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    Enterprise Collaboration: One Space or Many?

    A new Socialtext customer, a government organization, is in the process of launching Socialtext for collaboration within and across project teams implementing a major set of environmental initiatives. Today they asked me a fundamental question: “Should we create a separate collaborative space for each project team, or have everyone collaborate in a single, shared space”?

    I call this the “one-or-many” question. It comes up all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever blogged my answer, so I will remedy that now.

    There’s no right or wrong answer. Both approaches have pros and cons, but there are very clear criteria for when you should take which approach.

    Good reasons to have multiple workspaces (e.g., one for each project):

    • There’s confidential material that’s not shareable within the organization
    • Employees are intensely risk-averse and won’t participate honestly if their contributions are broadly accessible outside the immediate team
    • People work in disparate areas, and will view updates from other areas as spam

    Good reasons to have one workspace:

    • You want to support and encourage cross-silo collaboration and coordination
    • You want colleagues to have greater visibility into what’s happening in other parts of the organization
    • You have a small implementation and don’t want to dilute the network effects by splitting the cocktail party up into multiple private rooms

    In general, I find that very small implementations (<100 participants) almost always benefit from working in one big workspace. The group is small, confidentiality is rarely an issue, and business processes are so fluid that everyone needs to be in everyone else’s business. Once you get over 100 people, however, business processes and accountabilities become more formal, and you want to augment that one big workspace with smaller workspaces that are specific to teams, geographies, projects, etc.

    Forrester Research: How Socialtext Customer Hayes Knight Built the Social Layer

    Last June, Eugene, our CEO, delivered a keynote talk at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston called “The Social Layer.” The concept was simple: Social software should be a layer of technology that spans an entire organization, pulling together relevant people, content and systems of record in one easy place. It wasn’t about us or any one vendor; it was about moving the industry forward.

    To do our part, however, we introduced Socialtext Connect, an integration technology that lets you surface critical events from enterprise applications (CRM, ERP, etc.) and inject them into the Socialtext platform, where employees from across your organization can collaborate and take action. To get started, we delivered two pre-built integrations to Microsoft SharePoint and Salesforce.com.

    But Rob Koplowitz, the lead Enterprise 2.0 analyst at Forrester Research, didn’t just have to take our word for it: In his latest research note, Rob and his team featured Hayes Knight, a customer of ours in Australia that has used Connect to integrate key systems of record with Socialtext, including a homegrown job management system (built on Microsoft .Net) and CRM data from Salesforce.com. (The Forrester report focuses on the first system, and we have a blog post on the CRM integration, which enables Hayes Knight to serve customers 50 percent faster).

    When I visited Hayes Knight’s headquarters in Sydney back in November, I remember being amazed at how much they’d done with Socialtext Connect and our REST API. At the time, Jack Pedzikiewicz, our champion there, told me his favorite part of our platform was its flexibility, and this report does a great job of highlighting it.

    A quick except:

    Every trend needs a trailblazer, and in the case of establishing an integrated social layer that facilitates core operation processes, Hayes Knight is at the forefront. A group of companies offering accounting, business strategy, and complex tax services, Hayes Knight makes its living from the production and distribution of high-end knowledge. And it does so in Australia, one of the strictest compliance environments in the world.

    Like most organizations, Hayes Knight has legacy systems in place to handle key business functions. Yet most systems were largely transactional in nature, and Hayes Knight’s work product was anything but transactional. Jack Pedzikiewicz took on the task of turning the culture to one of knowledge capture, sharing, and collective decision-making while maintaining the context provided by the company’s core business systems.

    Pedzikiewicz targeted several of Hayes Knight’s core business processes for the initiative. Bridging the structured business systems and the new enterprise social capabilities through rich and deep integration was the key technical capability. After exploring the capabilities of multiple core business systems, his primary criteria for product assessment focused on the APIs provided to get information in and out of the system. He landed on Socialtext as the best platform to achieve his goals.

    Meanwhile, at Socialtext we’ve remained focused on moving our part of the Social Layer story forward (see an article today in CMSWire). We’ve not only been developing our own features, but we’ve been working with customers in our SocialDev community to help them create the integration they require to run their businesses. The best part of the community is that customers are sharing code and ideas among themselves, without us even having to be involved.

    I know I speak on behalf of the entire Socialtext team in saying that we’re thrilled Jack and his team got the recognition they deserved in this important research note. And we’re looking forward to more social layer stories going forward.

    Forrester Webinar Tomorrow: How Your Company Can Build a Social Layer

    Back in June, we launched Socialtext Connect, an offering that enables companies to integrate social software with their traditional systems of record, such as ERP or CRM. The idea behind Connect is that social software should be a layer that integrates all applications together seamlessly, not a feature that is added to each standalone application

    Tomorrow at 1 p.m. eastern, we’ll be co-hosting a free webinar about the social layer with Forrester Research and NYU Stern, a Socialtext customer that is integrating its critical business applications with our social software platform. Forrester’s lead Enterprise 2.0 analyst Rob Koplowitz will give an overview of how companies are thinking about the social layer, and NYU Stern’s Van Williams will give practical examples of how his organization is building one.

    We look forward to hearing Rob and Van’s insights, and we’ll conduct an open Q&A at the end with attendees.

    Transparency, Access and Focus: Getting the Most From Enterprise Social Software

    I recently had a series of conversations with customers to get their input on some upcoming capabilities. The conversations included a variety of stakeholders and participants in each organization. Each conversation triggered thoughtful reflection and lively debate among participants about how their organization should use social software for the right mix of transparency, focus, and security.

    I’ll tell the story, do some analysis, and talk about what it means for how your organization can get the most out of Enterprise 2.0.

    South Australia Office of the Premier

    At the South Australian Department of the Premier and Cabinet, the discussion was about whether to hold conversations among a larger group, or within smaller enclaves. They use Socialtext Signals heavily for Q&A to tap into the expertise of a broad range of employees and to share resources that are valuable across the organization.

    Several managers advocated in favor of holding and keeping the conversations in smaller groups, while others pushed for more enterprise wide discussions. A member of the risk management group raised concerns about security. A project manager gave a counter-example, talking about value she sees in asking questions and getting answers from the larger group.

    Eventually, the manager weighed in. He said that the goal they were striving for in their use of social software was increased transparency. Part of the goal was to move the culture toward greater openness and transparency. Sure, there is the possibility that someone might make a mistake. But people use email every day and make decisions about what information to share with whom. It’s better to share the goals and trust people’s judgement.

    Getty Images

    At Getty Images, the conversation took the opposite direction. Getty Images is a major distributor of digital images and stock photography. They are using Socialtext broadly among their sales, marketing and service professionals.

    At Getty Images, people are using Signals to ask questions about the broad range of products and services the company offers. They are also using it to promote new campaigns, share reports and good news. A sales manager boasted that “we rocked the Emmies last night.” But people were starting to feel like the discussion in the larger group was too much information. At Getty Images, they are starting to steer people to hold some discussions in smaller groups. The reason is not security, but to improve signal to noise.

    Also, the Getty Images team is finding that brand new users sometimes share things that other people find to be irrelevant and trivial right when they get started. But then they see what others do, and learn from others’ practices, and adapt to the norms of sharing what people feel is relevant.

    GT Nexus

    GT Nexus is a company that makes software for the shipping and transportation industry. At GT Nexus, there was a lively debate among representatives of IT, engineering, product management, design and customer support about the need to share enterprise wide versus in smaller groups. On one hand, some product management and design team members were collaborating in private groups. Meanwhile, an engineering manager was encouraging them to post more publicly across groups.

    The debate didn’t conclude during that meeting. But GT Nexus will be able to use self-join groups and workspaces where they can collaborate in smaller groups without disturbing others, while valuable information is still being to others via browsing and search.

    Analysis and recommendations

    In all of these situations, the ability to share both broadly and narrowly, more publicly and more privately, set up a lively internal discussion about how broadly and narrowly to share different sorts of things. Each organization needed to think through its own culture and information needs, and come up with guidelines and heuristics about what to share with whom. Also in all of these cases, adoption timeline comes into play. People’s initial impulse is to share “too much” or “too little”, and the adoption process is about settling on the norms and accommodating people’s behavior to these norms.

    Overall, the value of enterprise social software comes from increasing transparency, so that more people in the organization have access to the people and information they need. Transparency is tempered by two different factors – the need for security, and the need for focus. If too much information broadly shared, and too much is said out loud, everyone drowns in the noise.

    Enterprise social software needs to enable organizations to manage, focus, and access along both of these axes:

    1. Security is provided through private groups that are visible to members only
    2. Focus is provided by small groups where activity can be easily discovered, and interested parties can join

    It is business decisions and cultures, not features, that enable organizations to gain the benefits of appropriate transparency and access. People need to decide, and develop shared culture, about when to share and ask publicly, and when to refrain from distracting their colleagues. Employees need to understand what information must be kept confidential, and what problems would benefit from increased insight and collaboration from a broader audience.

    The implementation of social software catalyzes important conversations and requires important decisions about transparency, access, and focus in your organization. There is no one right answer, and getting it right takes key decisions about what’s right for your organization, and tools that let you tune for your company’s goals.

    Socialtext CEO Eugene Lee to Speak at E-Summit for International Association of Software Architects (IASA) Today

    As enterprises integrate their traditional enterprise systems with social software, we have spent a lot of time thinking about how this should be done from an architectural perspective. So today, we’re thrilled that our CEO, Eugene Lee, will be speaking at the International Association of Software Architects (IASA) e-summit, sponsored by our friends at Cisco. His talk will take place at 11:30 a.m. eastern time (register here).

    Back in June, we launched Socialtext Connect, an offering that utilizes open web standards behind the firewall to integrate traditional systems of record (such as CRM, ERP and document management) with social software. Connect builds what we call a “social layer” in the enterprise that enables employees to see the critical events happening across their company from both colleagues and the systems they work from, and then easily collaborate and take action on those events with flexible social software tools.

    As Eugene’s talk will illustrate, we want to eliminate information silos that prevent employees from serving customers efficiently, responding to change, and accelerating their company’s overall business performance.

    We hope to see as many of you as possible. If you can’t make it, please check out our whitepaper on ReadWriteWeb that shows how technologies (like Socialtext Connect) that are built on a web-oriented architecture can make it easy for you to bridge your existing applications with your social software.

    Four Reasons Why We’re Betting on the Open Web in the Enterprise

    Last week, I blogged about why “Social Software needs to be a Layer, not a Feature, in the Enterprise.” Now, from an architectural perspective, I’ll riff on what we’ve done to make this a reality. Back in June, we launched Socialtext Connect, a new offering that enables companies to surface critical events from enterprise applications and inject them as streams into our social software platform, where employees across an organization collaborate and take action.

    On a high level, we made a strategic bet with Socialtext Connect that an embrace of Open Web standards and REST APIs will make it easier for companies to integrate their traditional systems with social applications.

    Here are four reasons we have made bets on the open web in the enterprise.

    1. REST APIs — We’re developing to where the puck will be, not where it’s been. We’re helping channel the wave of open web standards inside the enterprise firewall. A large number of enterprise IT departments have been rethinking their approach to their enterprise architecture, using REST instead of SOAP – for faster and more agile development cycles, better scalability, and cleaner separation between client/device and server/service. We’ve focused on REST as our API strategy from the very beginning, and we’re doubling down on that bet with Socialtext Connect.
    2. Bringing architectural patterns, not just Twitter and Facebook, from Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0 — We continue to monitor emerging patterns in the consumer Web 2.0 space for relevant value within the enterprise firewall. The most recent of these are Twitter Annotations, Webhooks, and activitystrea.ms – all of which we’re incorporating into Socialtext Connect. Our co-founder, Adina Levin, has also blogged about the power and usefulness of these standards in the enterprise.
    3. To escape application silos, the Social Layer needs to be usable by non-users of applications — Ease of use remains key – application streams and App Bots are designed to facilitate productive, context-based conversation around reports, events, and exceptions in the underlying application, by injecting these into what was previously only a channel for conversation between people. AppBots aren’t just persona that “tweet” – they are interactive agents that can respond to queries and drilldowns by users – all of which contributes rich context to the overall conversation about a specific event or exception. This video can highlight what I mean.
    4. We’re trying to straddle and connect the applications and social worlds without binding you to either — With regards to integration and architecture, we take a different approach that our competitors in the Enterprise 2.0 world. Some believe that social technology should be an add-on feature to their departmental application, and therefore produce a programming model that’s an extension of their application model. Others think social software should be a heavyweight Java container, where you pour your development resources, time and money. Our objective is to enable you to liberate information, events, and transactions from application silos and the user community silos that are captive to them – by liberating your development resources from a monolithic, stack-bound development model.

    By embracing open web standards and making social a layer in the enterprise architecture, we’re already seeing how this can play out with our customers. As we shared recently, Hayes Knight, an accounting consultancy in Australia, used Socialtext Connect to integrate their CRM system with Socialtext Signals to make it easier and faster for the company’s accountants to collaborate and answer important customer questions.

    “The speed with which we’re answering questions has been cut in half, and is a full 7−8 minutes faster on average,” says CTO Jack Pedzikiewicz, a very active member of our SocialDev community, which shares best practices on Socialtext Connect. “The wonderful thing is, as we capture these great answers inside of Socialtext workspaces, we also cut back on repetition where questions cover the same issue and build best of breed responses and knowledge on key issues of importance. It allows us to serve our customers faster and more consistently.”

    We believe Hayes Knight’s success is just the beginning, and look forward to sharing more customer stories in the coming months.

    ReadWriteWeb WhitePaper: Building the Social Layer on a Web-Oriented Architecture

    As enterprises begin integrating their traditional enterprise systems with social software, we have spent a lot of time at Socialtext thinking about how this should be done from an architectural perspective. With Socialtext Connect launching in June, we have made a firm bet that open web standards will make it easier for companies to integrate applications of all shapes and sizes into their “social layer.” So we worked with our friends at ReadWriteWeb to highlight that strategy in a whitepaper, which was released today (click here to download your free copy or scroll down the page here).

    The report is titled “The Social Layer: How the Rise of Web-Oriented Architecture is Changing Enterprise IT.” As the paper explains, a social layer enables employees to access information from a variety of enterprise applications and colleagues across organizational silos. In an open — yet secure — environment built on microblogging and activity streams, employees discuss, collaborate and take action on the real-time information being pumped into the social layer to serve customers better and drive new business opportunities.

    We hope you enjoy it, and look forward to hearing your feedback.

    The Social Layer

    View more documents from ReadWriteWeb.

    Accounting Consultancy Hayes Knight Utilizes Socialtext Connect To Serve Customers Faster

    With the recent launch of Socialtext Connect, Socialtext customers have begun surfacing events from other critical business applications (CRM, ERP, etc.) inside of Socialtext Signals and Activity Streams. This gives employees the ability to see relevant work their colleagues do in other systems, engage in conversations around those events, and take action on them.

    One great example is Hayes Knight, an Australian accounting and consulting firm. Hayes Knight uses Socialtext to share knowledge and provide its clients with the best and most up to date information about tax and accounting issues. Hayes Knight utilized Socialtext Connect to trigger a microblogging message when critical actions occur inside of Salesforce.com.

    Hayes Knight’s knowledge management company, Knowledge Shop, provides a web-based member service subscribed to by 500 accounting firms and the thousands of accountants who work for them. It serves as a place for members to ask questions about accounting issues and get access to all kinds of tax and accounting information that experts at Knowledge Shop deal with everyday. The questions range from general accounting questions, to more complex tax advice issues.

    The customer service representatives for Knowledge Shop use Salesforce.com to manage membership information, seminar registrations, and to assign and track questions for Knowledge Shop advisers. When a rep enters a question into Salesforce.com from a Knowledge Shop member, the service rep can push that question into Socialtext Signals with the click of a button. Even though the question is addressed to a specific tax adviser, Hayes Knight finds value in letting others see the questions being asked.

    Then the Knowledge Shop adviser documents answers in Socialtext Workspaces, for current and future use. Once they’re completed, using a customized button inside Socialtext, they can send the proper answer back to Salesforce.com for processing.

    Hayes Knight CTO Jack Pedzikiewicz used Socialtext Connect to perform the integration. The ReST API within Socialtext Connect allows Socialtext customers to take events from a variety of other enterprise systems and surface them inside of Signals. Jack says he wants the advisers working in Socialtext because the software has deep collaboration features that allow them to create, share and capture knowledge −− something they wouldn’t get if they worked in Salesforce.com.

    “Signals allows us to respond faster,” Jack told me recently in a video chat. “The speed with which we’re answering questions has been cut in half, and is a full 7−8 minutes faster on average. The wonderful thing is, as we capture these great answers inside of Socialtext workspaces, we also cut back on repetition where questions cover the same issue and build best of breed responses and knowledge on key issues of importance. It allows us to serve our customers faster and more consistently.”

    We’re always looking for more great uses of Socialtext Connect to share. Please feel free to send me yours. Customers or business partners interested in joining our Socialtext Developer community, where practitioners can learn how to get the most from Socialtext Connect and share best practices, please contact us at socialdev@socialtext.com.

    Webinar: Social Software For Business Performance

    On Tuesday, September 7, please join industry visionary John Hagel and Socialtext co-founder Ross Mayfield as they discuss how social software can help your business.

    John Hagel IIIRecognized thought leader and book author, John Hagel will describes the latest research from the Deloitte Center for the Edge on driving business performance with enterprise social software. Focusing on the opportunity to target deployments of social software against specific operating metrics that matter the most to executives and staff in large companies, John discusses the untapped potential of social software to help address the growing challenge of exception handling in the enterprise. He will also suggest that the deployment of social software will follow a natural trajectory, starting with narrowly defined problem solving tasks and then over time provide platforms for much larger and more sustained performance improvement initiatives.

    Ross MayfieldBuilding upon John Hagel’s presentation, Ross Mayfield will provide Socialtext Case Studies where business value is achieved through exception handling. Ross will then provide a brief introduction to Socialtext Connect, which creates a social layer across traditional applications and processes for faster exception resolution.

    For details and free registration please sign-up here.

    Integrating Business Applications With Socialtext Connect

    Chances are your company uses multiple systems (CRM, ERP, collaboration, etc.) to run your business. Switching back and forth between them wastes time and creates silos of information. Wouldn’t it be nice to integrate all the tools together? With Socialtext Connect, information from all your business-critical tools can be displayed in a single unified activity stream.

    To help you get started with Socialtext Connect, we’ve recorded a training session which takes you through examples of extending and integrating Socialtext with systems like Bugzilla, SharePoint, Google Maps and more.

    Bugzilla to Socialtext

    Example: Displaying Events From Bugzilla In The Socialtext Signals Stream

    This session just touches the surface of what is possible. To help us plan for future events, which systems would you like to see connectors for? Please leave a comment below with details about the tools your company uses and the type of things you’d find useful to have integrated with Socialtext.

    If you are an existing customer or business partner and would like to join our developers community, SocialDev, please contact me at alan.lepofsky@socialtext.com.

    Click here to access Integrating Enterprise Applications with Socialtext.

    About This Blog

    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.

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