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Analytics Magazine

Welcome to the ‘worksocial’ world

January/February 2013

Beyond Facebook: New approach, technology blends data, process and collaboration for better, faster organizational decision-making.

Samir GulatiBy Samir Gulati

The pervasive influence of Facebook in the consumer market has prompted a rising tide of “enterprise social platforms” trying to bring social media into the workplace. Almost all the market entrants taking advantage of this trend are missing the point. The golden ticket for business value is not bringing external social media into the workplace. It is bringing work into the realm of social technology.

What comes after Facebook is an approach and technology increasingly known as “worksocial.” Worksocial starts with the processes and data that drive the business, and overlays the innovations of social collaboration and mobile access directly over those business engines.

Building on BPM

Enterprise information technology (IT) exists to improve how work functions are performed. From e-mail and calendaring applications to large enterprise software systems, the goal of technology is to make business information available to the people who need it to do their jobs.

These systems include enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), business intelligence (BI), databases and data warehousing, network infrastructure and middleware and a host of others too extensive to list here. Over the past 10 years or so, business process management (BPM) software has gained considerable attention because it extends this concept to the automation and improvement of the actual business processes that are executed against that enterprise data. More recently, the most advanced BPM suite technologies have worked to bridge the gap between the “what” and “how” by incorporating both data and process. Taken in total, these two components define what “work” is, covering both structured straight-through processing (STP) and unstructured knowledge work.

The recent advent of the social and mobile revolution in IT has brought these problems even more clearly into focus. Now, social and mobile capabilities in the enterprise can either exacerbate the problems or finally provide a solution that takes IT and business into a new world of effectiveness and opportunity. It all depends on whether they embrace the game-changing worksocial approach.

Persistent Problems

In addition to major ERP, CRM, BI and other systems, the typical company has deployed hosts of smaller packaged and custom applications across its various departments. Depending on the size of the company, that number could be in the hundreds or even the thousands for global organizations.

This level of application sprawl is expensive and divisive. Every one of the applications must be individually maintained, monitored, customized and upgraded by IT. The average IT department spends almost 90 percent of its annual budget maintaining and enhancing existing system, simply “keeping the lights on.” That leaves only about 10 percent for the innovation required to deliver new solutions to the business.

Samir GulatiWhat’s more, most of those hundreds or thousands of applications do not play well together. They don’t cross departmental boundaries. They aren’t visible to a wide range of employees. They don’t share data. This can be detrimental to business performance. End-to-end business processes that touch multiple systems and departments cannot be seen and managed in total. Employees that could potentially add value to drive better business outcomes are excluded. Data inconsistencies wreak havoc on the employee and customer experience.

The divisiveness of application sprawl manifests itself directly in the “state of separation” that characterizes today’s enterprise. Complaints about “application silos” are not new, but the pain arising from these silos is becoming more acute.

If employees across an organization cannot see important business events that arise in disparate enterprise systems, poor decisions get made. A sales person attempting a customer up-sell will be hard-pressed to achieve success if she isn’t aware of the trouble ticket that customer submitted last week … and escalated that morning due to inaction. If employees cannot collaborate with the users of other systems, valuable insights are lost.

When subject matter experts and employees with particular insight into a given issue are excluded from collaboration, the resulting business action will be less than optimal. If the organization cannot provide a consistent, high-quality customer experience due to the siloed nature of data and systems, customer churn increases and revenue decreases.

This separation affects an organization’s ability to operate at the speed of success. The typical nature of a complete business process today is a point of action followed by a delay, and a subsequent point of action followed by another delay, with the cycle repeated until the full process is finally executed. These rampant spans of inaction manifest in market delays and operational delays.

Market delays can be highly visible to the outside world. New product introduction is a prime example. When you are late to market with a new product, customers can see it and won’t be happy. Competitors can see it, too. They will pounce on your customer base, touting the superior qualities and capabilities of their already-available new product. On the flip side, delays in your ability to react to competitive changes will cause you to miss new opportunities, or worse, put you behind the competitive eight ball.

The Worksocial Connection

Typical enterprise social platforms deliver better communication – but communication about what? They don’t hear about or post system-generated business events in real-time. They don’t track collaboration in the context of an auditable business process. They are no better than e-mail at enforcing business rules, ensuring quality task completion and measuring process improvement. Where’s the highly touted social advantage?
Worksocial starts with the processes and data that drive the business, and overlays the innovations of social collaboration and mobile access directly over those business engines. The best business outcomes are achieved when everyone swarms to collaborate and resolve a business event without losing process context and secure governance.

Worksocial changes each individual business decision point into an immediate “collaboration moment.” Business action is then taken right from the same social interface, no matter what underlying software applications are required, with no additional manual effort.

Take the insurance industry as an example. A system-generated feed post of a high-value customer’s claim rejection – seen simultaneously by the head of the business unit, his staff and the independent agent who brought in the customer – will spur action, provide a place for collaboration and enable rapid response all in the same interface. In that case, bringing work into a social environment reduces the chance of the customer taking his business elsewhere. Add mobility to the mix, where those alerts are visible and accessible from any smartphone, tablet or laptop, and you begin to understand the transformative power of worksocial for business.

Worksocial drives business value by automatically structuring, recording and governing social collaboration with process context – bridging the worlds of structured enterprise processes with collaboration. It brings social collaboration into business context, enabling measurement of how collaborations rendered results.

Analysts are closely following this trend. Anthony Bradley, a group vice president at Gartner, advocates combining social media and business process transformation to drive organizational success. Doing so, Bradley says, allows companies to leverage the massive reach and influence of social media, while maintaining an open channel for communication and collaboration. People and social process included in a peer-to-peer network structure take actions faster than in a top-down approach, he maintains.

Gateway to the App Internet

The value an organization can realize today through worksocial is clear:

  1. Measurements and visibility. Worksocial brings measurable meaning to social collaborations and their impact on work.
  2. Access. Not only access to any corporate data, but also access to open conversation strings and from any device (mobile, tablets and desktop/laptops).
  3. Efficiency. The overall experience of integrated social collaboration and work in a single user experience and from any device drives measurable efficiency gains throughout the enterprise.

What may be less obvious about worksocial is its importance as a gateway to future evolutions in how work is done and how IT supports it. IT industry thinkers talk about a concept called “The App Internet.” Instead of thinking about the Internet bringing you to a discrete “location” where you download a discrete “thing” (a product, a service or a specific piece of information) onto a device, imagine a world where everything you need and want is floating in the ether all around you, and you simply grab those things – or pieces of those things – at any time, use them as you need them, and then let them float back into your orbit.

Heady stuff, but it is in essence what the industry is delivering today in terms of how an organization’s employees can access and make use of the various applications and application components they need to do their jobs. Worksocial is the tipping point, the conflation of BPM and enterprise social platforms in a way that sets the stage for the future of business analytics, collaboration, process and business value.

Samir Gulati ( is the vice president of marketing at Appian Corporation, an innovative leader in the BPM software market. Previously, Gulati served as vice president of global marketing for Pegasystems, a large, publicly traded software company. He holds a master’s degree in computer science from University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from University of Chicago.

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