Us and Them: who needs convergence anyway?

By Richard Hughes on November 11, 2010

I’ve been at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara this week, and this morning I had the privilege of listening to Paul Greenberg, “godfather of CRM”, talk about convergence of Enterprise 2.0 and social CRM. As a long-term advocate of social CRM, I didn’t need convincing, and felt Paul summed it up best by saying “it’s time to engage the customers not just the staff”.

Ever since I first became involved in enterprise social networking, I have always been more interested in applications outside the company – this is what led to my paper Socializing Beyond The Enterprise. But of course, this external social networking needs to take place in the context of what is going on inside the company – they are two sides of the same coin.

It made me wonder how we ever reached a point where any sort of convergence was necessary. I am notoriously pedantic about language, and I noticed on more than one occasion, the social CRM guys referring to the Enterprise 2.0 guys as “you guys”. How did it ever become “us and them?”

On one level, it doesn’t matter, everyone is talking to each other now, all friends together, and there was a dedicated social CRM track within the conference. But look a little deeper, and there has been a noticeable impact on the software products being offered in these two areas. There is very little overlap between vendors of social software for the workplace and social CRM. And I find this very surprising.

BroadVision have always believed that the overlap between internal and external social collaboration is not only inevitable, but also highly desirable. So we designed Clearvale to have the concept of a social ecosystem – a set of overlapping social networks, each with a specific target audience but with the ability to share content and users between them.

And it doesn’t stop there. For me, and I am sure many others, the highlight of the conference was listening to Geoffrey Moore speak at the Clearvale Second Floor event yesterday evening. He talked about the way global supply chains have become disaggregrated; while that’s great when everything is working, it means that resolving problems when they occur is far more difficult. At that point, enterprise social networking becomes invaluable here as well. So a Clearvale ecosystem may include not just an employee and customer network, but also partner networks, supplier networks and maybe even dedicated networks for each of the most important customers, partners and suppliers.

Putting together this sort of an social ecosystem with a set of products that were not architected for this purpose is going to be really hard work. So before choosing a platform for your first enterprise social network, give a little bit of thought to how it will relate to your second. And your third. And your fourth.