Why Social Business has very little to do with Collaboration

When it comes to introducing the value of Social within the enterprise, people frequently over-focus on Collaboration. This results in many companies equating Social and Collaboration as the same concept. To make matters worse, they also frequently have the perception that Social is all about chatting with your friends on Facebook, and the last thing most companies want is to create a system which is as much a time-waster as Facebook. To make my point I frequently remove any reference to Collaboration from my slides, which often leaves people scratching their heads. Thankfully they are generally nodding them by the end of the session :-)

Most companies don’t necessarily want or need lots of overt Collaboration, but they do need frictionless sharing of knowledge; tagging, sharing (or specifically getting information off desktop silos), commenting, updating, etc. Now this is where my view is heavily colored by my analytics bent; because for me the applied value of social is in capturing, persisting, and making available to analytics, every human action & interaction (a position mirrored by where Facebook is going with it’s OpenGraph). Many of these actions are not collaborative in nature, but that doesn’t take away from the contribution they will make. In fact in many cases capturing someone’s “collaboration” with a business process or tool may be as valuable an insight as their collaboration with another human being.

Enterprise Social Network

So if social business is not about collaboration, what is it about?

For me the answer is Transparency. Through providing a set of services that allow us to deconstruct, capture, share, and redistribute knowledge throughout the enterprise, we can understand what people are actually doing within the business and thereby optimize the business around their needs. Social Analytics uses this data to deliver two classes of intelligence:

  • Personal Productivity: Get the right information to right people, at right time, on right device, to help them make better and more informed decisions.
  • Organizational Productivity: Understand what’s happening across the enterprise so that I better understand how to make my people more effective.
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