Social Workflows here we come

A couple of weeks ago Tom Petrocelli (@tompetrocelli) shared with me his brief “IBM Brings Social Workflows to SugarCRM with IBM Connections“. It was a good read with many of his comments jumping off the page for me :-) There was lots of good stuff in the article, but not wanting to turn this blog post into an epic novel, I am going to very briefly touch on just 3 thoughts I had when I was reading Tom’s article. I may write separate blog posts about these individual topics at a later stage, as I believe they all warrant more detailed discussion.

Social Integration
Tom touched on this point several times during the arcticle with quotes such as “to realize full value from the Social Enterprise, end-users need to tie these social toolsets more closely to everyday work product”. Deeply embedding social into the business of doing business is a topic that I have discussed several times on my blog and which I continue to believe is the key to social business adoption within the enterprise. Business applications and processes need to be “social-ified” so that the effort of engaging with the social services (sharing, connecting, collaborating, discovering) is no more than a click away, and is contextual to the job you are doing at a specific point in time so that the benefits of that participation are both immediate and measurable. You shouldn’t have to move away from what you are currently doing in order to appreciate the value of a Social Business.

Collaborative Decision Making
While Tom didn’t directly talk about collaborative decision making, he did menton that “social processes are the key to business agility”, a sentiment which I totally support. Historically business processes have been all about structure, reproducibility, with limited flexibility to go “off piste” and this has also been the case with decision making. And in much the same way that social is allowing business processes to be more dynamic and responsive to the business, so does the addition of social within the decision making process. However, the agility of social decisions comes at a cost which is that they often lack the “checks & balances” of the more traditional decision making processes. Therein we hit on the nirvana of social! If we can combine the discipline and governance of the structured approaches with the flexibility of social… Alleluia! The best of both worlds :-) And this is a topic I most definitely plan to talk more about in later blog posts.

Lead with Solutions, Deliver a Complete Platform
One point Tom made in the article was that “Two Heads Are Better Than One but Could Be More Expensive” referencing the fact that to benefit from the social workflows in SugarCRM you need to separately buy the IBM Connections product. The reason I want to respond to this point is not to talk about pricing or packaging (I leave all that good stuff to the biz folks at Sugar & IBM), but because I believe that this loose coupling of the social platform from the business application is the singularly most important characteristic of a successful social business strategy. I have spoken about this on several of my other blog posts, so I won’t flog a dead horse here other than to make one point… Social Silos.

Social Silos are becoming increasingly problematic with external social media (see related links below) and is something to be avoided at all costs within the Social Business. The greatest value from the application of social across the enterprise, is that it can “connect the dots” between information and process silos. However, this assumes that your social business platform (and the social network that it captures) is available across multiple applications. The last thing you want is disparate networks across your various business applications.

And finally a big thanks to Tom for sharing his article, I thoroughly enjoyed it :-)

Other blog posts where I talk about Social Silos…

  • Enough with the squabbling… pleassse!
  • The battle for the glass continues… Twitter divorces LinkedIn :-(
  • Is “Social” further exacerbating information overload?
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    8 Comments to “Social Workflows here we come”

    1. Thank Mary for raising this essential point. Social activities are the remedy of the limit of process as we know them and the need to handle problems and find creative solutions to business issues since, as everything that could be automated has been, the role of humans is to deal with was can’t.

      So the major issue that prevents from mass adoption is that one kind of tools contains the structure of work and are the place were problem appears (traditional business apps) while others are the place where information can be found and solutions built. What is not a problem for advanced users who accept to play the role of middleware between tools (ie : copy/paste data from one to another, tell in one what happens in anothe) but is a major issue for, let’s say, 95% of users. These ones see business tools on the one side, tools for conversations on the other side but don’t make the connection until both are integrated and solution is one click away from the problem…or, ideally, on the same screen.

      That said, the issue that remains is not to make customers understand this (IMO the value is clearer than with the usual “engage, connect, discuss and things will happen by magic” discourse) but to come with a well-articulated and designed proposition.

      As a matter of fact, social networks as we know them will become nothing more than a frond end for socialized activities. What raises three issues :
      – valuable integration with third part products (as the one you described with connections and sugar)
      – having onselft a portfolio of complementary and non-overlapping products. It’s very common for large vendors to have overlapping products located in different brands and divisions, which lead to a very confusing situation from a customer standpoint. Ex : BPM, social BPM, social network, ACM…each one beeing presented by specialized sales reps as “the right solution for you” while they all should work together.
      – (related to the previous) having sales people able to articulate the whole thing across brands to have a clear,senseful and comprehensive discourse in front of the customer.

      Having a social workflow approach will be key to deliver an actuel value trough social. It’s a challenge for customers but also for vendors who’ll have to clean-up and re-organize their portfolio in a kind of solution-centric approach approach (vs product-centric) as well as their sales methods. And we’re still far from that.

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      • Loved your comments Bertrand. I just wanted to respond on one of the points you made (“social networks as the front-end on socialized activities”) mainly because it opens the door for me to talk about one of my favorite topics… social analytics :-)

        As an data scientist (for lack of a better description) I am fascinated with the value and insight that can be derived from these socialized activities, which I believe will be substantial. And therefore in this new world, I believe the social network plays two roles; Firstly it is indeed a type of front-end that allows people to connect and interact with their community. However, secondly it becomes the “memory of the organization”, the engine that turbo charges the insights and business optimization that can be realized, completely transforming how we understand the value of social.

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    2. Your point about decoupling is correct, and shows how social software is transitioning from being a “brick” to becoming the “mortar” regarding social software’s place in the enterprise…..

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    3. going back to Bertrand’s comments about socialized activities. We know it takes more than 1 person for organizations to reach levels of success, both financially, and sociologically, yet in my experience and analysis, current Social Software has not provided an absolute necessitous element of focusing on the individual. Being “Social” does not infer a state of absolute collaboration with others, even if that collaboration is centered on consumption only. People like to work alone and there has been many discussions/debates where individuals can innovate better than in groups.

      This leads back to my premise that Social Software has to evolve to become the “mortar” binding together the interests of both the individual and the larger organization.

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      • When I talk about “social” I am always very careful to NOT say collaboration, because while collaboration is an aspect of social its not the same. People don’t have to “collaborate” to benefit from a social business, however I do believe that people have to be willing to “share”. This is the key difference. Being a social business is a cultural transformation.

        Sometimes sharing can be explicit (writing a blog post) or implicit (social bookmarking), in both cases it supports the redistribution and harnessing of knowledge across the enterprise, and with the right analytics allows that knowledge to be leveraged to maximize productivity for everyone and overall business success.

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    4. Thank you Marie. You help us to advance in understanding and thinking.
      Following Bertrand and Richard, I would say than more than a mortar between bricks, which is a cool idea but still static, I would see an analogy with the human body: we can see the collaboration tools within a company as the neural network between organs. It’s all about Interaction.
      And if we see the brain as the command&control &memory center of the neural network … we count on social collaboration technologies for better collecting, analysing, storing and sharing data …
      And when the body needs to interact with the outside world he gathers information and materials (see, hear, smell, eat …) and it acts on the outside world (speak, write, move, make … ) … I believe that a company behaves in almost the same way … ;-)

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