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Discussion Point: Social Technologies Are Changing How, And How Fast, We Collaborate

Collaboration is not a new thing organizations suddenly know how to do, they've been doing it for years. But the technology and the strategies that support enterprise collaboration have changed and are still changing. A hallway conversation, a telephone call, an email — these are still common ways to work together, but social technologies are starting to take center stage. And it's only just begun.

The Question 

How has the adoption of social technologies and strategies changed the concept of collaboration? What are the implications for the next generation?

The Responses

Tim Zonca — Jive Software

tim-zonca.jpgTim is the Director of Product Marketing at Jive Software. After ditching med school to join the tech world, he's spent most of his career focused on collaboration in the enterprise. Tim has worked with Content Management and Business Process Management solutions at startups and global technology vendors as a systems engineer, a product manager and a product marketer. Excited to see Social Business technologies driving a new way to work, he joined the Jive products team in 2010.

We just completed our annual user conference, JiveWorld 2012, and it’s definitely fair to say that consumerization of the enterprise was an overarching theme. Global brands such as McGraw-Hill, Thomson Reuters, Enterprise, Prudential and others were all looking for ways to further incorporate gamification, enable mobile connectivity and to allow the intranet to allow people to work the way they want (remote, with external groups and cross-departmental).

Consumerization was so popular that in our Hackathon the audience overwhelmingly voted to create new Picture Gallery and Props applications. And given the need for instant gratification, developers were able to deliver these apps in nearly real-time.

The biggest shift I have witnessed is that users are not keen on taking on new software unless you can show immediate value. Social technologies are so ubiquitous in our everyday lives that everyone can clearly see applicable value from day one. Now that we are several years in it’s amazing to watch companies large and small roll-out social business platforms to nearly their whole employee populations in a matter of weeks or months.

Oscar Berg —  Digital Strategist and Business Analyst 

oscar-berg.jpgOscar is an experienced management consultant located in Sweden who is passionate about helping customers to become more successful by improving communication, sharing and collaboration. He believes that "Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others" (Buddha) and that happiness comes before success. Besides sharing his ideas and observations on his own blog The Content Economy, Oscar is an Enterprise 2.0 expert blogger for the AIIM Enterprise 2.0 Community and writes here at CMSWire.

The introduction and adoption of social technologies in organizations is transforming the way we think of collaboration within and between organizations, as it can now be scaled in order to mobilize and coordinate talent and resources anywhere, stretching far beyond teams. They enable us to collaborate more quickly. As a result we are seeing more and more collaboration efforts that are fluid and transient by nature. Teams can come together as soon as a problem or opportunity is discovered and they can be dissolved just as quickly, when it has been addressed. As there is no, or limited, need for any formal organization, pre-defined structure, or administrative processes that introduce transaction costs, the threshold for when a collaboration effort is worthwhile has been dramatically decreased.

In practice, more and more organizations are starting to rethink their existing business processes, trying to take advantage of these new forms of collaboration when redesigning them. The ability to scale collaboration so that virtually anyone can participate and contribute is helping to improve sales processes, product development processes and other business processes.

If the Intranet is to continue to have a reason for existence, it has to play a part in bringing such collaboration capabilities to the fingertips of the workforce. It has to evolve from being a website for information self-service to becoming more of an integration layer that connects people, information and tasks across the enterprise (business processes). It is feasible to assume that intranets will evolve, just as the Internet itself, into a platform of services that provides certain capabilities to people. These services must be adapted to the individual’s needs in specific situations. These services must be possible to access and use from the device that is best suited for that situation, be it a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or something else. Many of them will be inherently collaborative, leveraging social technologies, so that people can get their work done in smarter ways.

Rob Howard — Telligent

rob-howard.jpgRob Howard is the founder and chief technology officer at Telligent, a global enterprise collaboration and community software company. Howard is the vision behind Telligent’s product development and innovation and is known throughout the industry as an authority in community and collaboration software. He has worked with customers including Dell, MySpace.com and Microsoft, and helps organizations of any size apply the value of collaborative work to their business. An expert at developing enterprise collaboration software, he has authored several books on the topic of software development and speaks at conferences worldwide.

The nature of communication has undergone a substantial change in the last 20 years — in 1992, while there was email, it had not yet reached a tipping point that the Internet today has enabled. When you think back to how individuals collaborated 20 years ago, it was done primarily over the phone, by mail and through the use of fax machines. So fast forward to today and oddly enough, interactions between people are still referred to as "collaboration" and those assigning it a name, as opposed to a natural day-to-day part of life, identify themselves with an older generation. However, the up-and-coming college graduates entering the workforce today don't see collaboration as a set of tools or technologies, but rather as a natural extension for how they already communicate.

Social technologies are one of the most important innovations in communication since email. Interactions that previously took days can now be achieved instantaneously in near real time. Furthermore, every interaction with social software enables individuals to contribute to an ever-increasing body of knowledge. In today's social world, there is never an excuse for not knowing, not understanding, or not researching, as the information needed to synthesize decisions or choices is readily available and can be refined further through additional social interactions.

The implications for the next generation are clear — collaboration will become more and more about people and unstructured information management. First, discernment skills are necessary to sift through the ever-increasing amount of information available; these discernment skills are required to understand the reliability of information sources. Second, the ability to leverage the network will be important — individuals who understand the dynamics of social networks will be better empowered to navigate our ever-increasing connected world. Third, and finally, the next generation will be uniquely positioned to bring their social network experiences from their social and school lives into the workforce where they will continue to push the evolution of technology, changing the way in which communication takes place.

David Coleman — Collaborative Strategies 

david-coleman.jpgDavid Coleman is the Managing Director of Collaborative Strategies (CS) a San Francisco-based Industry analyst and advisory services firm. He is the author of “the collaboration blog” which is an outlet for his opinions on collaboration based on his 20 + years of experience. David is also the author of 4 books on collaboration, the latest two being: “Collaboration 2.0” and “42 Rules for Successful Collaboration.” He is a frequent speaker, webinar and workshop leader, and often does the research and industry analysis. David’s greatest value comes from his unique point of view, which often helps both his enterprise and start-up clients to improve business execution dramatically.

First I would like to make a distinction about collaboration; it is kind of a catch-all word. The figure below shows how I distinguish collaboration.

DC_CollaborativeTechnologies.jpg

Although I did not put “social technologies” on this diagram it should probably be there because many times when people are talking about social technologies (social media, social networks, social business, etc.) they often mean “collaboration.” But social media does not have much if anything to do with collaboration. Since collaboration is about interactions, there can be two types: internal and external. Most of our research shows that the enterprise tries to deal with internal social issues first. I suspect this is because they think these interactions are within their locus of control, whereas external interactions are not.

 

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