Drive tangible results when Social Activity is “In-the-flow” of Business

In my last post about about Cim v2.0 Communities, I talked about how our native design enables social communities to be directly tied into business processes on SharePoint 2010.  The importance of putting social activity into the flow of business is not a novel thought – it has been talked about by the social software/Enterprise 2.0 gurus over the last four years.  In this article, I’ll give you references to their original writings on the topic, and then, I’ll discuss the CorasWorks approach that makes this happen for enterprise businesses.

I’d say the person who coined the idea of “in-the-flow” was Michael Indinopulos, VP of Services at SocialText.  They were one of the first social software companies and Michael is an avid does, thinker and blogger. He coined the term in his post on December 26, 2007 called “In-the-Flow and Above-the-Flow”.  In this article he makes the distinction about social tools being either activities that are within the routine flow of people doing their work (in-the-flow) vs. activity that is not part of their routine work (above-the-flow).  The point of his discussion is that it is hard to drive adoption of social tools that are above-the-flow.  However, if the tool is part of their day jobs, ie., what they get paid to do, then, social tools get high adoption.  Thus, strong adoption will occur where you implement social tools “in-the-flow”.

In 2009, Andrew McAfee published the seminal book on social software in the enterprise called Enterprise 2.0.  He is a Harvard/MIT professor/scientist widely known as a guru in social in the enterprise.  He is credited with coining the phrase Enterprise 2.0 in 2006.

In Enterprise 2.0, he does a great job of explaining various social software tools and the deeper mechanics that make them work.  He calls them ESSPs for Emergent Social Software Platforms. What I really like is the way that he distinguishes the mechanics between the different ESSPs.  He then goes on to talk about the core issue that with all social tools implemented in the enterprise – adoption and tangible business value are issues.  He lays out 6 core approaches.  In the section “Move ESSP’s into the Flow” (page 184), he specifically references Michael Indinopulos’s blog article referenced above.

He says “From what I’ve seen, ESSPs that are perceived as being purely above the flow have difficulty sustaining momentum and often wither over time.  For this reason champions of Enterprise 2.0 often work diligently to move ESSPs into the follow of their organization’s work.”

This line of thinking continues today.  In fact, the conviction is just getting stronger as the research and experience confirm the basic premise.  Just last month Michael wrote an article called “Companies aren’t Communities” (February 18, 2011) that again has at its core the need for in-the-flow approaches to social activity in the enterprise vs. above-the-flow communities.  A related post (February 28, 2011) was written by Andy Jankowski, another Enterprise 2.0 guru, called “How to Ensure Your Enterprise Social Effort Succeeds”.  He refers to Michael’s post and continues to drive the theme of the importance of being in-the-flow of business.  He goes one step further and lays out four core questions to ask as you implement social software.  At their core is the realization that the business problem and the business processes that surround that problem should be addressed first, then, you apply the social tools as part of the solution. 

CorasWorks has been tracking Enterprise 2.0 since 2006.  We decided to take a different tack then the pure-play social vendors.  Our legacy has been about delivering tangible business value with business processes and business applications designed and deployed on top of SharePoint (starting in 2003). Thus, we come from business value/process first within a distributed, virtual collaborative environment.  With CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010, over the last year we have enhanced and extended our “toolset” with the solutions and capabilities that natively open up business processes to incorporate social activities. 

Accordingly, just about every Cim solution is designed to natively be “in-the-flow” of business.  We target solutions that are “just right”, with pre-integration of social collaboration and business process.  Take Cim for Idea & Innovation Management.  We focus on rich ideation and collaboration tied directly into a flexible, very robust stage-gate business process.  The process is what transforms the idea into tangible business value.  However, the richness and breadth of participation of the social activity that drives our ideation provides huge leverage and greater effectiveness to the front-end of the innovation process.  We then enhance the downstream process itself with social collaboration activities that make it more effective and efficient. 

With Cim v2.0, we have gone even further and added a new solution called “Cim for Social Business Processes”. It natively integrates social collaboration with stage-gate business processes in a design that allows customers to flexibly apply it to many business problems.  Our approach is to provide the just right solution for the business need.  We are not too social, nor, are we too BPM (business process management).

Today the distinction may be a bit “cloudy” (sign of the hype cycle).  But, the experience of many over the years has shown us that within pragmatic enterprise businesses the middle ground is where the real value lies – over the next year it will become much clearer.

william

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