Social Media in the Enterprise

Essay Author Harjeet Singh, CEO, Millipixels Interactive LLP

The last five years have seen more change in the way organisations consume and share knowledge resources than in the last five decades. Employees access social networks and millions of smartphone apps regardless of corporate guidelines.

Book-cover

This essay contributed by millipixels_ CEO Harjeet S. Gulati appears in the O'Reilly-Yahoo Press book Designing Social Interfaces by Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone.

Get the Book

Five years, or five decades?

The last five years have seen more change in the way organisations consume and share knowledge resources than in the last five decades.

  • Extremely powerful software and hardware resources are available today at a fraction of the cost.
  • Mobile devices are ubiquitous and most enterprises support some form of BYOD or the other.
  • The ‘Internet of Things’ is no longer an abstract concept peddled by network hardware vendors - intelligent sensors in devices are now generating meaningful, actionable data.
  • Employees are more exposed and attuned to a technology ecosystem that didn’t even exist a few years ago.

From being content with automating individual processes and delivering decision support systems with a multitude of enterprise apps, organisations have had to suddenly grapple with a disruptive technology environment that’s changing on a daily basis. Employees access social networks and millions of smartphone apps regardless of corporate guidelines. The lines between consumer and enterprise user experience have blurred faster than anyone imagined!

Article Image
The lines between consumer and enterprise user experience have blurred faster than anyone imagined!

Keep pace, or fall by the wayside

In the span of just a few years, corporate solutions like intranets, internal wikis, instant messaging systems, are proving to be grossly insufficient in delivering the kind and quality of experience users have come to expect. With the increased exposure to exceptionally well designed apps on the web, and their smartphones, the users are turning to SaaS platforms for their ease of deployment, simplicity and ease-of-use.

Enterprise systems are so far just playing catch-up, and barring a few exceptions, not doing a very good job at delivering stellar experiences. Whether it is the marketers reaching out to newer audiences online, prospective employees using social media to find new opportunities, corporate HR trying to keep a lid on online sentiment indices, or customers taking to Twitter and Facebook to vent their feelings out, social media has significantly altered the enterprise app landscape in the last few years.

Enterprises have to respond to the changed environment quickly by embracing the archetypes shown by social networks when architecting corporate applications. Users expect enterprise apps to be engineered, or reengineered, to enable better collaboration and communication, foster innovation, and support them as they deal with complex decisions. Organisations that understand this fundamental shift in user expectations stand to benefit immensely in the coming years. At the same time, compartmentalised, legacy applications within the enterprise space will see real, measurable negative bottomline impact in the coming years.

Users expect enterprise apps to be engineered, or reengineered, to enable better collaboration and communication, foster innovation, and support them as they deal with complex decisions.

Federated Interactions

Social networks are breaking the barriers that corporate IT systems have so painstakingly created over the years. Customers, Employees and Partners routinely use social media, cutting across organisational hierarchies, to resolve immediate issues. In fact, these adhoc interactions and collaboration gets more work done in most cases than traditional, structured IT systems.

The concept of ‘Organisational Knowledge’ has also evolved rapidly over the last few years. Where the traditional knowledge management systems have done a good job with storing and codifying ‘explicit’ knowledge gems, ‘tacit’ knowledge is spread across a number of social media platforms, blogs, instant messaging and video-conferencing platforms. Successful knowledge management systems will bring these diverse touchpoints within a common reference framework, enabling users to tap into organisational knowledge from any touchpoint, regardless of their location, or device being used. From a 9x5 environment most large enterprises built over the last few decades, customers expect customer service 24x7 on the medium they choose.

In an age where both positive and negative sentiments can propagate to millions of other users within minutes, being able to call upon organisational resources to respond quickly can make all the difference between success and failure. From proactive social media engagement policies and quick response capabilities, to building systems that are friendly, comfortable and natural for users to work in, IT groups also need to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements as well as security of the digital assets.

Conclusions

SaaS applications are bringing the best user experiences of consumer apps into the enterprise. Ease-of-use and Design Simplicity were not even an objective in most corporate application design exercises until very recently. These have increasingly become a priority because of the realisation that stellar customer experience and high engagement levels have a direct bearing on favourable business outcomes.

Users expect seamless, connected experiences across their social networks and enterprise systems, on devices and channels they want. The need is for enterprise IT infrastructure and systems to aid decision making for end-users, and not get in the way. The focus needs to shift from delivering disconnected pieces of software to delivering optimised application environments and experiences that enable users to do their jobs faster and better!

Author Bio
Author
Harjeet Singh
CEO, Millipixels Interactive LLP

For over 20 years, Harjeet has been at the forefront of digital innovation as an entrepreneur, trainer, consultant, author and a user experience design visionary. He has helped clients like Google, Facebook, McGraw-Hill, and Danone/Nutricia deliver exceptional products and services over these years. His essay on 'Social in the Enterprise' as well as other contributions appear on the O'Reilly Press book 'Designing Social Interfaces'.

Grow to be Great

LET'S TALK