As we head into the home stretch of 2011, business leaders and analysts are beginning to think about how to successfully navigate Enterprise 2.0 initiatives in 2012. Among the countless conversations, articles and conferences, one consistent message can be found: Keep it simple.
While it was fun for awhile to think that a Swiss Army knife approach to socializing the business world would be as slick and handy as it is on the consumer side, a significant downturn in usage indicates otherwise.
A recent survey from Forrester Research (The Enterprise 2.0 User Profile: 2011), for example, found that just 22% of social software users consider these tools to be a vital part of their work day. And over half (55%) are using just one tool, rather than the extent of what's offered in suites or layers of social integration.
Any way you slice it, the simple truth is that we're not enough for the tools we've built.
Communities Collapse Under the Weight of Features
At this year's Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, Socialcast founder Tim Young put it very plainly. Just because you're a complex company doesn't mean you need complex tools.
Social Business tools facilitate communication-- they make it easier to have and to come by, but they can’t be depended on to fully actualize it. It’s like any other approach we’ve taken to information exchange, from snail mail to fax machines to text messages: just because something makes it easier for you to communicate, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have something to say.
Likewise, giving a community of any size a dozen ways to interact doesn’t mean that each and every one of those methods will be bursting with chit chat. In fact, Young says that the more options an organization is given, the faster they run out of steam. There just isn’t enough communication to keep these tools running, and users quickly become disinterested.
Participation can dry up as quickly as it spikes in the consumer world, too, which is why platforms with very few and basic features -- Twitter, About.me, Tumblr -- have seen such high levels of success in a relatively short period of time.
The Power is in the People
At the end of the day, the power is in the people, not the software. A quick assessment of what’s hot and coming up proves that: Dropbox’s simple approach to cloud-based file sharing may not be able to compete from a feature angle with the likes of Box.net, but 45 million users versus Box’s 8 million certainly means something-- especially now that the company looks to be making a move to the enterprise.
And even though Salesforce.com attracted a lot of users with its Facebook-like platform, Chatter, the company recently released Do.com, an application that reduces productivity management down to its most basic processes. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz competes in the same space with Asana, a task management platform that claims to inspire better communication with less effort.
“What I know about people is that the human performance and success paths are anything but linear,” writes Rachel Happe, Principal and Co-Founder of the the Community Roundtable. “It's very instructive to have a toddler right now because toddlers are performance machines (in terms of learning, adopting, and excelling at new things). The path is strewn with stops and starts, regressions, and surges - never mind the emotional meltdowns and ecstasy that sometimes goes along with this. As adults, this learning and development slows but it follows much the same pattern.”
While I don’t think we’ll always respond best to the simplified approach, I’d wager that we’re still a long way from being able to align performance with what we’ve built. It’s a classic example of our eyes being bigger than our stomachs-- or, in this case, our cranial capacity.
Going forward into 2012, I think we’ll see the release of plenty more solutions that support this theory. Anything you’d like to see specifically? Let us know in the comments below.