No predictions here: riffing on the future of Enterprise Social Software

I can’t bear to make any predictions of what is going to happen in the coming year in the world of Enterprise Social Software. Things aren’t pretty and they are going to take a long time to get better. That said, some interesting things are bound to happen this year, so I thought I would do a brain dump.

I will say this: There is going to be a lot more failure than anyone expected, and successes in places that we don’t expect or even want.

I also think that VOIP (one of those things a lot of us don’t want to have to think about) is going to be at the sharp end of change in the enterprise, possibly this year, but perhaps not, and it is going to open up a lot of opportunities for social tools. I have been using VOIP exclusively for the last 4 years, but I am just now starting to realize why it is such a big deal, and I am starting to see how software platforms need to stop ignoring it.

Video conferencing, which a lot of us continue to laugh off, is going to continue to grow at a faster rate than any other collaboration technology. Cheap displays and other hardware required will help drive this.

This all puts some of the bigger guys like CISCO in a much better position that we all might have realized before. They have the Trojan Pony.

Thinking about VOIP also gets me thinking about presence in general and Instant Messaging by extension. IM is now deeply embedded in most organizations. Blackberry Messenger, Samtime, Microsoft Messenger, Gtalk, etc,. it is all over the place, yet almost every new enterprise social application I see completely ignores IM. It doesn’t make sense to keep ignoring IM and we need to start thinking about using IM as a starting point for interactions.

IM is the grandaddy of micromessaging. Twitter in the Enterprise is a trend that I was looking at this time last year, and I am still trying to get my mind wrapped around it. Rypple has been getting an insane amount of well deserved attention, and for me it proves that there is a place for micro messaging in the enterprise. It also demonstrates something I have been saying: smart social tools need to break out of the do-everything malaise and build intention-specific applications.

We are going to see a lot of vendors going down this path. Focused micro messaging applications. Who knows what people will come up with.

Hey, what if my latest Twitter message could be read to anyone who calls if I am not available? “Sorry, Jevon cannot come to the phone right now, his latest status message said: ‘I am going to the beach.’, you may leave a message or call back later.”. That would be great.

One thing we need to do in 2009 is to stop trying to create new behaviors and we need to start building on existing behavior. That behavior could be business data, a process or a workflow, but we need to use those starting points to kick off more social actions. This is a place where IM related services could be very powerful. I will be writing a lot about this in the coming year.

The solution is not as simple as too-cool-for-you applications or misaligned tools that try to elevate things like social bookmarking to god-like status. I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t. You are all going to need to get more creative.

Existing vendors need to start seeing themselves as platforms that can conform to business needs, rather than something that the business must change to suit. They need to be able to serve specific business needs and intentions directly. Those who resist this path will be shotgunned in to it by their customers and they will do a terrible job. Those who plan to go down this path will be much better off.

I see Enterprise Social Software now the way I saw the web in 1997. We had to stop trying to shoehorn a businesses on to the web, and instead we figured out that customers needed the web shoehorned IN to their business in the right place. That is why we stopped being brochure web developers and CMS providers and instead built platforms that could zig and zag with the customer, inside and outside. That doesn’t exist yet behind the firewall, but it is coming.

2009 is a year to grow, get strong and to learn as much as possible from our mistakes. It is a year to take stock, get feedback and to examine our path carefully. The years of blindly forging ahead are over and those who tread carefully, but surely, will be rewarded. Those who are creating value are going to get bigger and stronger, those who are sexy, but useless, are going to die more quickly. That is the effect of a down period, and something to be grateful for.

2 thoughts on “No predictions here: riffing on the future of Enterprise Social Software

  1. Good post.

    Just wanted to let you know your contact page doesn’t work, so you might want to take a look at that if somebody wants to contact you.


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