In the early days of Enterprise 2.0, social software was great for basic, toolkit-style functionality. Blogs and wikis provided convenient frameworks and reference materials for doing customized tasks. Although, there wasn’t much functionality for businesses that ran a great number of routinized processes.

Looking back, it’s amazing what we have accomplished in just a few short years.

A Change Will Do You Good

Social software has changed, and changed quickly. Over the past few years, businesses have started to embrace social software and today, social software is flooding the enterprise. We are amidst what can only be described as a social revolution, entering an age when employees can be more connected than ever before and are breaking down department silos, regardless of their geographical location.

Enterprise social networking has become a valuable tool for businesses, providing a solution that encourages sharing, captures knowledge, enables immediate action on tasks and empowers employees to collaborate in real-time. This results in an escalation of work efficiency and productivity, but enterprise social software delivers more value when it crosses silos. This is how you enable new relationships to be shaped amongst employees.

Examples where enterprise social software can help your business and your employees become more dynamic include:getting a question answered by the most knowledgeable person or receiving immediate assistance to resolve a challenging customer problem.

Introducing the Social Layer

A major goal of enterprise social software is to break down and overcome knowledge silos. Thus, social technology needs to be deployed as a “Social Layer” in the enterprise architecture. The idea behind the social layer is simple: social software should be a layer in your enterprise architecture that surfaces the events of a company’s systems of record and enable employees to collaborate and take action on information in real-time. This social layer will span across all employees and throughout organizational boundaries, connecting them to key enterprise applications.

In order to fulfill the vision of social as a layer, a set of protocols have emerged that let people follow each other across tools, and to receive immediate updates from each other across tools. It’s very exciting to see efforts to weave together these standards and protocols that enable the development of the social layer.

A Layer … Not Just a Feature

Social in the enterprise must be a layer and not merely a feature that you tack on to your business. Its functionality needs to be integrated into the underlying processes, making it a natural addition of how you accomplish your work. By inserting the social layer directly into the flow of work, communication drastically improves amongst departments, and throughout the enterprise, rather than within just one or two functional groups using a CRM system.

Events, transactions, exceptions and reports generated within the various systems of record used to run the daily business are rich and powerful and should be leveraged throughout the enterprise. To generate social activity feeds from these core systems, “social objects” are created from the social layer and delivered into the stream of a social intranet.

This raises awareness of an issue, problem or even a major win to a much broader set of individuals, as opposed to just the employees who sit all day, secluded in specific department. Inevitably, this increases knowledge sharing, problem solving and results in a more effective enterprise-wide workflow.

Learning Opportunities

Using the Social Layer to Get Work Done

Through the deployment of a social layer, business culture will evolve to promote open knowledge sharing and connectivity. Barriers to workforce collaboration through departmental isolation and vertical knowledge silos will quickly become a thing of the past.

Visibility of thoughts, strategies and ongoing projects across the network will be an engaging characteristic moving forward and doing business collaboratively will ultimately lead to greater innovation and thought leadership across the entire company.Enterprise social software will no doubt create a more engaged workforce that is actually getting work done instead of just talking about it.

Isn’t that how it should be?

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading this article by Luis Suarez (@elsua):

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