Like pioneers, the early adopters found ways to bring in the tools that were exploding in the consumer web experience into the enterprise – or really the small business. They didn’t have a good case – no ROI – to justify it, but it felt right and they saw a reason to pursue it. So they did.
In phase two, some of these companies got bigger, supported by healthy venture capital and, equally important, had their technologies adopted by other tech companies that thought “hey, that might work here too.” It was during this time when the sample size grew to be just large enough to start doing some legitimate research on the topic.
In phase three, Andrew McAfee happened. More specifically, while his book Enterprise 2.0 didn’t really reveal anything new to the early adopters, it brought a type of rigor and business case that resonated with the C-suite on how these technologies were working when successfully implemented and what some key steps were to get there.
Phase four was the call for stories – when anecdotes ruled, conferences were vague, and people argued about Enterprise 2.0 vs Social Business vs Social Enterprise and other irrelevant discussions to add to the comment section of blogs. But phase four was critical because it was a tipping point of sorts – the serious people realized they needed ROI to keep going (e.g. advocate for their jobs) and the not so serious people kept watching the field grow, expand, and dilute therefore justifying their curiosity and doubt of the merit of this whole fad.
We’re still in phase five, where the technology has matured to get a wide enough base where Microsoft – an old hand – shells out a cool billion to buy up one of the phase two guys. Where, within a month, two new books pop on the shelves claiming to be “the first” books on the topic of enterprise collaboration and “social business.” The one from Dion and Peter at Dachis actually deserves some credit for laying out a clear case for a broader vision of a connected enterprise and the steps for how to get there. Marc and company at SalesForce must be very happy.
This all leads me to a Software Advice article by Ashley Furness that came my way that at first comes across as another “defend the realm” piece on why collaborative tools are a good sell. It’s a good bet better than your average and lays out some points that are left out of the mainstream commentary with real examples to back it up. Here’s what stuck out:
- Project management: this sometimes gets attention, but not nearly enough. The Jive “!” example is a great one of how to integrate real business processes and data into regular projects and workflow in a way that’s better for everyone. (although for Spanish friends, probably a bad idea)
- Suggested people and content: I haven’t seen this work well enough yet, but it’s a good idea in theory. I’d also like to see it used to feed up other key business components like professional development tools, feedback mechanisms, etc. It looks like SalesForce might be headed that way with Rypple, but for now it’s just an expensive add-on.
While I recognize Ashley was focusing on the technologies, I think that’s part of the problem in the discussion at large. Sure, the little “!” is cool, but it’s only going to be used by the people who know how to use it and care about things like that. The highest returns in this space come in two directions: efficiency and relevant data/information exchange. The question isn’t whether you have the right tools to maximize returns in those categories, it’s whether you have the right strategies, people, and processes to accomplish that.