Social Business Tools, Talent Keep Workers on TaskThe productivity of knowledge workers in the digital age clearly depends on the tools and talent available for given projects. Social business systems that include an activity feed with document sharing capability, for example, are important. But so is the right talent to go with them.

At CMSWire, we include collaboration tools like project and document management under the social business banner. This includes task management, activity feed, enterprise social networks and workforce social software.

It's a broad area. While some people are confused by the category, it's really just tools that allow people to keep all their work in one place (for the most part).

Think of tools like Yammer, Confluence or even Box. While they have different core features, they all aim to be the main tools organizations use to get work done. When companies work across teams, phone and email are still important. But social business tools are gaining traction.

Email is cheap, widely distributed and  deeply embedded across the working landscape. That makes email one of the main arguments against a social business system. However, even when a tool like Yammer or Jive is put in place, user adoption is also a major hurdle. Non intuitive interfaces, lack of understanding about the purpose or utility of such a tool and plain old stubbornness all affect adoption of new tools.

There's another thing, too."People are afraid the things they post in their activity feed or collaboration space will be used against them," Beverly Macy, a social media expert said in an interview.

Macy is author of The Power of Social Media Marketing, and a thought leader on topics like social business. We caught up with her at a recent technology MeetUp, where she talked about why companies have problems with their intranets.

Social Business Tools, Talent Keep Workers on TaskOne social business tool called AtTask is focused on task management, and it has granular controls for building workflows and organizing collaborative teams.

The Importance of Productivity

One company that seems to have found a bit of success with its social network is ATB Financial, which claims it has increased productivity by 30 percent using a tool called AtTask. It's also apparently been able to track five times more information with the tool, a number it came up with after watching how its marketing department used it over the course of a year.

AtTask, as the name implies, is focused on task management, but it includes tools for things like document management, workflows, approvals, reports and dashboards. It's not quite as slick in that looks-like-an-iPad-app kind of way, but it certainly has a slew of features. Additionally, it starts at $30 per month per user, a truly enterprise level pricing structure.

As to how it compares to the dozens of similar tools out there, one top notch place to start is the recent Gartner MQ for Workplace Social Software. It features the usual leaders, challengers, visionaries and niche categories of industry heavyweights, but also a long list of other tools that aren't included in the report.

AtTask is not in this MQ or on the excluded list, but Microsoft, IBM, Jive, Salesforce, NewsGator, Atlassian, Tibco and VMWare are. Instead, Gartner includes AtTask in the Cloud based IT Project and Portfolio Management category, an IT driven category where it competes with tools like Oracle-Instantis, EPM Live and Clarizen, for example.

Keep in mind there is lots of overlap with category names, use cases and features in this constantly churning landscape. No doubt these tools will continue to evolve in the direction of usability, mobile access and social utility. It will be particularly interesting to see how quickly the more IT focused tools like AtTask begin to move in that direction.

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