Commentary - In today’s society, social networking is pervasive – people are connecting with each other through a variety of platforms and on a wide variety of devices including tablets and smartphones.
Just as consumers have embraced social networking, businesses too are looking to these tools to empower the enterprise. Forward-thinking businesses are capitalizing on the power of social networking to unite colleagues, customers, partners, and more. Indeed, Gartner Inc. predicts that social media will be a support tool among 40 percent of the top 1,000 companies within five years. While there is no secret recipe for succeeding in this fast-growing space, there are strategies businesses can employ to maximize the potential of various social networking technologies.
The first step to becoming a social business is to implement a company-wide social network built on open standards.
Building a social business on open standards
Open standards enable the seamless interchange of information between business applications, platforms, and devices to foster content sharing and increase communication. In today's distributed workplace, with great diversity in content, processes, and devices, open standards play a vital connector role.
Many social sites use open standards, but there is room for growth. Despite the success of today's social platforms, the fact that they are often isolated systems limits their usefulness. For example, currently there is no way of accessing a single view of an entire social platform – a system that consists of a variety of different social networking platforms, collaboration applications, personal and business connections, and content. Such a view, for example, would allow the co-workers of a global company to use a variety of social network applications while also giving the company a single focus for their development investments.
Companies need to integrate workflows, collaboration, cloud services, and operations, all with a deep understanding of the linkages between each process. By embracing open standards, social businesses will be better poised not only to evolve their use of enterprise social networking tools, but to gain a competitive edge.
Solving the standards conundrum
There are two issues that businesses may encounter when looking to embrace social standards:
1. Not knowing which standards will meet their integration needs.
2. A possibly intimidating open standards ecosystem, which can make it difficult to focus on what’s best for a business.
It is therefore critical that businesses first understand best practices and use cases. From a solid understanding, businesses can then participate in the standards processes to promote requirements such as transactional integrity, security, extensibility, and compatibility with existing domain models used in established business investments.
While standards are critical, they are not static. Businesses today operate in vast open environments and on loosely coupled systems, so organizations expect to collaborate at the speed of the Web. This interaction leads to the needs that make up the “next layer” of standards.
When a social business embraces open standards, it is enabling social technologies to become part of the fabric of applications that are used every day to conduct business. A seamless interchange between social networks, whether it's social content or social application objects, accessed as the user prefers (desktop, mobile, cloud) should be the end goal. Now is the time for businesses to work together and develop consensus upon standards to ensure continued evolution and success of social businesses.
W3C and IBM held a Social Business Jam exploring a variety of topics, including “Mobile and Social,” “Information Management,” “Metrics for Social Business,” and “Business Process Meets Social.” Registered guests included Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of Web and W3C Director; Lee Aase, Social Media Director at Mayo Clinic; Matt Tucker, Jive Co-Founder and CTO; and Alejandro Jaime, Social Media Engagement Group at Yahoo Research; among others.
Jeff Jaffe is the CEO of W3C. Angel Diaz is vice president of IBM Software Standards and Cloud.