Antisocial Enterprise

Comic Courtesy xkcdThe so-called enterprise social networking revolution, determined to transform business collaboration, is in a bind these days.  Social continues to manifest itself as cloned Facebook functionality grafted on every enterprise tool from SAP to Windchill.  You’ll be hard pressed to run your finger across a tablet or move a mouse pointer across a desktop  without tripping over at least a couple social networks .  Most of us have accepted this to some degree in our personal lives, and -as many have assumed- there’s plenty of opportunity to accept exactly the same on the business side.

The revolution has birthed entire platforms like Yammer, which through folly and fortune has become the canary of the enterprise social networking world.  In the mad rush to bring the tenants of social networking into the day-to-day business, there’s been little time to understand true value.  So it’s not all that surprising that true adoption has been lethargic, and that value has been fleeting.

An interesting scenario I recently heard: employees mandated to use Yammer at their company, simply have setup spam filters to keep all the Yammer traffic from bothering them.  Yammer Spammer?  That has a nice ring to it, actually.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer has not helped the situation as Anthony Zets of Tech Republic so precisely states:

“Microsoft is approaching the social business market by simply bundling Yammer into its enterprise agreements. While strategically sound for Microsoft, the net result is that their clients are being blind-sided by assuming they’ve entered the enterprise social networking revolution. After 12 to 24 months of ineffective attempts to drive productivity and unlock value, enterprise social networking is being shunned as an ineffective passing fad.”

Not good, Zathras say.  Yammer’s ultimate fate may be to suffer the agony of being digested for a thousand years in the belly of Sharepoint.

Yammer, SAP Jam, Vuuch, 3DSwYm , GoRbLap.  OK, so I totally made that last one up, but you can blame Dassault for 3DSwYm.  Vuuch, in particular, was specifically targeted at PLM and all the rage a couple years back, but seems to be Blackhawk down at this point.  Yet they keep coming.  Not necessarily as standalone platforms, but social extensions of existing enterprise tools.

On the PLM front, fully a year ago, Oleg Shilovitsky stated:

“The time of social PLM marketing fluff is over. To create a replica of Facebook for engineers is not enough. To solve the problem of open data and easy way to publish the context for communication – these are two absolute per-requisites to make ‘social technology’ successful. Otherwise, the idea of social PLM will become “dead man walking” very soon.”

So much for the de-fluffing.  Despite all these varied attempts, all these tools have remained so deeply buried into the Facebook model, that failure is definitely an option.  Key example:  most of the social enterprise demos have an interesting point of commonality – it’s not 3 minutes into any of the presentations, that someone points out where the like button is at.

Now think about that for a moment…  Just what is the purpose of a like button in a business context?  When’s the last time your boss asked you if you liked something?  Dude, the new draft of the export control policy, I so like that bro!  It’s obvious there’s a fundamental problem here.

Social networking at its core is emotional, ephemeral.  It’s social.  It’s a constant deluge of hey what’s this, or look at the LOL cat, or what did you have for lunch (on Instagram).  Social by its very nature is unfocused and temporary.  The cute cats and viral videos of just 6 months ago have been paved over with so many concrete layers of new cats and videos that the former may never well have existed.  Content floats to the top of the wave based on emotion (and underlying advertising models).

In contrast, business is driven on experience, valuation, and results.  History is important.  What’s the one thing no one really makes in social?  Decisions.  Decisions that can be based on valuation as well as historical context.  Content is not just served and consumed, it’s co-created.  Content that is relevant to the decision needs to float to the top, despite the fact that such key data points may have  happened forever ago.  And all of this happens within a cloud of artifacts that may or may not be related to the decision at hand.

What we need in the enterprise is a collaborative context for decisions with or without specific artifacts, within a knowledge network, but not a social network per se.  What do you think?