Software is business by nature, information social by purpose

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At the first times of the coming of 2.0 tools in the workplace, they used to be conscientiously locked into secured experimental bubbles in order to tame them in a safe context. This kind of approach showed its limits and its counter-productive nature.

– the tools in questions were isolated from traditional applications (directories, workflows, business tools) they didn’t communicate and exchange with. Yet the proper of these tools was to improve discussions and information sharing. None of these are spontaneous and most of times they are caused by a situation, a context, a stimulation. What makes a situation, a context “happen” in the workplace ? Elements coming from business tools. Consequence : discussion was kept away from what caused it, problem solving from what constitutes the problem. Result : no participation.

– consequence of the previous point : the utilization of these tools was not integrated in user’s work flow. Since a tool is not linked to business systems, the usages and interactions it supports is not linked to business either. Moreover, it was a key lessons from many experimentations : the tool didn’t have to impact people’s day to day job, bring any change or confusion.What a paradoxical situation for many users : since discussions, sharing, exchange are parts of knowledge workers work flow, everything was done to make social software be used for anything but that.

So, integration and unification of both work and information flows are indissociable.

Slowly, reasion is taking the upper hand and the importance of integrating social software in the existing application landscape and in employee’s work flow is now understood by most people. A better integration of social applications with business applications is needed and that’s good.

But isn’t there something that sounds strange ? That means that, first, the value proposal and the positionning of these tools was not clear for all players and, second, that no lesson was learnt of many years of trial and errors : building bridges means than there is no understanding that we’re talking about one sole things.

Saying that social and business have to be more integrated shows that the first is not seen as being a part of the second yet. It means that they are still thought separately.

So it seems surprising :

– that many players in these field consider they are social before being business and are too focused on their own beliefs to understand business needs and constraints. Social is a means that is there to serve the business and not an end business has to give a reason to exist.

– that many companies still think that “social” is complementary since it’s a part of the very nature of business, most of all at times when communication, in all its forms, is key to execute many process. But, to some extent, it’s less serious than the previous point that, once fixed, will stop confusing the way businesses understand these things.

A product is “business” or is not. There’s no room for “almots” or “yes but”. Any information is not social or business. It’s business or not and has to be able to be the subject of “social” actions. Moreover we can wonder if the strongest barrier to social software adoption is the fact we tried to socialize people inside new tools instead of making it possible for them to “socialize” information wherever it is without having to launch any new tool that adds the impressive list of already existing one and forces them to split their attention to take one more information source into account while what stimulates information production inside the tool is always outside the tool and can be found anywhere, in any other business application.

sParadoxically, Social software will be a major and adopted trend the day when there will always be business applications in the workplace and social will be a transparent layer nobody will even notice. Articulting social with business, building bridges may be a a good first step but in order to create value for and with users one more step will be needed : fusion.

PS : I purposely use quotes when I say “social” or “socialization”, admitting that I’m using comfortable buzzwords that gives senses without having to say what it exactly means. Maybe explaining, and even debunking, the S word is necesary. Let’s say that, applied to information, it means the ability to share it, push it out of its original container and interact on / around it out of any organized and planned approach. Applied to people it would mean enabling them to identify, connect to and interact with / on people out of any beforehand defined system.

enterprise-social-software, intégration, logiciel d’entreprise, social software, social media