across departments or functions, these systems don't typically handle the organizational glue of communications among people. Historically, ERP systems were designed to control transactions, not to share unstructured collaboration data.

By enabling processes to become more efficient or yield better results, social tools can offer great value to the enterprise. However, accomplishing this goal requires bringing unstructured social data to the process in which people actually conduct their work. To be useful, social technologies must help people do their jobs, which means integrating with established enterprise systems.

Some vendors recognize the need to integrate social data with transactions, for example:

  • Salesforce.com's Chatter product enables users to access traditional enterprise data mixed with team-oriented collaboration information related to their work flow
  • SAP's Sales OnDemand allows sales people to collaborate while interacting with data stored in the core ERP system
  • Cloud-based ERP vendor, NetSuite, inked deals with Yammer and Qontext to bring collaboration tools into mainstream business processes


As the gateway to broad enterprise adoption of social business tools, integration is a critical and often overlooked issue.

At the Enterprise 2.0 conference, I participated on a panel, titled Socializing Legacy Applications: Are We There Yet?, that discussed integrating social business with enterprise systems. Analyst Tony Byrne, from the Real Story Group, moderated the panel, which also included Alfred Hsi, who is Director of Research and Innovation at Deloitte.

Enterprise integration is an important and challenging topic sitting at the intersection of enterprise technology, consumer software, organizational culture, and relationships between business users and their IT departments. During the panel discussion I called social business integration the crazy irony topic, because it's so important and yet also misunderstood.

You can hear a podcast recording of the entire panel by clicking the audio player at the top of this post.

The discussion includes engaging comments from audience members on the leading edge of integrating social tools in large organizations and is well worth your listening time.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Salesforce.com, Software, IT Employment, Enterprise 2.0

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  • RE: Enteprise social business: Integration matters

    Hi Michael - great article. We are in the "Social CRM" space and I am surprised at how many companies, let alone vendors, are ignoring this topic. There is a lot of noise around the 'front-end' portion of Social Media Monitoring with very few folks thinking through how to integrate the actions into existing or new CRM business processes. In many ways, there is a sense of deja-vu: In the early days of CRM, everyone was focused on the front-end silos (Email marketing, E-commerce websites etc) without worrying about how to integrate those into the Procurement, Production and Sales/Distribution processes. We are doing it all over again.
    Satya Krishnaswamy
  • Agreed

    in house social collaboration has been a key to success for the organizations that I have worked with. Deploying SharePoint 2010 collaboration features has allowed our clients to

    a) identify and ramp up virtual teams within Fortune 500 companies. Finding Design Engineers with the right skill sets has been a challenge for project managers. Now, with mysite information, finding the right people with the right skills wherever they are in the organization is trivial.

    b) focusing on the content that matters. with social tagging, our clients identify what the organization values as opposed to information being dicated downwards by fiat.

    c) allowing users to organize data and information in ways that are meaningful to them without duplicating information.

    d) integrating transaction systems through Business connectivity services. Now I have a common dashboard for SAP data, Excel Spreadsheets, and SQL Server Analysis cube data all through PerformancePoint and SharePoint.
    Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Enteprise social business: Integration matters

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  • "I didn't know that"

    I designed our application, RondeVoox.com, to help solve a reoccurring problem while participating in Project Management meetings. It was inevitable; a project participant would say "I didn't know that" during almost every summary PM meeting on Friday. In some cases, these people sat right next to the PM?s office. However, in our private lives, we can tell you what a high school friend?s spouse cooked for dinner the previous night.
    I wanted a Social Networking tool that would simply make employees ?aware? by connecting it to their information sources (legacy applications, business intelligence dashboards, data warehouses etc.). From being aware the employee can start asking questions.
    My product, RondeVoox.com, has a simple service interface that you can feed information to make it part of the conversation.
    • RE: Enteprise social business: Integration matters

      @GBarckley - as a PM, your software sounds interesting, but to visit your site I see I am asked to download more software (MSFT Silverlight). I hope you will consider a fall back solution for those who have no plans to install the Silverlight plugin. As for this article? It hit the nail on the head. Productivity should be the main course w/socialization as a side dish.
  • Social apps integrated in the workplacae

    This is a great piece. The ability to bring social media into an organization in a way that makes it useful and not chaotic depends on why it exists. Social for social's sake is trendy, but to be valuable, needs context and relevance to how work is done. Salesforce.com's Chatter is a great example of putting social to work at the point where process and conversation come together. Great article!
    • RE: Enteprise social business: Integration matters

      Thanks for the kind comments.

      I believe enterprise issue is the great challenge for social business and will be the next big battleground in this space.
  • RE: Enteprise social business: Integration matters

    Great article, Michael. I've been saying this for over 3 years here at Buzzient. Our belief is that enterprise social media is only really leveraged through deep integration with existing business apps and processes. Too many social players have catered to the "social specialists" within their customers, as opposed to the mainstream application users.

    Therefore, we built our app to deeply integrate with CRM apps from Oracle (CRM On Demand and Siebel), Salesforce, Interactive Intelligence, SugarCRM and soon others. Buzzient users can transparently tap in to social data, engage with social users, all from within those applications. So, there's minimal training impact, and existing business workflows are preserved. You can see this running live on the demos section of our website (www.buzzient.com)

    We're also expanding into the ERP world this year, so look for additional announcements there.

    Again, great article, and we echo your beliefs here at Buzzient.
  • RE: Enteprise social business: Integration matters

    Michael, I was laughing a little aghast when I read this. I simply couldn't believe that someone would stand up and declare the need to just 'do social'.

    Most businesses just need to focus on creating great products backed up with great services and find within that a profitable model. If it so transpires that social is a natural extension of customer engagement based on their marketplace, products, customers etc then 'do social' may, and I stress MAY, be an appropriate strategy.

    Integration as you point out is the key, in the same way as CEM focuses the business on creating great 'experiences' for customers integrating these experiences with core systems of record is essential in completing the customer journey - let's face it, ultimately they are going to want to buy something from you so there is still a need to fulfill a request for product or service which will not solely sit in these front office applications of social or cool UX.

    Enjoyed the post and look forward to discussing further next time we meet. @collsdad
  • At 26 mins

    The questioner is asking a question which Deloitte does not understand. Some vendors have already understood and solved this problem.