Some traction, mutation ahead
I get it. I get the power and potential of these social technologies and I've even worked for a firm that really embraced what a social business/enterprise could be. But, I've also seen the dark side. I've seen firms that won't or can't embrace the concept. They lack knowledge workers and enlightened executives. Oh, some of them will embrace the social enterprise concept years from now when a competitor, customer or supplier dictates that they join the modern world.
But, for now, adoption of the social enterprise concept is not anywhere as brisk as social adoption is with consumers, teens and other non-B2B demographics.
I suspect we'll see the social enterprise not as much "dead" but something that's slowly, steadily gaining traction. But, along the way, I also suspect it's going to mutate a time or two.
We need the tools landscape to sort itself out some. We need more visible proof points emerge from businesses. But, what's really needed is a new perspective. Too many firms see social as a bolt-on to their ERP-centric world view.
The promoters of social enterprise see a universe of different constituents and users plugging into a boundary-less social fabric while the old-guard is still seeing the world from an internal ERP-centric perspective. There's the problem. The universe doesn't revolve around the Earth anymore than business information revolves around ERP. It's this flawed and nostalgic view of management and systems that's holding back social enterprise.
If the fan-boys behind social enterprise want to see it take off, help people get their heads around the other users of information, where they get their information and how they like to engage.
Huge and inevitable
Frankly, the path of social media through the enterprise has been a convoluted and interesting one. Even though we've tried hard to adapt its new methods and technologies to the enterprise, social media stubbornly remains its own unique creature. In fact, however, it's really just a mirror of who we are and what we do, all visible on the Internet or at work. Unfortunately, this rich yet unpolished public narrative is not always what we're prepared to unleash when it comes to how we operate in the workplace.
That said, all the data today show that social media is inexorably moving into our organizations. Even Gartner, that oft-quoted barometer of IT trends, thinks that most organizations will come to rely on social networks as a primary tool of communication within three years or so.
My erstwhile debate partner has made a few good points, however. One is that the CEO can push social media into the organization faster than any other role, even though it often quickly devolves onto the shoulders of CIOs ad CMOs. He's also right that change is hard and we often only pay lip service to the process. The social way of life, working out loud and narrating what we do while we invite as many people as possible into the process, isn't for everyone, even as it becomes the norm for many of us.
However, I would quibble with a couple of Brian's points. First, we do now in fact see that a few clear social leaders are emerging. IBM, Jive, and even Microsoft, have risen above the sea of literally hundreds of social enterprise solutions that exist today. While there's no doubt the market will remain fluid as social technology continues its fast pace of evolution, we can point to leaders in social analytics, security, and other categories as well.
Second, social technology is huge, even if it's NOT the most important aspect of being a social business. Many traditional business thinkers are not savvy about digital networks and what makes them special. Without a basic appreciation of how social media taps into the intrinsic power of today's global interactive online medium, it's a long, long road to getting ROI out of social. A major shortcut is to apply the technology that already does this. I've said before, you can be a social business without social technology, but it has rather limited utility. Do yourself a favor, and build a great organization on top of a strong social media foundation.