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Social Collaboration Tools: Evolution Today, Revolution Tomorrow?

Yesterday, CMSWire.com published an article written by my colleague, Rich Wood. In the essay, (R)Evolution: The Past, Present and Future of the Social Enterprise, Rich discusses how social collaboration tools represent not a revolution (yet), but an evolution of organizational communication.
Rich begins by explaining:

It’s been too easy to claim that introducing newsfeeds, microblogging, @targets and #tags to the enterprise represents some sort of revolution in the way organizations communicate.  It doesn’t.  If anything, it’s an evolution, not a revolution — but the pieces are in place to get there in the near future.

He justifies this quite simply, stating that in many ways, enterprise social networks are just a new channel allowing people to do something they’ve done since the beginning of time – talking to each other. Over time, technological advancements have been made, but the use case has always remained the same. But, the promise of enterprise social networks is that they leverage the power of the network to engage others in that dialogue. This knowledge sharing adds value – when it works.
Here’s a valid point:

But it doesn’t always work, and it certainly doesn’t always work naturally.  As much as some in the industry want us to believe that social adoption is “viral”, it’s rarely that easy and besides, “viral”  rarely sounds like a good thing to people outside of marketing.  It  doesn’t matter how groundbreaking your technology is if you don’t have people on the network buying in, checking the newsfeed (or their alerts from the newsfeed) and participating because they inherently want to. Getting enterprise social networks to work means creating that “want-to.”

What does that mean? It means that people engage on social networks because it is something that intrinsically matters to them. It’s about people and issues close to home, matters that they can engage with. This isn’t something that can be created – more so, it is something you have to tap into.

Even when there’s a common platform — which makes the most strategic sense — getting an enterprise to adopt that platform across the board is hard. You need to have people who interact locally before they can add value by interacting globally.
Then you can start talking about truly enterprise social. And only when you’ve achieved a truly social enterprise can you start talking about revolutionary new applications of this technology, because a revolution is about doing something entirely new, not finding a new way to do something old.

To wrap up, Rich explains that the enterprise social revolution needs to start with a challenge, and in this case, it’s the abundance of enterprise social tools available today. In the next few years, folks will engage and adopt these tools. The issue is, these tools won’t communicate with each other, and people will have to manage the same amount of information as they previously had using email.
Rich makes it clear, we’ve got to do something that has never been done before in order to be considered revolutionary:

Where enterprise social needs to truly deliver and yes, believe it or not, revolutionize (for once) how we communicate is through aggregation.
Bring the messages together, filter them and be smart enough to ferret out the important stuff for immediate consumption.  Use powerful search-driven applications and personalization algorithms to make it a sound bite, a capsule, an executive summary — a Twitter-length 140 characters — that decision makers can absorb in the blink of an eye and act on through integrated messaging from the same window.  Nobody ever found an efficient and user-friendly way to do that with paper, voicemails or email — short of having an assistant sort through them all, and the “assistant-for-every-knowledge-worker” model clearly wouldn’t scale.

You can hear more of what Rich has to say on the topic in an upcoming webinar with Will Tseng, SharePoint 2013 Search & Social – What You Need to Know!, where the speakers will cover key components of designing and delivering optimal search experiences, while also exploring SharePoint’s social collaboration capabilities. The webinar will take place on Thursday, June 27 at 1 p.m. CT – register today!

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