September 14, 2011

Social technology in the enterprise

The recent Dreamforce conference (i.e,’s extravaganza) focused attention on “the social enterprise” or, more generally, enterprises’ uses of social technology. salesforce is evidently serious about this push, with development/acquisition investment (e.g. Chatter, Radian 6), marketing focus (e.g. much of Dreamforce) and sales effort (Mark Benioff says he got thrown out of a CIO’s office because he wouldn’t stop talking about the “social” subject) all aligned.

Denis Pombriant obviously attended the same Marc Benioff session I did. Dion Hinchcliffe blogged the whole story in considerable detail.

It’s a cool story, and worthy of attention. But I’d like to step back and remind us that there are numerous different ways to use social technology in the enterprise, which probably shouldn’t be confused with each other. And then I’d like to discuss one area of social technology that’s relatively new to me: integration between social and operational applications.

Suppose we split up social technology use cases by saying it can help you:

The biggest buzz, of course, is around social technology that reaches out to the buying public or world at large. You can use social technology to:

I support all that, and indeed participate ferociously myself. But for now, let’s move on.

On the internal collaboration/communication side, I’d say:

That all gives plenty of scope for useful adoption, on both the email-replacement and text-analytic sides. But again, let’s keep going.

The relatively new to me — notwithstanding the “portals” link above — part of the social technology story is integration between social and operational applications. While at Dreamforce, I talked with two manufacturing application SaaS vendors — Kenandy and Rootstock Software. In both cases I asked “So what are you doing that’s an advance over where MRP was 20 years ago?” In both cases the main answer was “Now users can use social technology to track and communicate about particular orders or issues.”

*MRP stood for “Material Requirements Planning” and then “Manufacturing Resources Planning”, and is essentially the  forerunner of ERP. By “Kenandy” I specifically mean Kenandy’s founder — ASK Computer Systems founder and thus MRP legend Sandy Kurtzig.

Good point. Of course, it can be generalized; one can communicate and collaborate around almost any kind of business process. I’ve mentioned this before in analytic contexts; it’s an important concept on the monitoring-oriented side of business intelligence and — if Oliver Ratzesberger is to be believed — in investigative analytics as well. But the operational side may actually be more important.

Some things one does in the business world actually involve using one’s body, from manufacturing products to repairing power stations to standing in a store and serving customers. Most of the rest fits into one or more of three buckets:

And why can’t we just automate those routine business processes away? Because there’s so often a need for manual intervention. And when there’s a need for manual intervention, there’s usually also an element of communicating with other people. This is almost always true in cases of trouble-shooting or exception-handling (an order is late, a system is down, the automated result violates common sense). It may be present in other cases as well (the new account calls for a personal thank you note, the food order needs to be annotated with special requests). General email is commonly an awkward medium for these communications; automated messages are worse. Newer social technologies, however, have the potential to do much better.

So what do you think? Have I drunk too much Kool-Aid, or is this stuff for real?


6 Responses to “Social technology in the enterprise”

  1.,,,, — notes and context | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on September 15th, 2011 11:09 am

    […] previously noted, I attended Dreamforce, the user conference for my clients at When I work with them, I focus primarily on […]

  2. Lothar Schubert on September 15th, 2011 4:30 pm

    Hi Curt,
    It’s real, but adoption varies. Demographics, industry / LOB, (geo)distribution, compliance – all those (and more) are factors. Hi-tech product teams may be particular well-versed early adopters, for all the right reasons. Collaboration is already a common thread in open source communities, social technologies helps to foster similar communities within the enterprise. A little self-promoting, a recent article on that subject:
    – Lothar

  3. Pankaj Mehra on October 16th, 2011 1:43 am

    I believe Tacit’s timing was too early. The technology stack, memory sizes, and the lack of cloud computing, … that was 10 years ago. We founded Whodini about a year ago. Of course, expert finding is the red herring.

  4. QlikView 11 and the rise of collaborative BI : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on November 16th, 2011 8:19 am

    […] is pushing enterprise social media use broadly, and will surely increase its emphasis on the social media/BI intersection now that Dave Kellogg is there. […]

  5. The future of enterprise application software : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 17th, 2012 1:38 am

    […] conference — I suggested that the opportunity to use social software to communicate and collaborate around almost any kind of business process could yield major improvements to operational applications. If nothing else, it could be used by […]

  6. Enterprise application software — generalities | Software Memories on November 11th, 2015 5:29 am

    […] In September, 2011 I wrote (over-)optimistically about the integration of social technology into enterprise applications. […]

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