We’re hearing a lot about Social Business lately, especially with the emergence of social business platforms like Connections from IBM Lotus. Social business platforms like Connections provide an enterprise and its partners a “visible” social network in the same manner that consumer social networks like Facebook do. These social business platforms provide the basic social business framework for collaboration.
However, there is a big difference between social networking (Facebook) and social business – context. When you use Facebook, the context is your life, and Facebook is not very good at letting you “compartmentalize” or “categorize” your life. Essentially, if you’ve got a Facebook friend, they’re going to be a part of whatever you post on Facebook.
When you are at work, you operate in multiple disparate contexts, whether via a number of projects, or roles, or teams. Social Business requires the concept of context, which is where social business applications come in to play.
Social business platforms provide the potential for contextual collaboration. Many provide the ability to create simple collaborative spaces for a context. However, business contexts are highly specialized, and custom social business applications, such as Social Project Management, and Social CRM provide far more powerful contextual collaboration than a simple “space”.
Social Business applications like Social Project Management are customized contexts for social collaboration. They depend on the presence of a social business platform, and they add value to the social business platform by providing another “reason” for users to engage with the platform. As more users engage with the platform, from whatever context, the social business platform gains value.
To illustrate, Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. Social Business platforms seem to follow this same curve. However, with social business applications, the value of the platform is multiplied again by the number of contexts within which the users engage on the platform.
Social Business Applications are the value multiplier of social business platforms. They provide new reasons for users to engage with the platform, and they provide value above and beyond traditional versions of applications for all the reasons that social business platforms provide value – they connect the right resources (inside and outside of teams ) in order to get work done more efficiently and effectively.