The social enterprise has the potential to transform the business landscape. New ways of communicating and collaborating are helping to break down the barriers between functional silos and geography. The end result will be more agile businesses fueled by better decision making and more efficient processes.

Until recently, most social enterprise software resembled Facebook. Social intranet software from newer companies such as Jive and Yammer as well as from large software vendors such as IBM (IBM Connections) has dominated the enterprise social application landscape.

Even socially enabled enterprise applications have, for the most part, mimicked the general form of the “corporate Facebook” with social portals jammed with activity streams, micro-messaging, file sharing and lots of other social tools. While all of these tools are useful, alignment with work activities is not always evident.

The New Face of Social

A look at the new crop of social task management software shows a different picture. Recent ESG research found a whole group of new applications that are built from the ground up to be social applications. All assume the same need -- for a team of people to collaborate to get a unit of work done. The basic purpose is to get everyday tasks done with a group of people, some of who may be in different organizations.

Products from (part of, Producteev, Asana and Mindjet take a simple unit of work -- the task -- and place it at the center of a group of people. The team is then provided with just the right amount of tools to get that work done efficiently.

Not only do these applications support internal social communication and collaboration tools such as micro-messaging and file and URL sharing, but also the ability for multiple people to own the task. Tasks can be assigned back and forth creating informal, ad hoc workflows that change as situations change.

Social Productivity

Already this social method of getting work done is finding its way into products from the largest ISVs. For example, SAP StreamWork is built around a similar idea called Activities. Activities are really small workflows that change on the fly according to the actions of team members.

Social task management tools encompass the new wave in software. Whereas most software is designed to enhance individual work, these new social applications support team work. At present most are appropriate for small teams and SMB environments. There is no reason that will stay that way. As these products mature, expect them to become enterprise tools and platforms for all kinds of work enhancing software.

In the end, social task management software points to what all software applications will eventually look like. Expect future social applications to enable people to perform specific activities in teams rather than just general collaboration or communication.

Title Image courtesy of Danshutter (Shutterstock).

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