4 Reasons Facebook for the Enterprise Isn't Enough
tibbr | Now, the Information Finds You.
t i b b r ®
– O v e r v i e w1
Four Reasons Why “Facebook for the
Enterprise” Isn’t Good Enough
The concept of adapting consumer social networking tools for use inside of businesses
isn’t new. By the early 2000s, mostly without their IT department’s blessing, people began
utilizing chat rooms, community forums, wikis, blogs and other social computing mediums
into their companies. As Facebook and Twitter exploded in popularity, start-ups and
incumbent application vendors sensed a market need. So they set about adapting these
consumer technologies for enterprise use, and a new software market was born.
The problem is, the majority of these social computing efforts failed.
In fact, by 2008, Gartner found that 70 percent of social software initiatives were failing.
The reason wasn’t simply that the market remained immature; social computing companies
wrongly assumed that building “viral features” into their products would make them
succeed inside businesses. As these tools blindly mimicked Facebook – without any regard
for what features business users might actually need in their day-to-day work - they fell
flat on their face. When line-of-business managers brought in a free tool outside their
IT department’s purview, the fate would be mostly the same. The company would get a
spike in adoption for a couple months, but enthusiasm would abate as soon as people
realized they needed to get their job done; the tools they needed to execute key business
processes were absent.
The proof of this failure isn’t hard to find. According to a recent 2011 Kelton survey,
nearly 82 percent of end-user respondents said they still lacked the communication tools
necessary to collaborate seamlessly and connect with people and information from other
business units. Go on Twitter or attend any social computing conference today, and the
conversations all these years after the first implementations remain the same: How do
we get social computing adoption? The very existence of adoption groups speaks to a
macro market problem: Early adopters who placed big bets on social bought thousands
of seats that have become shelfware inside their organization. Adoption was managed like
companies were a community on the consumer Web, which doomed their social computing
efforts. It has created a booming market for consultants, community managers and Venture
Capitalists, but a frustrating and expensive one for companies who simply want to leverage
the power of social computing to make their businesses run more efficiently.
t i b b r ®
– O v e r v i e w2
1. Moving Beyond People: Why Machines Still Matter
Social computing has been celebrated for its ability to empower – and connect – people.
As a result, during the first wave of social computing inside businesses, the primary use
case centered around tearing down deep-rooted knowledge silos. While helpful, busting
these silos by connecting people isn’t enough to make social computing platforms a long
term, strategic investment.
Up until now, social computing platforms have been divorced from the data and systems of
record that employees rely on each and everyday to get their job done. As a result, social
computing has been “an extra thing to check,” rather than a work tool that’s essential for
their work. In addition, knowledge sharing is only half the problem: The other issue centers
around the inherent attention management challenges when it comes to pulling data from
multiple systems and applications, a pain point that’s starting to be felt. According to
Kelton, around two-thirds of end-users said they would benefit from being able to access all
their business data from one unified interface, which they lack today.
To ensure success, a social computing platform must serve up the relevant events and
updates from CRM, ERP, expense, inventory and document management systems (to name
a few) that employees utilize each and every day. In doing so, they utilize social computing
to enhance business process and improve key performance indicators. And during the past
six months in particular, some companies have begun to gain traction in this area.
For example, OOCL is a shipping company with 6,000 people and 1,000 partners. Across
its entire ecosystem, OOCL needed a better way to collaborate better around the status of
cargo shipments. Rather than simply deploy an internal social network – and hope people
manually grabbed relevant data and shared it with the right people – OOCL integrated
its social computing platform with its track and trace system. Now, employees receive
pertinent updates on shipment delays, and have open, collaborative discussions when there
are delays or issues in the process. As a result, they can resolve issues faster.
In Asia, a wholesale bank has 4,000 relationship managers responsible for handling
customer requirements. In the past, they had to receive and input customer data into a
Siebel CRM system. Then, they would have to relay requests onto relevant product people
who could help serve the customer needs. The collaboration around this process was ad-
hoc and not efficient. To improve this business process, the bank integrated its Siebel CRM
system with its internal enterprise social computing platform. There, both the relevant
relationship manager and associated product person would receive customer updates, and
collaborate openly about the proper solution.
t i b b r ®
– O v e r v i e w3
2. Unifying Communications in the Era of Asynchronous
Another reason past social computing efforts have failed is because the platforms punted
on having key unified communication tools. They either didn’t have them at all, or they
integrated old ones in a cursory way – such as adding an IM handle field to a social
If users collaborating on a social platform want to shift their asynchronous microblogging
messages into a synchronous conversation via IM, video or audio conferencing, those
tools must be right there at their fingertips. Up until now, there’s been too much friction to
make that transfer, especially around conferencing: You need send a calendar invite, get a
third-party service, and call up dial-in information and meeting passwords that nobody can
remember. This friction in transferring from social communication to unified communication
may seem trivial (a few minutes here, a few minutes there). But over time, it adds up and
Consequently, native unified communications are needed in social computing platforms.
They must make it simple to launch a video chat, start IMing, and share desktops with the
simple click of a button from a company’s enterprise social computing platform.
3. Imposing a Little Structure
During the early days of social computing, it was necessary to move away from the highly
structured digital data organization that typified desktop computing in the 1990s. It was
just too inefficient. On the desktop, the filing cabinet metaphor endured. Digital filing
cabinets with thousands of folders holding thousands of office files jammed our computers,
which had lousy search capabilities to boot. Content management systems weren’t much
different (and when you consider the volume of files and information they held, they were
even more maddening to navigate). Sure, we didn’t have as much paper, but information
discovery for the end-user was a nightmare.
So quite sensibly, social computing adapted the unstructured nature of the Web. Simply
tag information, and find everything via search later.
t i b b r ®
– O v e r v i e w4
The issue is, once a social computing platform received any kind of critical mass, it was
too unstructured for its own good. Traditional tagging like what we had on the consumer
web failed because people decided to classify things in different ways, and because this
was around work events and not a news article they read, the stakes were a lot higher. One
person might tag a something “sales proposal,” while others might have called it “sales
presentation.” As a new user, which do you follow? One or both? And which one is more
relevant? Searches often turned up the wrong content or outdated content, making it
harder for people to leverage the knowledge and data injected into their social computing
platform by both colleagues and systems.
Thus, a new moderate approach is necessary: Subjects. By sorting a social platform by
subjects with light moderation from an admin, you can create a simple information hierarchy
for users to peruse before they create a new subject (and sub-subjects beneath it). These
subjects can be completely searched and indexed, and tied in as filters for activity streams.
Thus, you can insert the right amount of structure and allow fine-grained consumption of
critical content and information – without going back to the days of the dusty filing cabinet.
4. Social Sprawl: Together We Stand, Divided We Fall
The popularity of social computing has made many companies a free-for-all of different
platforms and silos. On one hand, you might have a free internal social network that
a mid-level manager brought in without IT’s permission – completely unsecured and
divorced from the systems your company has in place. On the other hand, you have a point
enterprise application – say in sales – that provide basic microblogging and updates from
that one system – but it’s siloed off from the other people, functions and systems that exist
outside that department.
Then you have partners, customers and vendors that you need to engage with as well. How
do you toggle between your internal social network, and all these other secure extranets?
In its totality, this amounts to social sprawl. The key to fixing social sprawl rests in having
one unified interface, or a social layer that people rely on to get their job done. People
need to be able to use one login and URL, and engage seamlessly between their activity
streams. They need to have the confidence that they’re sharing the right information with
the right person at the right time.