Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Next big innovation for Enterprise Social Software - Simplicity

One of the things I remember reading about, early on in my enterprise 2.0/ social business journey was Andrew Mcafee's definition of what makes social software tick. He spoke of three characteristics - emergent, freeform and frictionless. Those definitions still ring true in my head. As I look at how enterprise social software matures it seems to be moving away from those characteristics quite a bit. To the extent, that enterprise social software loses the edge it promised to provide.

Do one thing and keep it simple

One of the features of consumer social software which in turn encourages enterprise use cases is the fact that most of these tools do one thing and they do it well. Take for example Twitter - 140 character status updates. Or Pinterest - create a digital pinboard. Or for that matter delicious - create a list of online, shareable bookmarks. Let's look at Path - share updates with your close friends. Each of these platforms keep things quite simple. One metaphor, really simple usage - so much so, that despite the fact that Twitter keeps its help hidden under an obscure menu, you don't miss the lack of instruction.

Enterprise social bloatware?

Compare this to a lot of the enterprise social software you see. Let's take for example - I have nothing against the platform; it's great. I just need a scapegoat. is a wiki, a blogging platform, a file repository, a discussion forum, a social bookmarking platform - all at the same time. And more! So, do I create a document or a discussion or a blogpost? If Sheena Iyengar taught me anything - more choice is not always a good thing. People like to stick with the status quo and not choose anything. Is that really what we want as a consequence of enterprise social software?

Let's be real

For a lot of us social media enthusiasts, life's a nice happy bubble. We hang out with other social media geeks, we network with them online, they sing its praises as we do and it seems the world has changed. Yes the world has changed, but only so much. For a large number of people and granted they may not be a majority, social media still isn't their bread and butter for communication. Complex social platforms that combine several features and numerous bells and whistles only scare them away. Think about it - if you're not social media savvy and you have to make a choice between a wiki, a status update, a blogpost and a discussion - what would you do? And what if you had to break through the most complex security system to access this platform when you can easily get to email on your Blackberry? (note I say Blackberry, not iPhone) Let's appreciate that there's a non-trivial audience size that fits this description and the only way social software wins is by being undisputedly easier and better.

Back to the basics

We need to rethink our strategy with social business platforms. We need simplicity - one metaphor, simple usage patterns. The more sophisticated we make the platforms, the more difficult the change, the more resistance the poorer the uptake. This is when people question change - if something isn't 10x better than the status quo, we naturally choose the status quo. Cisco seems to have thought this through with Cisco Webex Social by taking away superficial choices from content creation. Yammer's always been very good at this - they're a Twitter clone for the enterprise. I say that with great respect. Socialcast seems to be doing this right too. I can't say this however for the majority of the social business landscape. Let's remember the frictionless bit of McAfee's definition. I believe the future is bright, but not blingy. I fear that the focus for some social software giants is turning out to be bling, though. Please, for the sake of all we stand for - get back to the basics!


Sarah Eadie said...

Choice paralysis is a daily reality even for those of us who DO work in social media. If I have a problem with a disproportionate amount of solutions, I'm likely going to be stuck with my problem. Why? Not for any lack of solutions, but because I can't choose which of the solutions will work best.

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Every year we see that a new kind of innovation are coming for the student or for the people also. Manager are taking part for manages all of it. Next big innovation for Enterprise Social Software is simplicity. We aquire that wealth management training module are a part of simplicity. We network with them online, they sing its praises as we do and it seems the world has changed.For a large number of people and granted they may not be a majority, social media still isn't their bread and butter for communication.

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