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Enterprise 2.0 Preview: Social Tools Tackle Business Problems

The early phase of getting started on collaborative platforms has given way, says Enterprise 2.0 conference general manager Steve Wylie, to "specific, focused efforts on solving business problems and creating opportunities."

Social networking is no longer a curiosity for enterprises. It has become an area of major interest and investment.

Trite as it may sound to declare that social is the new black, social networking -- meaning software that enhances communication and collaboration through identity-oriented connections -- is in vogue. The reason is that it works, as organizations like Citibank, Wells Fargo, and the U.S. Department of State plan to attest at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, which begins on November 8th in Santa Clara, Calif.

Steve Wylie, general manager of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, points out that only a few short years ago, social networking had to prove itself as a valid enterprise software category. "I think we're well beyond that now," he said. "It's no longer a question of 'do I need to have a social strategy?' It's how quickly can we get our social strategy formulated and executing."

Wylie says that the leading analysts agree that systems and services that place the user at the center and foster communication and collaboration have become central to enterprise IT strategies today.

One such analysis firm is Forrester. In its recently issued report, "The Top 15 Technology Trends EA Should Watch: 2011 To 2013" -- EA meaning Enterprise Architects -- Forrester rates the category "Collaboration/Web 2.0/social media" second in terms of enterprise impact through 2013, behind only mobile devices and apps.

Forrester sees collaboration platforms shifting focus from documents to people. The goal has become to enable personal interaction and to foster the sharing of knowledge as a means to improved productivity. The research firm anticipates that social networking in the enterprise will promote collaboration as companies develop strategies to align the technology with their business goals.

"Companies have been so focused on just getting collaborative platforms built into their businesses," Wylie said. "Now we're seeing much more specific, focused efforts on solving business problems and creating opportunities."

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference, says Wylie, examines those efforts by looking at key functional areas where social makes sense. He points to People and Culture, the department formerly known as Human Resources.

There are a lot of areas in HR where social collaboration tools can have a direct, measurable impact on a business. Wylie points to the on-boarding and off-boarding of employees as an example.

"The amount of information that gets lost in that process, or gets stuck inside e-mail archives, is enormous," he said. "And if businesses understood the impact of that, they would all be jumping on collaborative solutions to help fend that off."

The impact of social and collaboration tools on HR will be explored in depth on Tuesday, November 9th, in a keynote panel discussion, Human Resources Meets Enterprise 2.0 and the Cloud (10:30am-11:15am), as well as during other presentations.

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference is operated by UBM TechWeb, which also owns InformationWeek.

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