Social Media Gets Down to Business at Enterprise 2.0

At lasts week’s Enterprise 2.0 social networking conference in Boston, the talk got down to serious business. The fun and games of Facebook and Twitter took a back seat to using social networking for actual business work, mainly around collaboration that leads to innovation.

Here is what BottomlineIT wrote about last year’s conference. Not that it wasn’t serious, but the buzz was around networks of networks. Since then the focus has evolved. Basic social and collaboration has morphed into mobile networking and innovation with a strong focus on delivering business value.

To that end, Nathan Bricklin, head of social strategy and Wells Fargo Wholesale Services, advised attendees: “What you should have is a business strategy, and then you can layer social efforts and social tools to support the business strategy.” Nobody disagreed.

Among the vendors and speakers, several main themes emerged:  mobile everywhere, all devices welcome, connecting social to traditional business applications, and collaboration that drives business innovation.

Enterprise 2.0 this year clearly was about social for mobile devices.  If you walked around the show with a small laptop connected via WiFi you probably felt like a dinosaur. You want your social connections with you wherever you are and wherever you go. Social media has become a mobile play, no doubt.

And the products are scrambling to support any mobile device. The iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, and other tablets of all sorts. Unlike previous years where the iPhone ruled, this year any device is welcome. (Your blogger was connecting via an Android smartphone.)

The vendors apparently also now understand that to make social networking acceptable to business they have to interact with traditional business applications. You couldn’t sit through a product demo without seeing how it would connect with a company’s CRM or ERP or financial systems. Pulling customer data from the CRM system and combining it with other social content to drive sales was a frequently demoed example, so was budgeting where input from numerous managers and business units were combined in a final budget.

Finally, streamlined collaboration enabled by social networking alone apparently does not deliver sufficient business value fast enough. The big business payoff from collaboration, it turns out, comes by fueling more, better, and faster innovation.  Said one vendor: “You connect social to traditional business apps and then use social to tap innovation around the periphery of the enterprise.”

The oddball at the show was Crowd Computing Systems, which seemed only marginally social. As they explained it, they join artificial intelligence with crowd sourcing to help companies select business process outsourcing (BPO) providers.  As they put it:  “By fusing human and artificial intelligence to match specific tasks to the best resources for completing them – whether human or machine – we not only make getting work done faster, we make it more scalable, predictable, flexible and accurate.” It’s an interesting idea although I’m still not sure why they were at Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 in Boston is one of two live conferences the organization puts on each year.  The other is in Santa Clara. Starting next week the organization’s two live events will each take on their own positioning as Enterprise 2.0 Boston becomes E2 Social and Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara becomes E2 Innovate. E2 Social will continue to spotlight the technologies and market forces within social business and collaboration, whereas E2 Innovate will look more broadly to what the influences of mobile, social, data and analytics mean for next generation enterprise applications. However it shakes out, BottomlineIT will be there next year.

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