Why Social Collaboration Technologies are Failing in the Enterprise

Guest Room with Clarizen

Why Social Collaboration Technologies are Failing in the Enterprise

By TMCnet Special Guest
Jason Schwartz, CFO at Clarizen
  |  July 08, 2014

My mother recently opened a Facebook (News - Alert) account, and I wasn’t even shocked. That’s how normal social media has become in our personal lives. Why can’t we collaborate and share in our workplaces the way we do in our private lives? Despite their best efforts, most workplaces see their social business software tossed aside by users. Only when leaders realize that enterprise social operates on a different formula, one that requires delivery and execution as well as collaboration, will social finally take off in the enterprise.

Missed Expectations

The idea of enterprise social caught fire because it did, in short order, revolutionize some aspects of business. Kickstarter, OurCrowd, and other crowdsourcing platforms let young startups crowdsource their first round of funding, rather than fill out bank loan applications or pitch VCs. Customer support teams mainline Twitter (News - Alert) for feedback and support issues. Marketers instantly reach millions of users through Facebook pages and develop and execute marketing campaigns specifically to increase the number of “Likes.” Recruiters nail down new talent through LinkedIn (News - Alert). 

Business leaders expect enterprise social software to yield similarly promising results for collaboration inside and outside of the organization. But it hasn't been the magic bullet everyone was hoping for. Despite rapid adoption, products haven’t met expectations. According to an article in CMSWire (“Gartner (News - Alert) MQ for Workplace Social Software: IBM, Jive, Microsoft, Salesforce Lead Volatile Market,” 9/16/13), Gartner found that the market for enterprise social software is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 13.4 percent and estimates that it will grow to $1.4 billion in 2016.  

Even so, buyers find it “increasingly difficult to distinguish one vendor’s products from the products of other vendors,” as noted in the piece. CIOs are taking longer to evaluate the different tools and solutions. This may have led to the disappointing results (decreased year-over-year bookings growth, fewer customer adds) reported by some social business software companies.

Executives are starting to realize that you can’t outsource the personal social media model to the business. The goal of enterprise software networks is not merely to share birthday announcements, or comment on the lunch menu in the cafeteria – but to enable teams to collaborate around work. While Facebook-like tools make it more convenient to broadcast information to diverse teams, they do not help employees and customers to engage in executing on tasks, projects, or deliverables. 

Doing Business is More Than Simply Sharing

In the enterprise, the role of social collaboration is to help get work done faster, better, on time, and on budget. CIOs and other executives who are evaluating their enterprise social software strategy should note the clear difference between broadcast and communication tools and those that enable collaboration to drive results. 

The ultimate solution is one that allows team members – whether internal or external – to brainstorm and communicate to dream up new ideas and innovations, and then to use the same tool to drive the idea to execution and delivery.

A good enterprise tool will start with social, then fold in execution and delivery. Users should be able to set up groups around specific initiatives and projects. As needed, groups should have the option to transform their conversations into action items or tasks that need to be completed.  Some of those tasks will develop into a project – which requires resources, has milestones, interdependencies, budget and deliverables, and may result in a cost or revenue-generating event.  This three-step process is how social communications alchemize into business results.

Decision-makers can use those three steps as tools for evaluating enterprise social media products. There are many social products currently that allow users to share ideas, collaborate with each other, and engage in rich discussion groups. There are also several task management products, which allow groups to manage shared to-do lists. And there are powerful products that help professional project managers balance projects, budgets, resource allocations, portfolios, and schedules and generate the reports their upper management requires. The magic happens when decision-makers can find most or all of these features in one product.  The more siloes a platform eliminates, the more “social”—and executable—collaboration becomes. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle