The future enterprise is one where the systems we use will provide the features we need when we need them rather than a complex, convoluted dashboard that stuffs every option into one viewable area. In this future enterprise, end users will focus less on how to use the technology and more on getting actual work done.

There are many factors driving these changes. For one, people are demanding a better user experience. As surfaced in comments during the Customer Experience Management (CXM) Tweet Jam last week (view a recap of the conversation here), social-enabled tools and analytics are becoming increasingly important, with consumer-class, Web 2.0 tools such as Facebook and Twitter driving legions of enterprise software designers and their customers to rethink business tools.

The business dynamic of how information workers capture, interact with and consume data is evolving. With the influx of enterprise social capabilities across most platforms, how teams collaborate and connect is also changing. Tools that overtly manage and manipulate content are becoming more seamless, integrated into the platforms we use every day, with features exposed by user context (where you are in the platform and the actions you are taking) rather than the “omnipresent feature button” that attempts to make every possible tool available on the dashboard.

In addition, an increasingly mobile workforce is also demanding better user experience (UX) in the workplace as being mobile requires optimized user experiences. Finally, as organizations move to the cloud, they consume more modern software which in turn has already benefitted from the aforementioned changes.

Social as a Layer

The ubiquity of social software is changing the enterprise. Workers, compelled by the ease of sharing and coordination on consumer social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) are looking for similar experiences at work. Look no further than Salesforce and their Chatter capabilities -- for the organizations that use this cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform, the Chatter features have become ubiquitous.

Ten years ago, instant messaging (IM) was viewed as outside of the typical information worker toolset and viewed largely as a distraction and productivity-sapper. Now it is a completely integrated part of the desktop, can be integrated across teams and managed in a secure manner and is viewed as an important, system-critical productivity tool for instant communication.

However, not all UX is good UX. The software available to information workers at most businesses offers a smorgasbord of bad user experiences. From the company portal designed 10 years ago, void of social features and locked into anti-collaborative, bureaucratic policies and procedures, to the departmental file shares and sites that literally define the siloes of content, the primary usage pattern of the workers forced to use them is a lesson in avoidance.

This has unintentional side effects. Increasingly, workers are turning to unsanctioned social networks such as Yammer to hold their workplace conversations and finding hundreds if not thousands of co-workers are already there.

Businesses are forced to implement their own social networks or accept that company business is happening outside the safety of the company firewall. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of social solutions available for the enterprise, and many integration options exist with existing tools.

How Social Will Drive Change

Social media captures profile information, end user inputs and sometimes relevant demographic and psychographic data based on usage and activity, adding dimensions to the data. Social within the enterprise may be behind the consumer applications in features and functionality, but it is quickly catching up.

Social layers are being added across most enterprise applications, as Salesforce did with their presence awareness and chat capabilities. Vendors are beginning to recognize that social extends search by adding much needed user-generated metadata and context. By adding context to content and peer-to-peer relationships, these tools and activities complement internal and external relationship management (CRM) capabilities, improving how teams communicate with each other as well as with their customers and partners.

Social Demands Vigilance

A key failure of most content management systems and knowledge management deployments is managing metadata taxonomies post-deployment. Companies treat taxonomy as a static activity. They think they can build once, deploy and forget about it. Governance policies and procedures to help maintain are generally weak (or non-existent). But end user needs are constantly maturing and changing. Proactive governance ensures an optimal search experience by reflecting these changes, and constantly reviewing the state of the business and the needs of the end users.

Vendors will increasingly build to better meet industry and functional needs. Platforms such as SharePoint will be sold more as semi-complete solutions rather than build-it-yourself platforms.
The web is speeding this path, at least for Microsoft, through Office365. Solutions built on O365 will be more deeply configured, built out for specific solutions or industries.

As social tools become more prevalent inside our enterprise platforms, how we communicate with each other, how we interact with our platforms and how we do basic and complex business processes all change. With the data and context provided through social tools, simple tasks can be automated, allowing individuals and teams to focus more of their time and effort on productivity.

By leveraging social capabilities, organizations can optimize metadata management, thus improving system performance and end user adoption and overall acceptance. With the constant flow of new data from these tools, usage analytics will show what is being used, and how the tools and systems can be improved to optimize the enterprise platforms.
 

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