The future of social business : platform, system, verticality, mobility, data

futureIn what direction is social business (or enterprise 2.0 or collaborative enterprise…) heading ? As I already discussed, it’s stagnating, either by lack of systemic approach, lack of leadership or wrong approaches. There are two possible ways out : invent – once again – something that should work in theory because it’s logical and makes sense and change the version number (I’ve recently read things on enterprise 3.0 or 4.0 these last weeks..), to pack the same stuff in a new and more appealing gift box or focus on what’s in the box.

As maturity is growing, the evolution will follow 5 main lines : platforms, system, verticality, mobile and data.

Social Business : a platform rather than tools

So let’s start – just the once won’t hurt -with technology. Contrary to the common thinking of these last 9 years, a social information system is not (only) a social network. First because the value of a social network comes from its periphery, then because the enterprise social software market is becoming a platform market, not a single solution one. From this perspective we’re heading for digital workplace project and IS social urbanization ones. That are as many challenges for businesses and vendors.

Then it’s about verticality. People don’t exchange and collaborate without purpose. The new practices and behaviors won’t happen in a bubble apart from work. People don’t adopt different behaviors depending on whether they’re learning, exchanging, solving problem or getting work done : they do everything the same way. Social is not something one does but the way he gets work done. Consequence : the added value and productivity caused by social approaches is a the intersection of social and business practices. The more they’ll merge the bigger benefits will be. The idea is to no teach people how to be social and hope they’ll apply it to their work : we know it does not work. As they’re back in a normative environment where it’s important everyone follow the same rules, employees forget their good intentions when they dive in their day to day workflows and activities.

Value is created at the intersections of social and business practices

So social practices won’t fall back on business activities by magic but must be designed at the day to day activities level, in a a specific fashion, activity by activity, case by case. There’s a good reason for that : call it process, activities, workflows etc., if the social side is not embedded from the design stage and set as a rule it will never work. In a couple of month you’ll even see that this trends is going to kill the usual “social fairs” and general purpose social conference that are going round in circles. From now on, the places where one will be able to learn and discuss these new practices will be work specific events : management, KM, human capital management, innovation… Businesses will get social by the bottom, by its core activities. And that’s already happening. We can see lots of cases of socialized business activities that will never show up on a social conference stage because they don’t rely on enterprise social networks. It’s as simple as that. It’s possible to have new approaches to business and use other tools sharing the same philosophy and even no tool at all.

So what will remain of social and 2.0 events ? They’ll become software fairs because practices will be back to practitioners ones. That’s not a problem or a regression since many things have to be learned and done on the platform side. But each dimension will have its own place.

Adaptation vs. adoption.

Then the system. In the singular, not plural because it’s about enterprises as a system. With verticalization there won’t be possible to have a social bubble in a business that refuses to change. If businesses want coherent social practices – most of all applied to real work – there will be a shift from adoption approaches (employee change and the system doesn’t) to adaptation ones (enterprises adapt their internal context and help making change of change). So it will be more about competences to acquire, decision models, values, processes, structures, autonomy, job description, etc. Employees never change in a system that does not.

Mobility refounds the social contract, analytics bring coherence

Mobility will matter for many reasons. First because it’s a new major component of the relation between businesses and their stakeholders. It changes the nature of the relation and the way it works. Then because the end of the physical workplace urges to refound the social contract between businesses and employees and change the management model.

Data because in an ocean of data generated by organizations, users, customers and internauts, what matters is to make the best possible use of information to prevent employees from drawing in data and enable them to make better informed decisions based on complex indications that aggregate data from various systems and correlate them in real time. A key component of the social platform to such an extent that analytics will soon become the major concern in applications integration.