It's no secret that in aggregate, the adoption of social collaboration in the enterprise has been extremely challenging.

Back in 2012, Forrester Research did a study that showed that 77 percent of employees never use their enterprise social network and only 3 percent use it once each day.

You won’t meet anyone who thinks it a bad idea to collaborate. But the fundamental problem is this:

Missing the Mark

At an operational level, “better collaboration" is not a KPI for any executive that drives the top line or bottom line. Better selling and marketing, improved customer satisfaction, better employee or partner onboarding, faster time to market are examples of real KPI drivers. In contrast, most collaborative programs and underlying technologies have not been able to move beyond soft metrics such as better sharing or productivity or engagement to take on meatier challenges that are tied to company performance.

Before we mistakenly construe that the colossal failure of most collaborative tools equates to the success of typical business applications, let's get one thing straight: traditional business applications tools aren’t doing that good a job either. In spite of four decades of spending trillions on business applications, abject inefficiencies exist in how we operate our businesses today:

The world of work is clearly broken, with wide gaping white spaces in business processes that are not catered to by typical business applications. For collaboration to be relevant, it needs to hit straight at the heart of these well-understood business objectives. Sitting in a silo, away from where employees, customers and partners work, most social collaboration technologies have failed to accomplish this.

How Collaboration Drives Speed of Execution

SAP flagship cloud collaboration product has over 17 million subscribers. What we have learnt over the last three years through our customers is that when collaboration is infused in core business activity, its usage and the value delivered is apparent.

Here are the four most prevalent forms of context that we have seen that must be part of any meaningful program and associated technology stack:

  1. People: The people at the edges of our organizations who engage with our customers, our partners and with our suppliers everyday aren’t connected to those that build our products. Systems need to enable building of an expertise fabric that instantly connects those who know with those who need to know, to rally around the customers' needs.
  2. Data: The world of big data and analytics is worth over $100 billion in 2014, yet all this spend only gets you to a point of surfacing insights. Whether in the board room or on a factory floor, high performing organizations need to consume and make decisions on whether to double down and course correct, fast. Contextually designed collaborative systems that instantly wrap around business intelligence can drive execution of core business goals.
  3. Process: Most business processes are lost inside rigid applications that expect a world filled with static, repeatable business activity. In the real world, however, most of the real work is done outside traditional business process applications. Take selling: Just ask any sales rep how much time she spends everyday in a sales force automation tool. The real work — prospecting, teaming up on proposal responses, finding experts to contribute, sales enablement and managing customer relationships are very collaborative in nature but some of the best CRM systems don’t do this well. The same holds true for most other functional processes. Collaboration needs to be woven into the workflow to ramp up and execute processes, fast.
  4. Content: Document collaboration is a well-understood process. The ability to infuse collaborative document creation and editing removes the well-known pain that comes from asynchronous content creation that almost every department suffers from. Customers expect dynamic content that requires the best minds to come together.

Every one of these four elements needs to be applied to your core customer and non-customer facing process to drive business performance.

The world around us is changing dramatically. We are witnessing the most fundamental industries being disrupted from manufacturing to retail to food. Every one of the new disruptors optimizes customer experience, price and even the offering by leveraging a connected ecosystem of stakeholders that can collaborate to make decisions on real time data. To effectively re-imagine how you serve and engage your customer, how you innovate to create the best products and how you get the most value out of our supply chains, you must leverage connected networks of employees, customers and partners, in the context of every task.

This is the new baseline for how organizations will need to be wired to compete effectively.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  star5112