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Getting Social (Business) at Gartner’s Portal Summit

I’ve spent the last two days at Gartner’s Portals, Content and Collaboration Conference soaking up the wisdom of some very sharp analysts (and a very open customer base) about enterprise social.  There’s other tracks here, but with all of the focus Microsoft has placed on Yammer and its potential for transforming how we do business, I felt this was an area where Gartner’s take could be extremely valuable.
If every bet were this easy, I’d be in Vegas making a living as a card shark.
Over the last two days, I’ve sat in on sessions geared to give us Gartner’s best guess on where enterprise social is going.  I’ve put on my end-user hat and participated in a roundtable about best practices (and adoption challenges) for making enterprise social work in organizations great and small.  I’ve watched as an analyst spent an hour comparing Google’s and Microsoft’s cloud offerings (It was a Microsoft slam-dunk for large enterprises).  I’ve even settled down in a mini-theater and learned how Magic Quadrants are made from the people who do it for a living.  It’s only been two days, but my head is about to explode from all of the analyst goodness I’ve been absorbing.
Being a conscientious blogger, then, I thought I’d share my favorite findings with you– thirteen of them, in fact.  Why thirteen?  Because hipsters will snigger and point fingers at me if I do anything so prosaic as a “top ten”, and hipster scorn is withering.
Thirteen Things I Learned From the Gartner PCC Summit, 2013 Edition

  1. Business-driven use cases for social tools are vital to success and adoption.  We’ve definitely seen that in our work.  What I found interesting is the idea that the risk of this is approach is that you’ll wind up with separate social initiatives driven from separate business needs.
  2. Having multiple—sometimes competing— social tools within an enterprise is actually a more common problem than I had imagined. Many people I had the opportunity to speak with had run or participated in several pilots. In other cases, different business units used different justifications to purchase different tools.
  3. This leads to a potential trend: Social business will go from a destination to a network service. “Aggregation” is Gartner’s watchword for this space by the year 2015.  When it comes to enabling this, I think NewsGator might actually be ahead of the curve.  Their Lookout platform provides the facility for users to pick and choose feeds from SharePoint, Yammer, and Chatter among other systems, using the ubiquitous Microsoft platform as the baseline architecture but providing for different tools and use cases.  The question I have is whether they’re too far ahead of the curve.  This is also where you can see Microsoft going with their “social layer” (more on that in a later post, honest) where Yammer hooks everything and its uncle into the news feed.
  4. Gartner predicts that by 2017, 67-80% of all cloud productivity seats will be Microsoft licensed seats.  This makes Google a distant second, and it matters in enterprise social because if social does become an enterprise network service, it makes some sense to host it in the cloud.
  5. Albeit, not perfect sense.  We should consider compliance and E-discovery more seriously within the context of social tools.  This seems to be the elephant in the enterprise social chat room—how to truly achieve regulatory compliance with these tools.  Right now the cloud makes that tougher, not easier, for highly-regulated industries.
  6. Speaking of highly-regulated industries, Gartner confirmed that Healthcare, Government and Financial Services are the industries that are “lagging” in cloud adoption.  That’s not circumstantial and it’s not anecdotal; it’s simply the way it is.
  7. Top emerging trends in the social business market are Social Analytics, Application Integration, Mobility, Cloud, and Context / Situational Awareness.  From a Microsoft take, this is good news, because in every case that’s where Microsoft is going.  (Well, except for native Android apps.)  “Context” is an important bit here—it’s the concept of being able to surface activity from different places—a learning management system, an HR system, et cetera—in the newsfeed alongside more defined action / activity.  That sort of feature builds a more complete context of who a user is, what they’re up to, and what their knowledge means.  Useful if they decide to retire or leave the company, I’d say.
  8. Smart people are seeing social as an evolution, not a revolution.  We’ve heard it from Microsoft, now we’ve heard it from Gartner, and while I personally think it’s been kind of obvious, there have just been too many people raging about the awesome revolutionary newness of how social computing will change the world, man!!! to believe that people get the message.  Look.  Let me make this simple.  Pneumatic tubes -> Telephone -> Email -> IM -> Social Platform.
  9. Most companies doing social as an enterprise tool are doing it as part of an intranet upgrade or re-platforming project.  We knew this one too, but confirmation is good, because it shows that people are moving to SharePoint 2013 and that this is definitely an aspect of that move.
  10. Even within Gartner, there is some debate on where social business tools will go next.  The choices?  Fragmentation or enterprise consolidation.  It’s too soon to know how it will play out, but in either case it bodes well for big platforms like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle and not so well for niche players like Jive.
  11. To be successful, a new tool needs to be easier to use than the old tool it’s replacing.  In other words, a social business tool needs to be easier (and likely more fun) than email.
  12. Social adoption is not so much about millennials as it is about knowledge workers.   Think about it—many millennials are coming out as collaborative knowledge workers. Older workers, by contrast, are more process-oriented and think in terms of a top-down, hierarchical process focus.  Those who are process based (like many older workers) are less collaborative and more top down.  This jives with how Yammer (ha ha, see what I did there?) likes to say that the idea of social being for millenials is one of the greatest myths about social business.
  13. When planning for adoption, you can learn a lot from Facebook.  Namely, the positive attention  and recognition that drives behavior on Facebook (Hey, look!  This photo of my puppy got 25 likes!) needs to be mirrored in the enterprise social environment. It’s the old tree that falls in the forest and nobody hears.  You kind of feel sorry for the tree.  Well, try posting to a social network that nobody else logs on to—nothing happens, and you never go back.  That’s what you need to avoid.   This is true of Gamification, as well, which is not so much about the badge that’s awarded as it is the recognition among peers.

There you go– thirteen observations from the Gartner conference.  I hope that at least a few of them are as interesting to you as they were to me.

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Rich Wood

Rich Wood has been planning, designing and building enterprise solutions and internet sites with an emphasis on stellar user and customer experiences since 1997. Rich is a National Director for Content and Commerce Platform work in Perficient Digital. One of the rare breed of strategists to truly understand both the business needs of the customer and the platforms that serve them, he is a keen advocate for and accomplished speaker/writer on issues that surround that inflection point. His work has been published on CMSWire, Sitecore and Microsoft partner blogs, and his own LinkedIn page as well as our various blogs here at Perficient, and he has spoken at multiple major conferences including Microsoft's SharePoint Conference 2014. Married and a father of five, Rich enjoys spending time with his wife and family. He is a native of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a graduate of Marquette University.

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