Some of the technical standards that could prove helpful are embodied in the OpenSocial 2.0 specification, which is starting to show up in products such as the latest cloud release of the Jive platform, Cannell said.
Cannell also is tracking the increasing attention to social software geared toward organizing or tracking work, rather than general collaboration. One recent example is Asana, which is getting attention because its founders come from Facebook. This trend also is reflected in products such as Wrike's social project management, Sparqlight's social workflow, and the activity feed integration with many applications in SAP Streamwork.
"I've looked at Asana, and I like the vision they've painted," Cannell said. "It shows the pendulum swinging back from social functions to more activity-focused functions."
Coordinating tasks, or tracking open issues related to a project, is one of the most fundamental forms of collaboration and is the focus of many Web applications and portal platforms. Despite the ferment of concepts for integrating social software concepts into those processes, there is so far no consensus of what that should look like--not the way there is with the general social software environments that are all loosely modeled on Facebook, Cannell said.
"This has long been an issue, where you'd train someone to use eRoom and then if you moved over to using SharePoint, you'd have to move them over to using SharePoint," Cannell said. Many organizations stick to a list of tasks or issues in an Excel file on a shared network drive as a lowest common denominator means of communication, he said. So although social collaboration around work and tasks is "theoretically powerful," it still awaits a breakthrough, he said. Perhaps that will come if a vendor like Jive delivers a concept for social project collaboration that becomes wildly popular, or if a consumer social site develops some analog that enterprise products can imitate, he said.
For now, at the level of rhetoric at least, the enterprise social networking vendors increasingly emphasize the idea that their products help get work done, going beyond idle social conversation. "I think they're going to have to move in that direction," Cannell said.
Support for structured collaboration, such as managing lists of tasks, explains why Lotus Notes retains a foothold in many organizations and why organizations that implement Jive or Yammer are so interested in having it integrated with SharePoint, which also offers those capabilities.
"I think we're going to continue to struggle to cover the spectrum of needs for some time," Cannell said.
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