Enterprise Social Software: 2010 Outlook

13 01 2010

I attended a very interesting panel discussion moderated by Michael Fauschette of IDC last night. One of Michael’s predictions for 2010 was that this would be the year of Enterprise Social Software, not just for marketing, but across a wide variety of corporate functions.

Obviously, I generally agree with this prediction because it is what I have been writing about since the creation of this blog. The big question is the timing.

Here is what I think it is going to take for Social Media Software and Services to be successful in the enterprise:

  • Strong Identity. In the enterprise world, you need to be sure of who you are talking to in order to have a meaningful conversation. There has to be an even stronger level of trust where a transaction is involved.
  • Profiles. It will really help conversations if we have access to profile information about who a person is. A growing problem is that users are already showing fatigue from creating and maintaining profile information on multiple sites. This information needs to be shared across social Web sites with good security and privacy control.
  • Personal Networks. These need to be portable in the same way that profiles are. If I am your friend on Facebook, then it should be easy to move that relationship to other sites such as Twitter or Cisco.
  • Security. Users will want to have multiple levels of trust depending upon who they are communicating with and multiple profiles depending on what role they are in. Example: If I am dealing with IBM, I have a high level of trust because I know their reputation and have worked with them before. In terms of profile I want IBM to see my professional profile, not my profile as a father or as a natural-light photographer.
  • Presence. When I look up a person in the directory, I would like to get presence information on them:
    • Are they available, busy, traveling, on the phone, back in one hour?
    • What are the available ways to communicate with them?
    • Really nice to have would be click-to-communicate in whatever communication modality I chose from: email, to Twitter, to video conference.
  • Reputation. Our definition of social security needs to grow to include the concept of reputation. Security needs to include safeguards to help warn us when our personal or corporate reputation is in danger of being damaged.

A lot of the core work in this area is being done in FaceBook Connect and in Open Social by Google, MySpace, Yahoo!, Ning, and LinkedIn among others. My hope for 2010 is that these two groups continue to cooperate and interoperate.  A great sign is that they are publishing their APIs and letting anybody integrate with them.

A great deal of the functionality I am describing above is available from sources such as:

  • Microsoft Office Communicator
  • IBM Lotus
  • Cisco Communicator
  • Avaya (plus Nortel acquisition)

The problems with these solutions are that they tend to be expensive and complex solutions to implement, often involving complex integrations between different vendors products. They also tend to offer the most features within the enterprise implementation with lesser functionality available to external users.

As a result of these issues, I think that service providers are in a better position to deliver integrated solutions for customers, particularly for companies of smaller size than the Global Fortune 500.

Some interesting items to note:

  • IBM Lotus has announced integrations with Facebook that will provide profile information on people inside an outside of the enterprise.
  • Salesforce.com’s Chatter product, due to ship in February 2010, will also have integrations with Facebook and Twitter for news feeds and profile information. See Blog on Salesforce.com Chatter.

Overall, I am optimistic about enterprise social software. It won’t all happen in 2010, but I think we are headed in the right direction.

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