Many managers are still hesitating to allow Social Media into their Organization. Social Media as we know it from Facebook and Twitter seem too futile and meaningless in an Enterprise context. This article explains how Enterprise Social Computing (ESC) in SharePoint 2013 and/or Yammer can help any organization to achieve its goals a.o. by integrating conversations into the business processes and the line-of-business applications. Particular attention is paid to the integration of ESC in workflows and Case Management solutions in SharePoint 2013 and/or Yammer.
What is User Engagement?
Most of the users we work for, especially in a SharePoint context, are of the type ‘Knowledge Workers’. The main characteristic of Knowledge Workers is that they have to interpret the information they receive and decide on how to proceed with it. In other words, Knowledge Workers are almost the opposite of routine workers.
User Engagement: Empowering business by focusing from the “user down,” not the “system up”. (Deloitte)
Over the last 10 years the focus of IT was on knowledge work (as opposed to the focus on transactional work in ERPs in the years before that). The conclusion of IT developments for Knowledge Workers was, a.o., that we need much more flexibility on one hand, and more integration on the other.
In order to do their daily job Knowledge Workers have to switch between a multitude of IT systems (from e-mail to transactional systems, from document management systems to decision support systems, etc.). That is very time-consuming and inefficient. Since recently the term ‘Systems of Engagement’ is used to identify the evolution from isolated IT systems (from an end-user’s perspective) to IT systems that interact with each other and with the user.
Basically, Systems of Engagement refers to the transition from current enterprise systems designed around discrete pieces of information (“records”) to systems which are more decentralized, incorporate technologies which encourage peer interactions, and which often leverage cloud technologies to provide the capabilities to enable those interactions (IBM).
Systems of Engagement are the opposite of Systems of Record which provide isolated islands of data.
What is Enterprise Social Computing (ESC)?
Enterprise Social Computing is the use of social networks within the Enterprise.
I almost wrote: it is the ‘Facebook for enterprises’, but then I would emphasize the main reason why Management is reluctant to introduce Social Computing in the Enterprise: the fact that it seems futile and a loss of valuable time and company resources. The next chapter will tackle that misunderstanding. First the definition.
ESC is the combination of software and behavior of employees to initiate and hold conversations in an open community of people with similar interests. The software you need to achieve this must have features like: creating interest groups and becoming member of a group, initiating a conversation, replying in a conversation, ‘liking’ messages, rewarding people for valuable input (give ‘kudos’ in ESC-speak), ‘following’ groups, tags, people or documents, having a personal portal to keep track of conversations you are following and last but not least: a search engine that allows you to find back conversations.
Enterprise Social Media is the combination of software and behavior of employees to initiate and hold conversations in an open community of people with similar interests.
In an Enterprise context 2 ESC tools are top-of-mind: Yammer and SharePoint 2013.
How to create value with Enterprise Social Computing?
Management doesn’t like Social Media. Their opinion is biased by how Social Media as they know it from Facebook and Twitter are used. They see mainly 2 reasons for not liking it: it is too much ‘me’-oriented and it is obvious that you can’t create business value with it. Can we turn these disadvantages into advantages?
Social Media: too ‘me’-oriented, and no apparent value?
Too much ‘me’-oriented? In the end every individual in an organization is responsible for executing his or her job in a correct way. So if you would be able to use the Social Computing mechanisms to support individual responsibilities, wouldn’t that be great?
ESC doesn’t create business value? There are roughly 5 ways to create business value in an organization:
1. – Increase revenue,
2. – Lower costs,
3. – Improve quality,
4. – Improve or speed-up innovation and
5. – Motivate employees.
So there is your answer: when introducing Social Media in the Enterprise, make sure to do it with the explicit intention of becoming better in one of these 5 areas.
That is all the more possible because of a fundamental property of ESC: it is an open communication mechanism. This means that you communicate with a group of people without knowing exactly who is participating in the group. This will lead very often to faster responses of higher quality (providing the participants understand your objectives). (Compare this to the more traditional way of working in which you send an e-mail to the person or people you think have an answer to your question.)
It is obvious that the success of Enterprise Social Media depends largely on the relevance of the discussions in the groups. This relevance can be increased in 2 was:
– By defining communities with a common interest
– By integrating ESC in the Line-of-Business Applications (LOB).
Communities with a common interest
It is not possible to go too deep into the discussion on a typology of Social Groups (and therefore of ESC implementations) in the context of this article. Moritz Berger of Microsoft identifies the following types of ESC:
– User-centric: this is ‘Social Media as we know it’ in which the individual can publish and promote himself; MySites is the mechanism of SharePoint for this type of ESC
– Group-centric: this is new; what if we would see ‘groups’ in the Enterprise as individuals? what if groups could promote and publish themselves; the easiest way to imagine this is to look at existing formal groups in the organization: departments, project teams, etc.
– Application-centric: what if all users of a given application would form a community on your ESC-platform?
– Marketing-centric: this is mainly the use of ESC to push information to the organization; compare it to publishing news items on the intranet, with the difference that in a ESC-context, you will be able to see the reactions of the audiences of your news items
My favorite derived type of community from this typology is Process-centric ESC in which all people working in a specific Business Process participate in a process-centric group.
Integration with LOB Applications
A second ‘condition precedent’ to the success of Social Media in the Enterprise is its integration with the Line-of-Business systems. Think of it: what is the subject employees mostly talk about in their job context? Customers, offers, products, orders, projects, etc. in other words ‘Business Objects’.
There are 2 integration directions:
– Show conversations in a ‘Business Object’-context
– Initiate a conversation from a ‘Business Object’-context.
Figure 1: 2-Way integration between ESC and LOB Application
Imagine that you could display conversations about a customer when you look at the customer data in your CRM system, or see the conversation about a Case when you look at the documents of that Case in your Case Management system: wouldn’t that be a big added value to the users?
Or imaging that when looking at a Proposal, you might want to initiate a conversation about that Proposal? But instead of having to start up your ESC-application yourself, you would be able to start the conversation from within your LOB-application: wouldn’t that be a big added value to the users?
Enterprise Social Computing in a process context
Companies create value through business processes. Core processes help an organization to bring products and services to its end-customers, while supporting processes help the organization to operate smoothly and efficiently. When describing and documenting business processes, one normally identifies only the formal steps of the process, i.e. the steps that you want to track and measure, steps that you want to integrate in software, etc. But we all know that in many information processes a lot of informal communication occurs. That informal communication is hardly ever documented in the processes: e.g. when writing the requirements for application the analyst has e-mail or telephone contact with users, but that is not documented as a separate step in the process; it is part of writing the document.
What role can ESC have in a process context? Well, ESC can support these moments of informal communication in business processes and by doing so, making them more visible and reusable.
There are 2 patterns:
– In-process Help
– Free-flow Process Step
What happens when an employee has a question about the work he is asked to execute (in process speak: when he is asked to execute an activity in a process context), e.g.: ‘Assess purchase request’? He might talk to a colleague sitting next to him, or call someone on the phone. In any case he will ask the question to someone he knows and of which he thinks that this person might have the answer.
What if this employee would post his question in an open group on the Enterprise Social Computing platform? First of all more people would be able to help AND you might get more correct and better answers! And if one would use hash tags to add some context information to the conversation, the answers could be used in the future to help other employees having the same question.
Figure 2: In-process help
A side effect is that Enterprise Social Computing can help to surface the (recurring) questions people have about their daily job (that would otherwise be buried in mailboxes or lost in telephone calls); this information can help to improve the process.
Free-flow Process Step
There are many business processes that are partly formal and partly informal. Take the example of a tendering process in which people work together on a offer after a formal decision is taken to write a proposal for an Request for Proposal (RFP) that the organization received from a customer. At some point after that decision a number of people will start to write a document together, each with a responsibility for different chapters of the document. During that writing process they will probably discuss various items with each other, without following the formalized steps of a process. Without social media those conversations would be hidden in e-mail exchange, or untraceable all together in telephone conversations.
Imagine that the conversations about the writing of the document would be held in a community group in which all the project members working on the document would participate: in such an environment all conversations would be visible to everyone now and in the future. This is especially valuable when project members work in different locations or when members join the team later in the project.
Figure 3: Free-flow Process Step
The group would continue to work informally on the document until they agree that it is ready for review and approval. At that moment, the business process would continue as a formal process with a formal approval step.
Workflow and Enterprise Social Media
In the future, workflows should embrace Enterprise Social Media and integrate with it. A typical integration function might be that whenever a workflow task is assigned to a user, a feed is written to a conversation about that workflow. That way, all group members are informed about the activity in the workflow, and conversations can be started immediately in the right context.
Another useful integration would be that a conversation can be initiated from the task screen by the user. In this case also the workflow tool can make sure to pass the right context information to the conversation feed.
Enterprise Social Computing and Case Management
Why is Enterprise Social Computing relevant in a Case Management context? Because the integration of Case Management and ESC is a perfect example of the value that can be created with Social Media in the Enterprise. Case Management is a combination of ‘Business Object’ (the Case) and ‘Business Process’ (the workflow that supports the processing of the case).
Therefore by enhancing your Case Management solutions with ESC, you create a ‘System of Engagement’:
– By displaying the ESC conversation about the Case on the Case Overview screen, you add important information to the case
– By allowing a user to initiate or participate in a ESC conversation, you make life a lot easier to him.
Social conversations add a type of information to the Case that until now remained hidden in e-mail exchanges or telephone conversations.
It is important to understand that ‘conversations’ are becoming an important piece of information in relation with the Case: they help to make the processing of the Case more efficient and more transparent, they add a type of information to the Case that until now remained hidden in e-mail exchanges or telephone conversations.
As explained in the chapter “Enterprise Social Computing in a process context” there are 2 ways to enhance the processing of a Case:
– By allowing a user to seek help via a Community
– By introducing free-flow steps into your workflow to allow flexible collaboration.
Both patterns can be implemented with SharePoint and/or Yammer resulting in a new flavor of Case Management: Social Case Management.
Social Case Management with SharePoint 2013 and Yammer
SharePoint 2013 and Yammer are the ideal technologies to implement Social Case Management. Both have integration functions that allow one to retrieve conversations related to a specific context (read ‘Business Object’) on one hand, or to post to conversations in specific groups or communities while passing the context to which the conversation element refers (read ‘Business Object’).
Enterprise Social Computing and SharePoint 2013
SharePoint 2013 has everything it takes to implement Enterprise Social Computing:
– ‘Liking’ messages
– Rewarding people for valuable input (give ‘kudos’ in ESC-speak),
– ‘Following’ groups, tags, people or documents,
– MySite: a personal portal to keep track of conversations you are following
– A powerful search engine that allows you amongst others to find back conversations on a specific context.
The development model of SharePoint also allows you to retrieve (parts of) conversations related to a given topic (tag) and display the in a different context.
The model also allows one to write to a conversation in a group from within an external context (e.g. from a LOB Application).
Enterprise Social Computing and Yammer
Yammer also has all the functions it takes to implement Enterprise Social Computing although the terminology may differ slightly:
– ‘Liking’ messages
– Rewarding people for valuable input (give ‘kudos’ in ESC-speak),
– ‘Following’ groups, tags, people or documents,
– Personal Home Page: a personal portal to keep track of conversations you are following
– A search engine to find people, groups and conversations.
In order to post information from your LOB Application to Yammer, you should use the OpenGraph mechanism taking the form of
This activity will be displayed in engaging ways to the user’s Yammer network. People in the network can click through the activity into your application.
Enterprise Social Computing can add a lot of value to an organization provided it is implemented correctly. There are 2 key success factors for a successful implementation: 1) creating meaningful groups or communities, and 2) developing a 2-way integration between ESC and your LOB Applications.
Integrating Enterprise Social Computing and Case Management is a good example of a creating a ‘System of Engagement’ to support the Knowledge Workers in their daily job, resulting in a new type of Case Management: ‘Social Case Management’.
SharePoint and Yammer are the ideal tools to enhance your Case Management with Enterprise Social Computing.
SpikesTogether, the Adaptive Case Management tool of Spikes, was extended to integrate with the Activity Feeds of SharePoint 2013. This function will become available in a next release. Read more on: www.spikestogether.com .
 Imagine f.i. a group of HR-people working in different geographical locations. The experience of a group in one location could be used by another location. This hardly ever happens in the traditional way of working.