What Do We Mean By Social Business?

By Pehong Chen CEO on November 10, 2010

(originally published in www.nojivetalkin.com)

If you’re a technology provider in the enterprise 2.0 market, it’s not enough to talk the talk

I’ve been in the software business for more than two decades.  I have started companies.  Sold companies.  Took one public,70-177 and advised many more.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that if you want to survive in this business, you must evolve.  And that’s a principle that applies not only to my company — BroadVision, now entering its 18th year – but to anyone who wants to compete in our market.  Because the business of enterprise computing has truly changed.   It’s no time for half measures.

Early today, we announced a new iteration of BroadVision Clearvale, our cloud-based enterprise collaboration platform that we first introduced in May.  70-246 In the short time that has passed since that launch, we have learned a lot.  We learned what our customers – now in the thousands – see is unique in our platform.  We have learned about some of the amazing things companies can do because of those unique differences (our latest offering, Clearvale PaasPort, is just one example).   But most of all we learned that if we are going to continue to compete in this market, we are going to need to remain true to the fundamental tenets of social business, and not fall to the temptation of reverting to the ideas, business models, and words that controlled in the age of enterprise software.

I know about these temptations.  I come from that age, and know just how easy it would be to package social business into an old enterprise software model.   I call the temptation to fool ourselves — and to fool our customers — “jive talkin’.”  Not just because we believe that one of our chief competitors has been talking that way; others have been talking that way, as well.  Mostly, we call it jive talkin’ to see if we can start a conversation of a different character.  A conversation about what social business really ought to be, starting with the most basic requirements.

(1) Social business needs to live in the cloud … natively. “Social business software” is an oxymoron.   If it’s truly social – enabling you to connect with anyone, anywhere, on any device – it needs to live in the cloud.

(2) Social business needs to be DIY. The business world has already learned this from the world of blogging, microblogging, and consumer social networks.  Starting an enterprise social network should be as simple as starting a simple blog.

(3) Social business needs to be priced according to the growth of the network. The old enterprise software licensing model will not work.  Nor will the simple SaaS model work.  Both are based on presumed usage.  Better to charge customers on a pay-per-use model — one what they use.  That more accurately reflects the realities of growing a social network.

(4) The social business platform can be the system of engagement for any system of record. It would be wrong to think of your social business platform in isolation of other enterprise systems.  Ask whether your social business platform can easily integrate with these systems and add a social layer.

(5) Social business should not create silos.  Instead they should help you manage your entire business ecosystem. In the offline world, most businesses operate in complex ecosystems of discrete networks of employees, partners, and customers.   Ask whether your social business platform enables you to stitch those networks together and manage them for even greater effectiveness and efficiency.

(6) Social business networks should be able to connect with other networks. Not only are businesses at risk of creating silos within their own ecosystems.  They are at risk of developing networks that are not discoverable by other companies. The solution is to invest in a world that is open, discoverable, and navigable.

(7) Social business networks should provide developers with an open, holistic platform to integrate any number of useful tools. The way we see it, the social network is the new UI, and the ever-expanding world of communication and collaboration tools have a home on the network.

We can’t pretend to have perfected an approach to each of these tenets.  Nor can say that this is a final list.  But let us know what you think, and we promise we will continue the conversation, and no jive talkin’.