The second wave of collaborative and social enterprises ?

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Where do things stand with the social and collaborative enterprise ? What we can see is kind of mixed feelings amont commentators, experts, and practitionners. On the one hand “we’re stuck” and on the other hand “we can feel something is happing”.

What could be explained this way. After having hesitated, groped around and sometimes start projects on assumptions that appeared to be wrong (what can happen on a market in its infancy), businesses reached the end of their logics. They learned meaningful lessons and are now able to start again with more mature approaches. This is not a second era but a second wave.

Assumptions that appeared to be wrong and lead businesses in the wrong direction have been challenged and the result is a period that is :

1°) Post Adoption

If the adoption of new models and technology has never prevented you from sleeping, please raise your hand. In fact; most businesses focused on technology adoption, by end users, and believed that if people changed by themselves, on their own, they would not have to change anything as organizations.

Today they realize that adoption matters less than sense and alignment, that people won’t change in an organization that won’t change from a structural, cultural and managerial standpoint.

2°) Post communities

Changing organizations used to be about turning everything into communities. Everything was a community and communities were the answer to any problem. The purpose was to start communties. How many times did we hear people in charge saying “so….did you find communities in your enterprise ? How many did you start ?”. Ridiculous. If we stick to a strict definition of communities, it can’t meet every need.

Today businesses understand that the word community has been led astray and is now synonymous with group. Some of these groups are real communities, other are project teams, others are departments etc. Each kind must recruit and manage its members differently, hosts different activities, can be optional or mandatory. So the community hunt is over and has been replaced with business problems hunt. It’s about identifying business activities and set things to facilitate them. The community is not the goal but the name given to people involved into a given business scenario.

3°) Post conversations

The was was conversations so businesses should become conversations too. Businesses nearly killed themselves to make employees have conversations. Conversations were the goal. Hence the intensive use of community managers in charge of making people talk and react.

Today, the focus on business activities is a game changer. Conversations need a trigger that makes sense in the context of work. It’s not about conversations anymore but interactions on a business matter, a project or processs step. Conversations have become operational.

 

4°) Post Sharepoint (or Sharepoint Only)

No one can discuss that Sharepoint has been used for lots of initiatives in the past. But the philosophy of the tool has often restricted the scope of collaboration because the platform was late compared to pure players and because most businesses did not moved to the latest versions as fast as Microsoft would have liked.

Today, with hindsight, most admit that Sharepoint was not enough and did not do the job when the scope of collaborative and social practices was too large. Moreover despite of recent improvements, the buying of Yammer shows the vender was aware of its weaknesses. Anyway, once agrred that Sharepoint (or Sharepoint alone) did not make it, the search for alternative or complementary solutions opens the door to new business cases and to a better user experience that will favor adoption.

5°) Post Saas

Social collaboration initiatives flourished  thanks to the Saas model that made starting a project easy. But Saas has also been a barrier to more accomplished enterprise programs.

First because it made things so easy that it caused the multiplication of local intiatives to the detriment of global coherence and the result was more and more silos. Then because, rightly or wrongly, Saas still scares some businesses. Rightly because some data may be ketp at home, sometimes for legal matters. Last because, once it has become obvious that social networks were only a first step and that the future was  social platforms, digital workplaces, the level of integration and customization offered by Saas applications does not meet the requirements of such platforms.

So Saas is ok for local and fast deployments. For the rest on premise is still and option but there are also good alternatives in the cloud, most of all the Paas model that helps to have it both way and seems to be the best option for new generation work environments, highly customized and integrated.

Understanding that cloud did not always mean Saas opens new doors, brings some barrier down and will help to build better integrated work environments with a better customer experience.

6°) Post Search

The problem with the the increasing number of information, conversations, content, is that users get lost, don’tfind what they look for or even don’t know what they can fin, so don’t look for it. Any business that tried things in the field of digital and social collaboration knows that either nothing happens or people are submerged with information.

These two last years we saw the major industry players invest a lot in big data and analytics. The consequence ? Being able de to separate the wheat from the chaff, suggest content, prioritize the display of information according to what matters for a given user at a given moment regarding to his calendar, to-do list etc.

Expanded beyond enterprise social network and implemented into any business application (calendar, document management, business process and project management….) this kind of personal BI will make it easy to work in complex situatons and provide work environments that will be more people and activity centric, context aware, what will help people spending more time getting things done than finding their way.

7°) Post uniform and égalitarian

One of the core assumptions in business transformation is the need for a flatter hierarchy and more equality between people, no matter their position, manager, executive or employee. This had a consequence :  managers, who are then only ones capable of making sense of things, align the context of work and the management practices with the pursued goals and expected practices and behaviors, found themselves lost. Managers were not able to play their role and the change process for one reason : they had to adopt has end users, not as managers.

Today, businesses have understood that managers had to adopt as managers. The result is initiatives that aim at giving managers the means to make sense of new models and tools in the context of their work, for them, for their satff, to understand the benefits for them and for the others.

A flat organization does not mean that different roles do not exists. Understanding that will also help to move to the next step.