The Social Business (R)Evolution

By BroadVision on September 08, 2011

Via Technorati a few days ago I came across a post by blogger Laurie Buczek titled “The Big Failure of Enterprise 2.0 Social Business”. I recommend you check it out. The post’s title might mislead you into thinking it’s just another devil’s advocate type rant — but it isn’t, as the writer is quick to disclaim.

The article covers a number of factors that stand in the way of true social business adoption, with a focus on the lack of integration. I’m going to set integration aside and focus on the former, more general adoption issue. This is something I know for a fact many of the prospects and customers we’ve spoken to have struggled with for quite some time. The products we vendors offer are powerful. They’re packed with features. They can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Our very own BroadVision Clearvale allow companies to interconnect different business networks for their employees, customers and partners, and encourage knowledge sharing and idea flows like never before. There’s so much that these products can do for companies that are looking to “go social”.

But how do you get others in your organization who aren’t already embracing it to jump aboard? When will social business be viewed by companies as the norm and a necessity, rather than a segment of the enterprise technology industry? Analysts and thought leaders will tell you that it’s already here, that you can’t escape it. But how many companies in the world are still doing business just as they’ve always done? Don’t mind them, you might say. Those companies that resist will struggle. They’re going to fall behind.

Perhaps to an extent they will, but at the end of the day these companies are our prospects and customers, and it’s even more important for us to show them what social business can do to improve collaboration and engagement across their entire organizations. So many people we’ve spoken to have a fear that social business and enterprise social networking will interfere with long-established policies and processes, and the move to social would set them back far too much for it to be worth it. They can’t just abandon the way they’ve been doing things for X number of years. And that’s a legitimate concern.

But here’s what really got me thinking. Laurie calls social business an evolution, and not a revolution. This caused me to ask myself: as an individual working for a longtime enterprise solution company — a company that is now almost completely focused on cloud-based collaboration for internal and external business social networking — what have I been trying to help customers accomplish? Have I really been trying to help them “revolutionize” their business processes and the way their employees interact with each other? Is the injection of social business into an organization a “revolution?”

No, not really. “Revolution” is a scary word. It connotes uncertainty and disruption. But that’s what I and many others in the collaboration space have been calling it. So the more I think about it, the less the word “revolution” applies. I feel that people need to know we’re not trying to overthrow or stage some sort of coup against traditional ways of working, but rather help those traditional processes through a transition. To assist them in keeping up as technology changes and the world becomes more connected and social than ever before.

As Laurie’s post suggests (and to somewhat play sides against Andrew’s previous entry), old platforms of engagement like email are not dead. And they won’t be dying anytime soon. So my job, and the job of a social business solution like Clearvale, isn’t to make companies root out all the traditional stuff, but rather to keep the peace, and have the old and new worlds meet in the middle as technology continues to progress at its rapid pace.

“Evolution” is a much nicer word, and I’ve come to realize it’s much more relevant in the context of social business. Because that’s what social business is — a gradual adapation, a natural change, and one that will take some time.