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Innovation

Speaking the language of social applications in the enterprise

Enterprise IT is learning a lot from what could be termed "consumer IT" all the applications that people use outside of work. Most of these applications are termed "social" apps such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.
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Written by Tom Foremski on

Enterprise IT is learning a lot from what could be termed "consumer IT" all the applications that people use outside of work. Most of these applications are termed "social" apps such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.

What do social apps have in common with business?

Quite a lot I would say because business is a collaborative endeavor, it is inherently social. And there are many clear productivity benefits of introducing various features and capabilities of social apps into business apps.

But the term social usually does not imply "business" therefore what place do social apps play in the enterprise? What is the language of social apps within a business?

It is an interesting subject because I think that those companies that get it, that can quickly understand how best to employ social business apps will gain a lot, and not just in productivity, but in staff and customer loyalty, in speed of development of products and services, and in speed to market.

Eugene Lee, the CEO of SocialText, which offers an enterprise wiki, could be the person that turns social apps into business apps and communicate the benefits to a business audience. Mr Lee was recruited to SocialText in November and he comes from a long background of dealing with the needs of enterprise customers at Cisco and Adobe.

I caught up with Mr Lee and SocialText co-founder Ross Mayfield recently and had a peek at their upcoming new services.

"It's important to be able to speak the language of enterprise," says Mr Lee. I agree. In Silicon Valley we constantly update our lexicons with many new terms, and "social" is one of them. We know what we mean by it but that's not to say that others do. We are often caught in our own bubbles of geek-speak and it can sound Greek to others.

"Businesses look for solutions and that's what SocialText is in the business of providing," says Mr Lee. SocialText was the first commercial provider of wikis, which are group editable documents, similar to the popular Wikipedia. But SocialText has gone way beyond the wiki, so far beyond that maybe wiki is no longer needed as a term. I would describe SocialText as providing a social business application suite, especially with some of the new stuff coming out (which I can't talk about just yet.)

Collaborative applications is another way to describe social business applications, but even here, the language doesn't do justice to describing the potential business benefits of a consumer IT type approach to the enterprise.

Also, there are many ways to use social applications and it can often be difficult for companies to know how best to implement a SocialText application, for example. That's why SocialText is bringing a best practices approach to its customers, learned from prior work with large corporations.

But educating markets is tough work, and making sure that everyone speaks the same language can take time. Fortunately, Mr Lee does speak the language of enterprise--and that's a great start. I'm sure he'll be able to teach the language of social business applications and demonstrate the power of harnessing consumer IT in enterprise IT.

More on Socialtext soon...

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Socialtext blog.

Why Wiki's Aren't Your Daddy's IT

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