CIOs and business units are struggling to decide how and to what extent to use social technology in their businesses, even though it offers considerable promise. A key reason is that a majority of social media outside the enterprise is just pure communication. Organizations have struggled to see how applications such as Facebook or twitter can provide tangible benefits to the organization. Also, employing these tools inside the enterprise imposes additional complexity and challenges on already overwhelmed staff. Social technology must be woven into the existing IT fabric so as to help users gain efficiencies in business processes, access key information for decisions, and capture knowledge that can be managed and shared with others.
To gain enterprise acceptance, social technology, like any other enterprise software proposition, needs to have business drivers. However, unlike many applications that provide tangible process efficiencies apparent to everyone, social technology benefits are often seen as a bit “squishy.” Younger generations inherently know the benefit of social technologies, but clearly some education of senior leadership and business stakeholders may be needed to earn their buy-in to the benefits of social technologies. In doing so, it is important to highlight a number of tangible benefits made possible by social tools.
- Staying Connected – Social networking provides an easy way to stay in touch with co-workers, customers and suppliers. During 2011, there were more Facebook messages sent than there were emails. People feel more connected and informed with social media than with many other methods of communication.
- For means of communication – Social technology provides an excellent mechanism for communicating. It is seen by many people as being far superior to email, telephone, direct mail, etc. Think about the last time a teenager or college student returned an email?
- Achieving a more personal connection-Having a social networking profile allows you to keep informed on recent happenings with people in your network. You can discuss events with your co-workers and feel like you know them even though you have never met in person. This is very important of large global teams.
- Conversations—Social technologies can trace an online conversation in ways that e-mail can not. In many cases it can replicate what formerly took place in physical meetings. Displacing a number of physical meetings with a more reproducible and traceable replacement extends the value of the meetings and can offer significant cost reductions.
- Knowledge Management – Knowledge management has been difficult to implement for many organizations. It is best practice to capture and share knowledge as an integrated part of the process. In the past, conversations took place on phone calls or not at all and were seldom documented. Social technology enables this injection of new insights in real time and can help with results adoption.
- Embedding collaborative capabilities into existing applications or suites— Social technologies should be integrated into workflows bringing collaborative potential to where employees are working. Providing this support for strategic processes will likely bring more support and endorsements from senior management. We are starting to see this in applications such Salesforce.com’s Chatter and SAP’s SmartStream.
- Richer User Experience – Organizations need to move away from siloed information by providing richer and more relevant context for human-computer interactions. Social identity becomes an additional means of navigation, relevant to both search software and end users. Conveying this capability to a range of stakeholders including data, content, and knowledge management groups as well as business units will be important.
A great opportunity to plan and coordinate how to initiate social technologies into your enterprise is to implement the Enfocus Requirement Suite.™ The Enfocus Requirement Suite™ from Enfocus Solutions was designed from the beginning to utilize social technologies. The goal is to create a community between various stakeholders and development teams working together on a project. The “community” is charged with developing a solution that meets certain business objectives.
Social technologies work very well for this type of situation as they allow people with different backgrounds such as marketing, IT, finance, and engineering and in different locations and cultures such as US, Europe, Asia, and South America to work together on a common goal.
Implementing a SaaS tool such as the Enfocus Requirement Suite™ is great step in moving towards implementing social technologies in the enterprise. The product allows a project community to be established between project stakeholders and the development team. The stakeholders and the development team may be scattered geographically. This is important as stakeholders are often geographically dispersed and it is also common for development to be geographically because of outsourcing.
The Enfocus product allows the community to work together to develop requirements, validate the requirements, and manage the requirements through the product lifecycle from design to deployment. The community is kept informed of changes to the requirements and can work together on elaborating on requirements to ensure they are understood and achieved. Developers and stakeholders may post questions and comments about requirements. Requirements may be further elaborated with visualization methods such as process flows, UML diagrams, mind maps, videos, etc. All of the applicable attachments are available for the community to view. Requirements are grouped together into bundles to support development iterations. The bundles include structured requirements with related needs, comments, visualizations, and the like.. There are fun features to encourage participation such as “Like” and “Dislike” buttons and flexible commenting.
Using a tool such as the Enfocus Requirement Suite™ is ideal for introducing social media technologies for a variety of reasons. First, it possible to start small by focusing on a single project. Using lessons learned from the single project, the tool may be expanded to the enterprise. Since the product is subscription based, organizations can start small and expand as needed.
The Enfocus tool is process focused and provides collaborative and social technologies for requirements development and management processes. Additional communications and collaboration technologies are hard to justify unless they are used in context of a business process. The product is a cloud based application and may be accessed from anywhere using a web browser whether on a tablet or a computer. This provides a simple way to introduce cloud computing applications to the organization. The tool provides knowledge management for objects such as business rules, business processes, IT services, and stakeholders are captured and updated as part of the process and can be shared with other project communities.
The RequirementCoach™ component of the Enfocus product provides many example requirements and practice aids that teams may use to improve business processes, define requirements for cloud computing, define requirements for social networking, and so on. These example requirements and practice aids help significantly in evaluating and implementing social tools. The RequirementCoach™ provides example requirements of how to integrate social technologies with business process management, workflow, knowledge management, and business analytic applications. Obtaining this knowledge from a consultant can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Project communities could use these example requirements to introduce social technologies to other key processes such as CRM, human resources, finance, product design, and the like.