Wake up Enterprise, the Internet is kicking our ass!

Over the last few years we’ve seen the Internet community applying social network analytics to solve a growing number of consumer problems; from social search to influence analysis to social recommenders — the big boys, such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and a plethora of niche vendors, such as Klout, Peerindex, Topsy, Kred, etc. On the other hand we have seen a paltry adoption of social network analytics within the enterprise. What makes this particularly frustrating — hence the rant! — is that the enterprise is the perfect environment for such analysis.

Unlike the Internet which is an open domain, that is semantically ambiguous, and where identity resolution is a sometimes unsolvable problem; the enterprise is a closed, relatively unambiguous environment, with just oodles of context. Now none of this is rocket science, so why the rant?

Over the last year I have been looking at some alternatives to traditional enterprise search, specifically looking at social recommenders. The more I compare these approaches the more convincing social network analytics becomes. Let’s just face it enterprise search sucks! Ok, that may be a bit harsh but I’ve yet to meet anyone who honestly believes that enterprise search is better than Internet search. And that is me being polite, normally the response to the question is much more colorful. One of the major reasons it sucks is because of the lack of link analysis and the high volumes of traffic that combine so beautifully in the Internet scenario. However, all the reasons that make Enterprise Search Suck! make Enterprise Social Recommenders Rock!

  • The diversity of content sources, structured data, and business processes, provide a massively rich set of data for providing highly targeted and business relevant recommendations.
  • The disambiguation challenge, which is a significant problem on the Internet, is generally not an insurmountable issue in the enterprise; firstly people tend to have consistent userids across applications, and secondly terminology if not totally consistent is generally relatively well understood.
  • Its not creepy, as we are just tracking boring work stuff and not what you had for breakfast, where you get your morning coffee, or what you spent on your credit card last month.
  • The objective within the enterprise is to help you be more productive, and not to exploit you by bombarding you with products you don’t want or need.

If we could just start to use the disparate data that is languishing across our corporate databases, content repositories, and business applications, to feed our enterprise social semantic networks, then we could completely transform the face of knowledge acquisition and sharing. We are missing a huge opportunity!!!

21 Responses to “Wake up Enterprise, the Internet is kicking our ass!”

  1. Well said. I think enterprise social analytics could be most useful in helping identifying potential productivity gains, so long as it doesn’t become Big Brotherish, and tracking, say, time I’m not using my computer.

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  2. I hear ya!

    I will be posting a video next week of the solution I demoed at Lotusphere & IBM Connect last week. It tries to give a concrete example of the opportunity, in this case in the CRM space.

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  3. > The more I compare these approaches the more convincing social network analytics becomes. Let’s just face it enterprise search sucks!

    Marie – bingo and have been saying same although I don’t blog ;)

    So in addition to your good thoughts on Enterprise Social Recommenders let me add predictive behavior insight on a dynamic network of relationships around any subject or topic which of course ties to social network analytics. More on this soon….I promise ;)

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  4. Agree with what you’re saying here.. but I think that enterprise would get significant additional benefit in also embracing an inside-out, outside-in approach to social analytics. Particularly for professional settings there is enough rich information that would allow for discovery of partner/customer relationships that would aid in many enterprise efforts.

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    • Absolutely, I definitely don’t mean to imply that external social media is not important and that we take an enterprise-only perspective. The challenge today is that there is only an outward social analytics perspective which means that you get a complete disconnection between the external social interactions & derived insights and their integration into the business.

      When we have a social business infrastructure within the enterprise that natively understands the socio-semantic network and can integrate into business processes, then its very straight-forward to integrate in external social data sets and have them seamlessly merge with the enterprise social-semantic graph. It just becomes a new set of links in the graph.

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  5. Hi Marie,

    I think the issue with Social Analytics in the Enterprise is that, in itself, it solves a problem that most companies don’t realise they have. It’s one of these “middleware” things that needs to be used by applications that solve problems to get investment. Of course, down the road, if companies end up with a plethora of different solutions embedded in different applications is a problem, they will maybe move towards a generic platform. But to start with, they are not likely to invest.

    So, fixing Enterprise Search is solving a problem that companies know they have (although willingness to invest in it is mixed). So the question is – do you build social analytics into a search solution (it’s a bit of a stretch, but that could work as search is analysing all the sources used for social analytics) or does internal Social Collaboration evolve to solve the search problem by applying analytics to content users produce and tag (as they consume) and therefore make the Enterprise Search problem go away?

    There are other well understood enterprise application domains where Social Analytics is needed, but mostly they are being addressed by Social Collaboration platforms (expertise locations, knowledge management, team collaboration) – so these platforms need to become the delivery mechanism for Social Analytics.

    That said, I do believe there is a domain of management problems which do not have an associated software solution where Social Analytics can help – like Business Transformation, Acquisition Integration, Process Optimisation, Talent Management, Workforce Flexibility, etc. – where Social Network Analysis can support decision making and help direct organisational change. However most of these need more that just Social Analytics to understand the situation, they need a Social Collaboration platform to put the required changes into practice.

    So, my conclusion is that Social Analytics isn’t a product category in itself, but is just something that Social Collaboration platforms need to do – and that will become increasingly important as a differentiator for them in the future.

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    • Stuart, You raised some very good points which I pretty much agree with across the board.

      Re: middleware point — Social analytics is definitely a piece of middleware, but no-one pays just for middleware so social analytics most definitely needs to be surfaced into the enterprise as an embedded capability that delivers quantifiable value to business solutions. This is what I was aiming to demonstrate through the solution I demoed @ Lotusphere a few weeks ago (I spoke about it a couple of blog posts ago). The only concern I raise with clients is that while they might not care about the platform perspective, if they buy (for example) a social search solution that is not generalizable and extensible they will end up running out of road very quickly.

      Re: search — You are correct that search is one obvious delivery channel for social anaytics (at least in the short-term) and even apart from search, the search-like paradigm is a good way of bringing social analytics into the enterprise. When I was building the solution for Lotusphere we looked at many mechanisms through which social recommendations could be delivered to the enterprise and a simple search-like UI was the #1 choice of business users… Simple and familiar!

      Re: social analytics being delivered through a social collaboration platfform – I am not sure I completely agree with this. I believe that some platforms claim to have some social analytics, but again its very narrowly designed to solve a specific function as part of the collaboration suite. For example; very few expertise systems are designed to be flexible recommendation systems, whereas expertise is just one dimension and separating it from content or process recommendations (as an example) is not the smartest thing to do.

      Re: your conclusion … I agree and disagree :) I see social analytics (or socialytics) as a piece of middleware that needs to be part of many different business applications (whether they have collaboration or not). I see it as an integral part of a collaboration suite, but I also see it as an integral part of a whole range of applications. As long as its generalized enough so that it can deliver value to a collaboration system but also to a standard business application, then I believe we can have the best of both worlds.

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  6. Hi Marie, Thanks for your response and analysis. Very insightful. And convincing.

    Reading it, I was struck by the parallels with solutions for Compliance Monitoring. From an enterprise solution you would want these to apply to all user generated data not just Social Media, but also e-mail, instant messaging, enterprise content management systems and even business applications. Similarly with solutions for Archiving. Indeed, it would be useful if Enterprise Search could index all those sources.

    This would be a significant benefit of a stand alone Social Analytics solution.

    But I still have concerns that real companies in the real world would have difficulty justifying investment in such a solution (just as they often fail to actually make a sufficient investment in Enterprise Search, instead continually grumbling about the fact that their solution is not good enough and they need to do something about it, someday).

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  7. Yep! Making a convincing case to the business for making investments in new emerging technology is always a challenge, and this will indeed be no different. Due to the cross-business implications (and benefits) of social network analytics, much as it doesn’t make sense having 10 different search engines in the enterprise, 10 different social analytics solutions is equally as senseless. Only time will tell, but I am hopeful that logic will prevail :)

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  8. It is interesting that a great many companies are trying to swim in the analytics pool, but I’m guessing a large percentage of them have the very enterprise problems you’ve identified here. Many companies are constantly performing competitive analysis, yet they overlook the un-mined enterprise information available right in front of them.

    Great post Marie!

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  9. Hi there. Interesting post! One thing to consider in the enterprise: the Human Resource department is in charge of recruitment,promotion and in general talent management. Social Analytics can be seen as a threat to human resources, although it is clearly not. One thing analytics does is cut through what people say they do and show you exactly what they really do (or don’t do). This is a threat to the traditional corporation and is seen widely as such I believe. This is why social media is banned outright in many organizations. It will take, in my opinion, a full generational turn over before the value in these connections and opportunities is really leveraged.

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