Social Enterprise 2013: Opportunities And Obstacles
Big changes such as integrating social tools with business take time. Remember that in slow-moving revolutions, the persistent are as likely to be successful as the bold.
The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
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The enterprise social networking revolution has been a long time coming, and I don't expect it to arrive in 2013. Talk of a "revolution" implies big changes, which take time. The American Revolution took eight years, from the first hostilities to the signing of the Treaty of Paris, and in between there were times when General Washington was on the run or his men were freezing their toes off and starving at some makeshift fort. Even worthwhile revolutions are hard.
Constellation Research's Alan Lepofsky predicts 2013 will be a year for less talking, more doing, as the need to explain social business basics fades and more companies put social tools to work solving practical problems. "For product vendors, 2013 will be less about creating shiny new features and more about helping their customers (and prospects) derive real business value from their platforms," he writes.
Lepofsky sees social task management going mainstream, as well as more and better integration between social tools and enterprise business applications. More enterprises will see the utility in creating custom apps that use the metaphors from the cloud and social media to tie together business processes that span multiple systems. I won't try to summarize his full set of predictions, but I'm happy to endorse them for the most part.
I'm just not confident that we will see a dramatic change in 2013. The rate of adoption might accelerate, but it will accelerate gradually, in fits and starts, having to overcome resistance at each stage. Consider the issue of integration between social apps and line-of-business systems. There is the potential for standards to help, and I've been watching for signs for that since the introduction of OpenSocial 2.0 in August 2011. A year later, we've started to see some of the potential of that technology as implemented in products from Jive Software and IBM. But it hasn't exactly become an overnight sensation. It's more at the stage of something that "demos well" for Jive and might sometimes win it an extra customer or two. But is it a widely accepted standard with clear practical benefits? No way, at least not yet.
In addition to technical issues such as integration, the obstacles include cultural ones such as leaders who are unsure how much they want to embrace transparency and open debate within their organizations. One obstacle has arguably gotten worse. Number two on my list of obstacles, back in January, was overcoming the negative connotations of "Facebook inside your enterprise." By that, I meant some business leaders looked at internal social networking as an invitation to frivolous time-wasting. At the time, we assumed many leaders also would want to emulate Facebook as a business success. When my colleague Debra Donston-Miller wrote about how the Facebook IPO affected social business, we thought for sure the effect would be positive for social business firms and social business initiatives. That was before the stock went public and quickly lost half its value, partly because of technical and procedural screw-ups, but also because of doubts about the company's business model. As a matter of guilt by association, the idea of social business saw its stock fall as well.
If Facebook did not live up to its world-beating hype, however, it continued to plug away at building its business and proving the naysayers wrong. Now there are signs that Facebook might know how to make money in mobile after all, and the recent upward trend in its stock price has short sellers on the run.
If there is a lesson to take from Facebook, maybe that's it -- persistence and focus. Will 2013 be the year of social business? Probably not, but who cares? The real question is, will it be that for you? Will this be the year you show that you know how to put social software to work in a way that pays off for your business? If your competitors don't figure that out in 2013, so much the better.
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