A lot of things happened in the social collaboration space during 2010, several of which have created ripple effects to be seen in 2011 and beyond. This article discusses three stand-out Social Collaboration trends. 

The Rise of the Social Intranet

For me, one of the most obvious ways to make an enterprise more responsive, innovative and agile is to integrate and shrink the enterprise by tying the employees, customers and partners closer together. Technology has a key role to play because it helps us overcome the barriers of time and space. However, if we try to do this by implementing new IT solutions that are not integrated and merged with existing solutions, the risk is substantial.

If you look at it this way, social networking and collaboration solutions have to eventually merge with intranet and portal solutions. I agree with Michael Idinopulos from SocialText that the most powerful way to stimulate the adoption of social software is to make it your Intranet, and vice versa. The single most powerful way to make people perceive the intranet as their online workplace is to bring social collaboration to it.

It's interesting to follow leading intranet practitioners such as Jane McConnell and Toby Ward who discuss and elaborate on the concept of the social intranet. Chris McGrath, co-founder of ThoughtFarmer, recently blogged about how the term “social intranet“ only began appearing on the radar in 2010. He proclaims that “social intranets are poised for phenomenal growth in 2011.” Although there might be some bias involved, I think the term is here to stay and that we will develop the concept of social intranet further with more intensity during 2011.

If you would like to know my view, I recommend you to check out my presentation “The Social Intranet” or my blog post “Why traditional intranets fail today’s knowledge workers”.

Technology, Adoption and Culture

As the new generation of (social) collaboration technologies become more common-place, it is natural to start shifting focus from the technologies themselves towards how to improve practices and get return on IT investments. It becomes critical that people adopt the new technologies and start to “re-engineer” their existing behaviors and practices. As a consequence, cultural issues and concerns come more in focus.

People who are categorized as innovators when it comes to adopting new technologies actively explore and try to find uses for them. They are also willing to invest their time and energy into trying to change their own behaviors and practices in order to prove the value of these new technologies. But the majority of people don’t -- they hold on to their current behaviors, practices and tools unless there is real proof that changing these will make a significantly positive difference in their daily work and their careers. To change, the results must be worth the effort of changing and they must be sure that results will come.

When introducing new communication tools -- such as social software -- real adoption does not happen until the communication culture changes. A critical mass of people within the enterprise have to adopt the new technologies and let them change how they communicate, what they communicate and with whom they communicate. When they become part of the norm, they will regulate how people communicate, including those people who have previously resisted change and stubbornly tried to hold on to their existing habits and behaviors.

Usually, grass-root adoption is not enough to create critical mass. There must also be an explicit organizational intent to adopt the new technologies and allow it to change the communication culture. Formal and informal leaders need to become role models by walking the talk. There needs to be active support in terms of training and coaching. Add a large dose of perseverance and patience to that, because it will take some time to change the communication culture.

I very much appreciated the discussion among practitioners, evangelists and thought leaders at the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT in Frankfurt where adoption and culture was very much in focus. We really need to have this discussion, and we need to learn from each other how to deal with cultural issues and concerns that can make organizations successfully adopt and get ROI from their investments in social initiatives. I expect and hope that this discussion and collective learning experience will continue during 2011 and beyond.

Social Business or Enterprise 2.0?

During 2010, there had   been a debate about the difference between Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business taking place on blogs, Twitter, Quora and elsewhere. I have passively observed it, avoiding active participation -- until now.

Here is how I see it.

The recent developments in communication and information technology have enabled us to communicate and interact with each other with a reach, availability, immediacy and simplicity never seen before. As individuals and consumers, we are now communicating, connecting, sharing and collaborating without much consideration to either time or space.

With social software, there are now ways to scale an enterprise beyond using hierarchy and implementation of standardized processes to achieve economies of scale and geographical reach (without losing control). We can now also scale relationships and communication, the very heart and mind of an enterprise.

In theory, an enterprise no longer needs to be designed in a machine-like way to scale its operations and management as it grows in number of employees and locations and wants to extend its geographical reach, achieve economies of scale and become more efficient. In theory, it can remain -- or yet again become -- an open, human, innovative, responsive and agile enterprise that is close to its customers and engages employees, partners and customers to create value even as it grows beyond a few dozens of people and is distributed across two or more locations.

Which brings me to our mission as practitioners -- whatever label we wish to put on ourselves and what we do, I believe that our common mission is to turn this “theory” into practice and prove that this new way of scaling the heart and mind of an enterprise (not only the body) really works.

Let’s make a change in 2011!