Communication and Collaboration in a Social Business World

Posted on April 17th 2011

There's a pretty good argument that a big part of the social business transformation is simply using new and more effective ways to communicate. In fact that's really one of the fundamental advances that accompanied the adoption of the Internet. Internet connectivity offers multiple channels for tying people together. It provides businesses and individuals with billboards (relatively static information sharing one to many), multiple multi-media broadcast channels (infinitely changeable in real or near real time, one to many), and multiple peer to peer communication channels all in real time, all the time and accessible from a device you can carry in your pocket.

There was a time when peer to peer communication in real time meant finding a fixed site hard wired connected device (phone), assuming of course that the other party was also located near a similar site. Mobile communication, that was pulling your car up to a payphone. A revolutionary advance was attaching a tape recorder to a phone to create an answering machine, which replaced human message taking. With the introduction of fax technology we moved asynchronous communication from the letter or memo (and significant delay time requirements) to near instant although still in fixed locations. Broadcast was no different, it involved pushing radio or TV signals out to a receiving device, originally fixed but eventually portable / mobile (portable radio, TV, auto radio, etc.). Want to communicate a static message, you had billboards, signs, and print ads and articles (I suppose I could add stone tablets here but you get the picture).

But the Internet changed all of that...well, with the important addition of mobile connected devices. Communication today spans two modes, synchronous and asynchronous and an ever growing number of tools. The missing link though is an integrated way to manage all of these tools...more on that later. First let's look at the tools in the context  of general use cases.

 Communication is a part of good collaboration of course, but collaboration involves processes and tools for getting work done collectively so moves beyond just communication. The actual process though, would always include some sort of communication so my separation above might feel a bit uncomfortable for some.

Both communication and collaboration today tend to exist outside of the work context. This is an interesting issue, the process is somewhat removed from the other tools a person uses to accomplish day to day work activities. This is particularly true of communication which tends to exist as a distinct layer. This is somewhat true of collaboration tools also, but at least some of these tools exist to facilitate the work process so aren't separated, like work execution software or joint authoring tools. Embedding in work context is an important next step for social communication tools and some have already started to address this issue by providing a method for connecting the tool to the enterprise software that employees use for daily work activities. Both SocialCast and SocialText have the capability to be embedded inside another software product, a feature that I believe is essential for broad enterprise adoption. Some of the larger enterprise vendors are also exploring this concept, Oracle for example has some basic activity stream capabilities embedded in the new Fusion Applications Suite.

"One inbox to rule them all, one inbox to find them"...oh, sorry was channeling a little Tolkien. Consolidation for integrated management is still only a dream. I personally struggle with this a lot just with multiple email accounts and the sheer volume of email in general. I have found that there are a few decent ways to address email but beyond email is no-mans land today. Facebook recently has made some statements about becoming the "one" inbox but it has a long way to go to get there and a difficult task of convincing enterprise IT that it should be used as a business tool (if it should). The blurring of the lines between business and personal though, could help with adoption. I'm personally not convinced that Facebook is the answer to my communication woes though. The mobile device might offer the best vehicle to drive an integrated comm/collab approach, it's already making it easier to use many of the tools and of course in real time, all the time and in my pocket. I guess I'm just dreaming of a uber aggregator that could pull in all of the different streams and communications methods into one manageable "inbox"...

What do you think about communication and collaboration in a social business? What tools are you using?

 

mfauscette

Michael Fauscette

Michael Fauscette leads IDC
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Comments

Thanks for the nice overview, but I miss one of the biggest enterprise social software in the market: IBM Connections. One of the big three in the Gartner MQ and the biggest IDC. It offers micro logging, activity stream, wiki, blog, ideation blog, activities, profiles etc. Together with sametime, with web meetings, video conferencing, it delivers one seamless integrated ( in Lotus Notes, ECM systems, Microsoft Office, Sharepoint and Outlook, an integrated social collaboration platform integrated in the context of the applications of the enduser. And of course device independent; client, browser,mobile device. And this functionality can also be delivered in the cloud via a subscription of LotusLive. And as you mentioned "How to manage (and integrate) all these tool, that question is for my customer the argument to choose for an enterprise social software suite, where the end user can access the social interaction from one place. If you want to see for yourself try http://greenhouse.lotus.com and give it a go.

One tool to manage it all is an interesting idea. Several vendors are moving in that direction, however, as you can imagine this is not a small or inexpensive task.

For marketers, we have found that there are certain classes of synchronous and asynchronous social communication tools (as listed above) which are best for building business relationships and for yielding new sales leads and tangible business results. You can see more about what we are doing at http://socializeyourstuff.com to provide enterprise level social network marketing services that seek a true ROI on your efforts.

Love the LOTR's analogy! I think for most, it comes down to what works for them. I run Social Media for Business workshops and speak all over the place to large and small businesses about social media. When it comes to tools of the trade so to speak, I point them in the direction of Hootsuite, CoTweet and Tweetdeck. I give pro's and cons for all three and suggest that they try them all out and decide what will work best for them. I am a Tweetdeck geek. I have it on my iPhone and on my computer. I also use things like Foursquare to comment and post to Facebook and Twitter. I find that people need to understand so much more about social media and the power that it holds for the growth of any business - together with the impact on bottom line figures. Great post!

Luv the Tolkien reference...although I question whether he would've ok'd your use of LOTR in such a technical way. I already see the value in being truly interconenct through all these new channels using OCS in our corporate environment. I wonder though how that translates into the personal world  as some times...you just want to tune in and tune out   With the way "presence" works and apps having you sign off on allowing access how would you disappear in this world. Will you be able to check out??

Michael - your dream is being realized. 'Social Email' tranforms your email client into a collaboration and social workspace. You'll want to check it out at www.harmon.ie 

Excellent post, Michael. You make Mr. Tolkien proud! :)

To answer your question regarding which tools are effective to promote social collaboration, I use and would recommend FeatureSet (http://www.featureset.com). It's core applications include customer feedback, requirements and project management tools. Social collaboration tools like discussions, blog, email and chat help to connect all stakeholders to the product development process. Really awesome software for businesses who are "thinking social" and looking to get everyone on the same page.

 

 

 

 

People are evolving in their social media use and embedding it in their lives in an increasing number of ways. The cultural impact of this is profound, and by seamlessly integrating social media tools within a product, users can collaborate in ways that come naturally to them. With over 657 million people on Facebook, there’s no denying that the social construct of “meeting” is shifting; in order for people to feel connected, the meeting experience should be fun, simple, and social. When we do that, those are often the meetings where we do our best work and have a great time doing it. PGi (www.pgi.com) offers a video conferencing product called iMeet (www.imeet.com) that offers participants the ability to collaborate multi-dimensionally, integrating social media components as they choose as well as file sharing, chat, and its core video conferencing features.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr are all available to meeting participants and create a meaningful, social meeting experience that naturally fosters collaboration within the product.

Excellent post. Recently I found one such tool www.oogwave.com which seems to be very simple. I havent used it much but it works fine for me.

I like your argument.  I am an advocate of social media, but am wary that often people just latch onto the latest shiny thing without actually achieving a real benefit.  The ICT world is rife with stories of money wasted on ICT systems and shiny products because they were never integrated into the real need of the person/ business/ community or system.

Defining social tools as tools that support collaboration and communication that in turn support all sorts of things such as business processes and decision making is the way to go.  Otherwise, like Amtrak who tied themselves to Trains instead of the superset of Transport those who support social media in isolation with be extinct within a decade like those who espoused EDRM, video conferencing, and e-business.  They are all still here clearly, but are no longer shiny or even news worthy.  Bit like Volvo losing its compettive differentiator of being safe in a world where everyone was safe enough.  

Best i read the other comments now. :-)