Social Layer Enterprise Technology
The “Systems of Records” structure of Enterprise Software was the utilization of Database/Accounting Programs to assist the interactions of businesses and customers with processing and storing data as finalized records. Eventually, Software as a Service, (such as Salesforce.com), allowed Database/Accounting Programs to evolve into Customer Relationship Management – CRM Software. With Customer Relationship Management as the main layer of business software, Businesses first interacted with Customers, and Accounting/Database functions existed behind the Customer Relationship Management interactions.
Database/Accounting Software evolving into CRM Software was the beginning of the transition from “Systems of Record” to “Systems of Engagement”. After Customer Relationship Management, the next structure of Business Software is possibly the merging of Social Business, Social Media, data storage, and productivity programs into Social Enterprise, or SocEnt. What is revolutionary about Social Enterprise is the concept of “Social as a Layer”, with the main business software application being a business Social Network that exists across all the other Enterprise applications.
This primary layer Business Social Network will have greatly expanded Customer Engagement capabilities, and business productivity programs will exist within the context of Internet Social Networking, with even the capability of messages having business processing functionality. The possible benefits of Social Layer Enterprise includes an unprecedented capability of connecting the activities of customers and businesses with mutually beneficial real time engagement opportunities.
History of Social Layer Enterprise
Two years ago, in 2010, it was recognized that the existing social networking technology, (FourSquare, PlanCast, Siri, etc.), could be connected into a combination technology to benefit the processes of enterprises. At that time, standards and protocols existed to connect these technologies. Eugene Lee and Robert Scoble were the first to speculate that social technologies could be a “Layer” across applications. The demands of business would require that Social become a primary layer, instead of only a new business communications method.
Therefore, with Enterprise 1.0 being Enterprise before Web/Internet online software, and Enterprise 2.0 existing as the utilization of the new Software as a Service technology of Web 2.0, then the Social Layer Enterprise configuration of Enterprise Technology could be considered Enterprise 3.0.
When introduced in June 2011, Google+ was planned by Google to have Social Enterprise capabilities. An example of a Social Network based on Google+ would be the use of Google+ to access Google Docs for productivity related to customer engagement, and to access stored data in Google Drive. One year later in 2012, Google Docs has been significantly improved, and Google Drive has been introduced, however the Social Enterprise interconnectivity for Google+ has yet to be realized.
Present Social Layer Enterprise Technology
The structure of a Social as a Layer Enterprise Application would be, 1) “Connectors” that connect Applications to the Social Layer, 2) Annotators that apply social and business logic to connector data, (therefore annotating/promoting messages through the Social Enterprise), 3) AppBots for interaction with enterprise data and processes, and 4) Application Streams that make application data interactions part of the Social Networking stream.
The functionality of enterprise applications are becoming increasingly social, and allow for the following of/updating the statuses of persons, across applications used by the business world. This functionality exists as a series of protocols that are now emerging:
2) Annotations that allow businesses to define their own embedded data in social messages.
3) Interactions that enable enable social messages to contain business actions, like sharing the message further, or configuring a customer’s record to complete a transaction.
4) New open protocols with two way pushing of feeds in realtime to subscribers over the network, and the ability of application developers to create event types that clients can subscribe to. That would allow applications to maintain data, (in the form of status updates), synchronized in realtime over a company’s virtual IT network. This would enable realtime alerts/interactions, with immunity from data communication restrictions.
5) Cloud-based Social Enterprise would also transform Identity and Authentication. Social Networking single Sign On would replace LDAP/ActiveDirectory for corporate Indentity/Auth credentials, thereby creating a new standard for accessing a defined set of applications behind a corporate firewall. Internet Standards for identification will eventually replace corporate standards, as Social Networking becomes a corporate applications layer. Delegated authentication, (for example, OAuth, within OStatus), will possibly solve the problem of multiple usernames/passwords outside of corporate virtual IT firewalls.
Convergence of Social Networking Technologies
The standards and interoperability of Social as a Layer requires universal support for the Social Enterprise Era to legitimately exist. Social considered as independent services will have to end, and Social considered as the interconnection of multiple services will have to become the only acceptable configuration. Organizations will only have genuine problem solving capabilities, (and therefore value), by optimizing the peer-to-peer connections of people across applications, departments, and organizations.
Open Protocols, and their supporting standards, are starting to converge to enable the beginning of Social Layer Enterprise. The initiative, OStatus, was formed to test interoperability of Social Networking tools in order to possibly invert Customer Relationship Management into “Vendor Relationship Managment”, with the consumer having control over relationships with Corporations.
In order to enable people to engage in social interactions across tools, standard Actiivity Streams are needed to represent social actions, like posts, follows, likes, and checkins. Applications will need to subscribe to updates from other applications in real time. The ability to find the same person, or the same group of persons, across social sites is needed. The ability to gain authenticated access to other applications, on the user’s behalf, is also needed.
Adoption of Social Layer Enterprise Applications
Social Layer Enterprise will create a new paradigm of commercial interactions. Social as a Layer will shift the emphasis of commercial interactions to User-Centric. All information in Social Networks, and in the Cloud, will become business critical information. Information, because of requiring sharing or interaction for legitimacy, is already social. Social layer data processing by businesses will allow business opportunities to appear in information landscapes at the time that is the most convenient for the critical persons.
When social experiences occur there is usually, in parallel, a business problem to be solved. Social as a feature isn’t enough to make this into a business paradigm. Social as a layer has the required capabilities to bring about new, more expedited, methods of business problem solving. This can be termed, “the socialization of business and information”. Social experiences will be preserved to create the information to conveniently solve business problems, and enrich the ability to solve subsequent business problems.
A lot of businesses have concluded that noninterconnected social networking tools are more of a problem than a solution to business problems. Besides businesses that haven’t incorporated social networking tools, businesses that have banned social networks are at a disadvantage in reconceptualizing customer engagement with Social Enterprise in order to stay competitive.
These businesses will need to prepare to make a transition to Social Layer Enterprise when it becomes available. They will possibly need to adapt the required skills ahead of the advent of Social as a Layer Enterprise. Luckily, employees might adapt the skills required for the new business methodology themselves, with consumer social networking applications. An all-encompassing merger of consumer social networking skills, and business productivity skills, will possibly occur, with an extreme expansion of the information, and opportunities, available to businesses.