Over the last few weeks, as we’ve taken Cim v2.1 to market, we are increasingly compared with pure social technology players in the market. Certainly, Cim v2.1 has gotten more social and this question is reasonable. There is some overlap; we are both starting in the same place. In this article, I’ll provide a simple approach I use to draw the key distinction and how this difference drives us as vendors in different investment directions and value propositions.
The really short answer is that in most pure Social offerings, the focus is on the conversation and the network. Whereas in Social Business offerings like Cim, the focus is on the application and the business result supported by the collaborative conversation.
Let’s look at these graphically…
Here is a graphic that shows the essence of a social approach. It is about the conversation between people and the people network. Social is really providing a communication mechanism. It is an alternative to email or phone. Vendors of social typically talk in terms of the medium, eg., the type of capability such as wikis, blogs, and micro-blogging. The real value comes through the forming of the social networks and linkages and using this new medium for conversation. These conversations usually have context, but, the context is secondary.
Here is a graphic that shows the key distinction of Social Business Software from pure Social. In essence, there is a structured context in the middle – basically it is your “social app”. People engage in the context of that app (the stronger blue lines). In Cim, we generically call it a “community”. However, it serves the business purpose, has structure, maybe even a time limit, and often, involves process. It might be an information resource, an idea community, a channel between sales and marketing, a department community, a corporate challenge, a business process, or a project. But, the “app” in the middle has a purpose that gives the collaboration a context and channels the collaboration towards this purpose.
With Cim we also enable the direct people-to-people conversations to occur through our integration and extension of SharePoint 2010 social networking capabilities. We are even talking to many of the other social players about also integrating with their social network. However, at the core is the “app”. With Cim we have invested considerably to make sure that these “apps” can range from simple collaborative communities to deep business processes. Thus, the app, ie., the business purpose is primary with us.
Experience the Difference
The above distinction can be experienced when you work with the various vendors. When you engage with most social vendors they will usually talk in terms of capabilities and often make reference to why their offering is not Facebook or Twitter for the enterprise. Whereas when you engage with CorasWorks, we will always be talking about the applications you want and the business objective. We will talk about Product Change Requests, Sales Collateral that gets better, Innovation Management, managing Technical Solution challenges, Enterprise Best Practices, Customer Feature Requests feeding into Product Development, your New Project Initiation process and how it ties into your Project Management system. In fact, in all of our Cim business, there are always very specific applications that are the initial drivers for adoption and which are usually driven by business groups.
In sum, with Cim as a Social Business offering, we see social technology as a very important new capability to be leveraged in business applications. When we evangelize it is usually to explain, for instance, how you can make a Change Request process much more effective and powerful by re-designing it to be front-ended with a collaborative community and incorporating collaborative review processes to drive decision making. But, in the end it is a process with a business objective. We are held accountable to deliver the business solution; not just a capability.
I believe that over the next couple of years organizations will have solid platforms on both fronts – core Social Business platforms such as Cim on SharePoint with lots of “apps” along with one or more Social/Social Networking systems. Both will get stronger within their own areas as the competition continues to heat up. In addition, you will be seeing more classic business applications with their own embedded social capabilities. The hope (and my hope) is that these vendors will each support the federation of these systems to make sure that customers end up with a truly better collaborative user experience instead of it becoming just one more wave of siloed systems.