It's been years since companies began adding in-house social networks toenhance collaboration among employees. Now it's time to get real businessvalue out of them.

Until recently, many companies have struggled to get their employees to supplementtheir email and IMs by engaging in conversations with geographically-dispersed coworkers. Evenmore elusive was finding measurable value in their status updates.

That's about to change, according to JimLundy, CEO and lead analyst for AragonResearch, who has spent nearly three decades looking into social businessstrategies, talent management and related fields. During that time, Lundy spent12 years at Gartner Research, where he formed and led its collaboration andsocial software team. 

Getting Something Done

Lundy believes predictive software will helpsocial business users reach structured outcomes that move thebusiness forward in a measurable way.

He'll dive deeply into this topic during a CMSWire webinar, "HowStructured Collaboration Delivers Better Business Outcomes", at 2pm ET on Oct. 21. Joining him on the program will be Kim Glover, manager ofknowledge management for FMCTechnologies. The program will be sponsored by ThinkTank,which Aragon recently named a "hot" vendor in collaboration software.

We sat down with Lundy for a sneak preview of his ideas on how socialbusiness, predictive software, video and other topics:

CMSWire: How has enterprise social business changed recently?

Lundy:There are a lot of traditional approaches to collaboration and work and softwareapplications. What I think is changing is that collaboration is more contextual, it's more in the flow ofwork. There's also a shift to the idea of more structured outcomes. That'ssomething ThinkTank is doing. 

We're seeing a trend there. We don't call it taskmanagement, though some people call it that. It's more about how you bringpeople together to get common ground and get something done. The providers callit different things but we are seeing a trend where there are more capabilitiesfrom different providers emerging. Five years ago it was all about activityfeeds, but it's not about activity feeds any more.

CMSWire: By activity feeds, you mean the equivalent of status updates in socialmedia, right?

Lundy: Yes, status updates. They've also been called microblogs. It'slike, "What are you doing right now?"  ...When I say structured collaborations, I mean can I actually use theinteractions with people, using technology, so that I can say, "Do we agreewe actually want to do this?"  It's about getting to an outcome. Andthat's a trend to software overall. You're seeing new applications that aredriving to do a specific thing. 

Instead of just saying "I'm doing this" or "This iswhat I like," it's like "In this meeting, we agreed to do thesethings."  It's really combining some of the real-timecollaboration of meeting software with social networking. It's trying to mashthat together. There are a lot of firms out there that we've seen that are coming fromproject management land. Some are coming from group collaboration, which iswhere ThinkTank came from. There are stand-alone tools. We've probably seen 30 orso providers pop-up in the last 12 months.

One of the things we hear is that companies adopt social tools, butworkers don't use them because the tools haven't been integrated well enoughinto the workflow.  Is that your experience?

Lundy: The success or failure of social is often tied to usage. And there's still ahigh percentage -- still, three out of five cases -- that don't make it,partially because of culture on the people side, or the companies didn't set it up right,or the workers said, "That's too hard to use." There's still a lot ofthat. But the biggest issue that comes up is that it's hard to share or findcontent.

CMSWire: We use a social tool and I constantly have the feeling that a lot of information is getting lost.To me, it doesn't seem to be asefficient as using -- and I hate to say this -- email.

Lundy: Well, email is still the No. 1 content management system in the world. It'sstill No. 1 by a mile. We've come up with this idea of predictive content wheremachine learning will allow it to filter data and get the content foryour next meeting. Or in a case like sales inside of CRM, where it's going tosay,  "Oh, you're in the opportunity qualification stage. Here's acollateral to send."

So that is one of the areas where software and humans are going to work moreclosely together. It's going to be more predictive and prescriptive. We'rejust calling it predictive business applications, but in the world of social andcollaboration, the big thing has is that there have always been tools that allowpeople to collaborate in real time or in non-real time. We're seeing more ofthat come together. Some of it is specific to certain use cases. 

We'vestarted doing videos and adding that to our published research because it'seasier for business people get the gist of what the note is about. And one ofthe videos we're doing is on social networking and communities and how you succeedor fail. Again, sharing the content is a really big deal. Most people want morevideo in their collaborative content, whether you're using Yammer or Jive or anyof that sort of stuff.

From a business leadership position, people think they can see more of what'sgoing on if they're on the social network. Millennials want to use the socialnetwork. We have some millennials at Aragon and they really like to communicatein the community. They don't like to communicate via email.

Learning Opportunities

CMSWire: Are there other ways people areusing video on social networking that add to the quality of the communication?

Lundy: It's been slow on these past platforms where you could do video-as-a-service.But we are seeing the shift to that. All the big guys are going to eventuallyget there -- being able to embed a meeting inside your community, and also haveit recorded. You're going to see more of that.

CMSWire: Do we reallywant to watch coworkers 3,000 miles away make a decision that is going to changeour lives?

Lundy: If you can search for when the decision was made and didn't have to watchthe rest of it, that would be pretty cool. That's what video content management is all about. It'sthe idea of a video as a document type that is fully searchable, that I don'thave to watch. I can just say "find the point where Jim said video'ssearchable" and boom. There are a lot of players. It's all about interoperability. 

We think by 2018video content will become ubiquitous. We get asked a lot of things like"How do you make a video tutorial."  They just want to know howyou made that. We're doing more on that. Young and old people love videobecause we grew up with it. We're programmed to say, "Hey, I want to watchthat."

CMSWire: Let's shift the focus to ROI. Is there a specific way to measure ROI insocial, such as productivity? Or is it still hard to get your arms around it?

Lundy: We think there's ROI around some of the structuredcollaboration where you can say "We actually innovated. We came to aconsensus. We could actually ideate and innovate and get more options out on thetable that people actually agreed to." We are seeing some of value there. But I ran the collab team for years, and I never saw a clear justification onan email system. It was just that people had to do it. And CFOs are not buyingsoft productivity.

Here's what I think: Over the next year and one-half -- we're saying bythe end of 2015 -- 50 percent of applications are going to be predictive. Theapplications are going to be smarter; they're not going to be dumb. And you aregoing to see more ROI on collaboration applications that are going to do thingsvery specifically. Sales communication is really a collaboration application.All it does is to allow you to send emails, and it tracks them and tells exactlywhat that prospect is doing with the email and the collateral in it. That's a very specific collaboration application that is focused on oneactivity, which is: Did the prospect open it? How many people did they forwardit to? How long did they spend on slide 10? ...

If I can get that content faster, then I'll probably be able to say,"Yeah, this is going to have a huge value for me." So with the smarterapplications you are going to see significant ROI. We're in a shift, a pivotpoint in software. Smarter applications are going to have an ROI. You'reprobably going to see an explosion of use cases. And probably of providers, too,because business people will say "I can buy it on my credit card. It'sdoing this specific thing. And it's going to be great."

ThinkTank does a lot of work in the professional consulting services. Theconsulting firms use their software to get to decisions because it basicallydrives collaboration and consensus so that the manager doesn't dominate theconversation. They're voting and crowd-sourcing among a team. In thatcategory, they're seeing a big ROI for that kind of thing.

CMSWire: Do you really think by the end of 2015, half of all applications are going to bepredictive?

Lundy: It's the application of big data to software applications. People aregoing to be able to take their applications and put it up in the cloud and then turn onthe predictive capabilities to make their stuff smart. How is that goingto happen? The big providers that are providing software platforms, like Google,Microsoft and even IBM. They're all enabling their platforms. So the GoogleCompute Engine, you can do it there. MicrosoftAzure, you're going to be ableto do it there. They just launched their services in beta. And IBM already hasall their Watson cloud stuff available for production customers. 

How does this all come together?Open floor plans, more videoconference rooms -- because the prices are coming downso much, and software that is getting better. We think the mobile app, as far asthe outcomes go, becomes a new portal. A mobile app can become your portal for theentire team.