(Left: Brian Oberkirch and Sean O’Driscoll discuss social media, enterprise, and the future of the web)
While only a handful of companies are deploying full scale enterprise communities for their customers: Microsoft, SAP, Dell, Oracle, HP, VMware, Intel and a few other sophisticated ‘web’ companies, a common industry solution is not yet available.
Sean O’Driscoll, a former colleague of Robert’s runs the General Manager | Community Support Services at Microsoft, and is on a national tour to learn from the best community folks at corporations this week.
Sean has over 15 years experience at Microsoft and is passionate about the Microsoft MVP program, a program designed to let the advocates shine. In fact Robert was a Microsoft MVP before he was hired. He’s truly the advocate of the advocates.
We got onto the subject of the future of company websites, and the challenges and features needed. He said the most important feature needed insn’t a feature at all, what’s needed is integration.
["What is the most important web 2.0 feature we should be implementing next?”]
Sean replied to us, and I quote from his post:
[...The most important feature to implement in your web 2.0 strategy is integration with existing systems and processes."]
He’s right you know, many companies are loosely putting together islands of social media software to try to build a holistic user experience.
The caveat of course is that I believe corporations will never ever own the full customer experience unless they can own the whole web. So while we should continue our endevours to build a comprehensives online community, we should also recognize that marketing and support has spread off the extranet to other areas of the web, areas we will never be able to ‘control’ like Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, and even your competitors extranet.
So, as much time as you spend building the integrated experience, spend equal amount of time joining communities where they already exist –the future is distributed.
Sean is on a mission to find out which corporations have built a holistic community experience for the enterprise, I’ve listed out a few companies above, but if you know of any (or want to brag) please leave a comment below.
Enjoying Americanized Chinese food at Palo Alto’s Jing Jing’s with Sean, Robert.
Instant Communities: List of companies that provide Web Collaboration Suites or Platforms
List of “White Label” (Applications you can Rebrand) Social Networking Platforms
Web Strategy Predictions: Facebook, Identity, Social Networks
Thank god. I’m so sick of having to login and create customer accounts for every product I own. There’s a few companies that are appearing (some intentionally and some not) that are becoming support websites for companies.
This site, started by Lane and Thor in SF is looking to standardize support for all products on one website. This is very disruptive to companies, as users will start to research products there before purchasing them. Get Satisfaction will have to figure out how to weed out the marketers. Here’s their focus:
Satisfaction™ is a new way for customers and organizations to work together to get answers, solve problems, and create new and better products & services. For both customers and companies, customer service has never been easier (or more fun).
I just discovered Feedback 2.0 from Stephane Lee. This French born website is aimed at B2B support and services. They have a unique view on how support should be done, they’re trying to bring the power back to the companies:
When we saw the way forums were popping up on the net and in real life, out of the companies’ and brand’s control, we developed the following vision :
* The brands and organizations should recover the right to participate in these discussions.
* Their role in the organization of these discussions is sensible.
* Their participation in the ongoing conversation is fundamental if they want to explain their choices and points of view.
* If they do not, they then shall be marginalized and will have to face uncontrolled influences.
I’m going to say the “F” word, yup. Facebook is quickly becoming a user group for every product, company and service. Do a search within the groups section of Facebook and you’ll be amazed at how many products are listed. I quickly created the community group for my company, in order to centralize, if you’re a community person, you should too.
Just last week, I was present and documented how the emerging Web industry is being sought after by Enterprise IT companies, now this latest ploy is starting to flip over as Social Media features integrate into existing enterprise environments.
Social Networking is nearly present in all communities, we know that as the groups fragment by age group (and there will be more niches and fragmentations over time) that for the fores sable future, that logging on and getting instant access to existing and new friends is satisfying our human needs to connect with each other and belong. While there’s an excess of White Label Social Networking sites out there although Cisco decided to buy Five Across.
Benefits of new web tools emerging
Having spent most of my career in Enterprise IT type companies as a web professionals (four enterprise Intranets and two enterprise Extranets), I could easily make the conclusion that Cisco is entering the “Enterprise 2.0″ Market. Which when broken down into human terms suggests that they will deliver to their established customer base a pre-packaged suite of productivity tools for the Intranet and Extranet. The sell actually won’t be too difficult, as there’s productivity benefits according to commentary from the folks at ConnectBeam where I’m an Advisor. In his analysis, those that are well connected are actually highly productive. Looking forward, we all know the Internet is going to be the platform for the next TV, other rich media, and the connective tissue for networked gaming that these infrastructures are moving Cisco up the platform into the business space –Where I know that other ERP systems may already sit.
If you want to learn more, as fate would have it, yesterday James Durbin and I had a lengthy conversation around Social Networking Analysis, an emerging industry to measure the benefits of how these networks are impacting individual productivity, velocity, and information emerges. He recommended I subscribe to Network Weaving, Connectedness, Networks, Complexity, and Relatedness, and Centrality.
Getting ahead of the Enterprise Web “Islands”
For much of my career as an Enterprise Intranet Manager many of my projects were cleaning up all the disparate sources of rotting data, processes and finding tools that can seamlessly improve the user experience –it’s going to happen all over again. Enterprise IT Dennis McDonald, discusses how the risks of the open information age needs responsibility. None of this is really new to Dennis or I, we wrote a forward looking white paper on how Social Media “Web 2.0″ will hit the Enterprise Intranet over a year ago. It was our conclusion that IT departments need to get ahead of business groups that can deploy social media programs without the aid of IT, and I believe that Cisco and other companies are going to enable just that.
This morning, my discussion with Dennis revolved around on our predictions of why enterprise companies are headed this way, he emphasis on actual implementation as the real cruz over any turn-key solution:
“By beefing up their offerings in the collaboration and social networking space, they are following in the footsteps of Microsoft and IBM who have also been rolling out “Web 2.0 enabled” enterprise infrastructure components. The proof of the pudding will be the skills of their business partners, resellers, and integrators. Those are the people on the front line with customers who are still undecided about so much of what we in the enterprise 2.0 area have been talking about.” -Dennis McDonald
Intranet adoptions will be interesting
I can already imagine how the Information Architect community, who is just getting settled into their roles after years of proving their worth will be introduced to user created taxonomies, amorphous content structures, and the shifting and moving of data out of their control. I’m the moderator for the Intranet User Experience group, a working group that will have to deal with this.
I get it. It’s more than an Intranet play or an Extranet play. Enterprise tech companies that can successfully introduce a platform that’s tied to existing corporate directory and identity systems, provide security, handle the load, and deliver measurement and metrics have a strong chance for being a successful deployment. The bigger sale is to help those worrysome CIOs to get ahead of business groups who will downloadable blogs, networks, and systems from being deployed in a disparate. It’s also about looking at digital media, they make that clear from their push on the Human Network, you can hear from the CEO directly.
[When the CEO figures out his kids are all over Facebook and MySpace, it's just a matter of time before his next meeting with the CIO/CMO where he asks for some exploration. Embedded and established IT infrastructure companies who have a turn-key solution make the logical choice in deployment]
Delivered correctly, IT Infrastructure companies that move upward into employee productivity have a larger play in the game; productivity, reduction in future cost, lock-in to the enterprise Intranet, and hard statistics and measurement to employee communication and productivity, it’s much more than just MySpace for the Intranet.
Over the next few months, I’ll keep an eye on marketing collateral aimed at this market, let’s see how close my predictions are.
[Disclosure: Cisco is one of the 30 something clients of my employer, PodTech Network. I'm on the Advisory Board for ConnectBeam. These are my opinions only]