Monday, 22 November 2010

Evaluating and selecting collaboration and social software


  One of the most interesting sessions I attended at my second Enterprise 2.0 conference this year was with Tony Byrne from Real Story Group talking about selecting the appropriate social tool for particular purposes.

I went to this workshop largely because my experience at the exhibition in Boston was that all the social systems there seemed to do pretty much the same job – and I wanted to be in a better place to distinguish them when I went to the exhibition at Santa Clara.

Tony suggests looking at the various tools through 4 prisms:

1   What business scenarios the tools support

What do different technologies actually do (or want to do)?  This is the most important prism as software developers will have a purpose in mind when they build a system.

Organisations need to be clear about what scenario they need to fill.  Why do it (or let it happen)?  These questions often doesn’t get answered – organisations leave it to more abstract discussion.

Yes, emergence has a role to play, and  some organisations are more emergent than others. But you really need a good strategy – there are many different reasons implementing social software…


Tools for collaboration are different to those for networking

The traditional emphasis of these systems for the last two decades has been on collaboration which Tony defines as organising projects and doing certain types of work, formalising informal activities etc.

The newer tools are based on the of success of social media sites and a reaction to this – so they are more about discovering and socialising information – about discussion, not necessarily in explicit projects.

The first set of tools are too stilted – the second more flexible, enabling the wisdom of the crowds.

These two sets of systems inhabit different worlds technologically (eg IBM Quickr for collaboration vs Lotus Connections for networking) although it may not always seen this way.  But the issue is that organisations don’t want to move everyone over from Jive to Sharepoint once they start formalising information relationships.  You need to be able to do both of these things well within one platform – not just friending someone in Singapore but the ability to get work done.


Within and beyond firewall

Tony referred to the extension of social software beyond the firewall as crossing the rubicon:

  • External opportunities include branded communities, reader interaction, external collaboration, professional networking
  • Internal opportunities include project collaboration, enterprise discussion, information organisation and filtering, knowledgebase management, communities of practice etc.


2   What functional services do the tools provide?

This is the second prism – what social software services are included in the system (ask what you need it for first)?  Eg, including:

  • Blog
  • Wiki
  • Project tracking and participation (critical to collaboration)
  • Multimedia
  • Info ranking and filtering
  • File sharing (seems mundane but the mother of collaboration)
  • Microblogging
  • Discussion
  • Presence / Instant Messaging
  • Profiling / people finding.


You need the right tool / the fight fit.  Technology matters – it’s not all about sociology.  Even within wikis there is a large variation…

Companies want social as a service (SAAS) etc but the cool tools are frequently immature.

Vendors also offer a range of intangibles - customers are not always so happy with these.


3   What common application services are offered?


  • Filtering
  • Editing and commenting
  • Personalisation
  • Repository services
  • Workforce and process management
  • Handheld delivery
  • Feeds
  • Vocabularies and tagging
  • Search


4   The admin and system services perspective

It’s important to avoid what Tony called enterprise surprise, eg tools which worked really well somewhere but then not – eg which don’t support different languages

Metrics is another important aspect here.


So, did this framework help?, Was I able to decipher the vendors’ unique capabilities?

I’ll be posting shortly on this…


Technorati Tags: Tony Byrne,Real Story Group,collaboration,social,systems,technology,enterprise 2.0,Santa Clara,conference


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