The same terms appear over and over again in discussions of enterprise social media.
Buzz. Brand advocacy. Promotion. Outreach. Engagement.
When it comes to enterprise social media, connecting with the customer is priority number one (and seemingly priorities two, three, four, and so on).
In fact, if you were judging just on what you read online, you could be forgiven for thinking that marketing was the only department that could benefit from the unique benefits of social media.
But what about the internal, non-customer-facing communication necessary for day to day operations?
Can the same barrier breaking features that have made social media an invaluable tool for corporate outreach also transform internal communication?
Does social have a place within the enterprise?
So far it's an open question whether social media can improve intra-office communication to the same game-changing degree to which it has impacted outreach.
Software giants like Microsoft, IBM, and SalesForce–as well as dozens of smaller developers–have all invested heavily in developing enterprise social networks.
But while there's been a tidal wave of user adoption for open, P2P networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, enterprise platforms like Yammer, Connections, and Chatter haven't produced quite the same surge.
A 2014 article in PCWorld lead with the headline, "Many employees won't mingle with enterprise social software." A recent article in the Harvard Business Review backed the same conclusion. The data presented showed that while 59% of companies with more than 250 employees have enterprise social networks, only 25% report that they are used by "many employees."
The author of the HBR piece and many others have rightly concluded that increased executive support for enterprise social could bolster enterprise social usage. But there's a deeper reason why leadership endorsement hasn't been as strong as it could be.
What makes open, P2P social media irresistible is the fact that it makes direct, personal communication easy for anyone. But creating ease-of-use for communication tools within the enterprise is more complicated.
Conversation within the business revolves around things like customers, suppliers, products, services, events, projects, tasks, orders, and so forth. In the contemporary organization, the primary source data for these topics is held within enterprise applications.
Enterprise social platforms generally do a fine job of allowing users to reference data within enterprise software. But the reverse is rarely true. And, that's a problem.
The system of record for customers, orders, inventory, and any other business data is nearly always the software that supports and enables related business processes. This is where employees expect to find their answers. Transitioning outside of these application to a separate social software platform in order to communicate with co-workers introduces friction. It's a disconnect that obstructs employees from realizing the ease-of-use benefits that drive the value of social.
Things are starting to change though. Developers across a variety of enterprise application types have begun to weave social functionality directly into the fabric of their software offerings.
The five following products offer a glimpse of what the future of social-enabled enterprise applications may look like and the benefits that enterprise social can offer for improving business management.
Service management applications provide a means of communicating work order instructions–typically from sales personnel receiving customer orders to the personnel who will actually perform the work. Especially for companies with service personnel in the field, facilitating communication between the two users groups can be especially challenging.
ServicePro Collaborative Work Management is a software solution that improves service related communication by layering social functionality directly into their software.
The product supports typical social features such as chat messaging and user profiles. Additionally, the software borrows from the social media convention of visual message timelines–complete with user avatar images–to create records of not only the service work that has been performed, but the full conversation surrounding it.
Cfactor Works markets its line of human resources products as a "Social HR Suite." The functionality found in the software backs up the slogan.
Vibe HCM includes a large variety of social functionality including messaging (askHR), user blogs, discussion forums, wikis, social polling, multimedia file sharing, and even user-generated photo albums.
The idea behind the software platform is that promoting internal communication via social functionality can aid in accomplishing critical human resource goals like improving employee retention, promoting overall productivity, and facilitating internal knowledge transfer.
Deltek is one of the more well-known and well-regarded providers of software to the professional services industry, where project work is the norm.
Projects, of course, are inherently collaborative in nature. And project management applications represent a software genre ripe for an infusion of social functionality.
In fact, there's no shortage of commercially available project management solutions boasting features born out of the social media paradigm. Deltek Kona includes many such features itself, such as instant messaging and dedicated collaborative spaces where communication can be tagged to topics, tasks, calendars, events, and files.
But what makes the Deltek Kona solution different is its integration with Deltek's professional services automation and accounting product, Deltek Vision. The integration between the two products–and the resulting breakdown of the barriers between departmental communication–is an important differentiator. After all, project work not only needs to be executed–it needs to be billed and accounted for.
Talking about quantitative data isn't always easy. That's why business intelligence software providers continue to push the envelope on dashboard refinements and data visualization options. But turning data into real decisions still requires discussion.
The BI360 Collaboration software from Solver augments their suite of reporting and planning BI software in order to facilitate the process of data-driven decision making.
The BI360 tool offers social features such as a messaging system, user profiles, voting, and a gamification system that rewards user involvement with a system of points and award badges. The collaboration features are designed to not only promote discussion in data analysis, but to provide a means for more efficient approvals for planning tasks such as corporate budget development.
Emerging from the manufacturing vertical, ERP systems are now used across a full span of company types to provide a comprehensive suite of software functionality for managing business processes and data.
With users spread across multiple departments and data gathered into a single software suite backed by a unified database, ERP suites make a natural software candidate for hosting social functionality.
The Intacct Collaborate system extends their core ERP product with social features based around a central messaging system. Users can subscribe to notifications on "followed" items and link conversations to customer records, bills, invoices, or journal entries.