The world changed.  A boy was born in White Plains, New York in 1984 and 28 years later he would float his social networking company on the stock exchange at a point at which most people in the English-speaking world had at least heard of Facebook — if they were not in fact a personal member in their own right.

Away from Mark Zuckerberg’s not inconsiderable headline-making ability, his vision for social interconnectivity has of course permeated the business world too.  Today we see that “enterprise social platforms” are now an important element in the IT-driven business transformation journey that firms of all sizes currently find themselves travelling on.

The social (enterprise) network is impacting firms’ IT procurement and deployment decisions at the front end and in the back office at the same time.


Always-on, on-demand & in-the-moment

This means that while CIOs look to create a more always-on, on-demand and in-the-moment business through existing customer-facing channels underpinned by an ultra-responsive web presence, there will also be a need to engineer greater automation and intelligence into the server-side element of the company’s total IT stack — whether those servers are virtualised and cloud-based or more physical and on-premise in nature.

At the coalface then (or the “desktop” at least) we are seeing these technologies start to impact corporate frameworks so that departmental, functional and process-driven business silos are broken down and interconnected to a new degree.

Does this all sound a little conceptual in approach?  It need not do, HP Labs Israel’s ‘HP Collective’ research project is intended to give employees “automatic and complete” access to their entire organisation’s knowledge-base to drive faster and better decision making, with no data entry required.

Key to constructing this type of information share technology is software engineering designed to make the system “context aware” throughout.  This means that the enterprise social network has automated controls to connect people with colleagues and content “internally” — and so expenditure on external consultancy, data and professional services of all kinds are minimised.


Advanced analytics algorithms

Marketing men and publicity spin doctors are fond of wrapping these technologies up in a warm fuzzy coating to talk about “employee empowerment” and “business visibility”.  You might prefer a more considered purist approach where we state that this is an opportunity for the firm to leverage the use of advanced analytics algorithms to tune the commercial engine that drives bottom line profits.

Or to put it another way, the CIO has an opportunity to tune the corporate data bank towards a more positive business outcome and please the rest of the board.

Enterprise-class social platforms should typically include:

  • Real time communication and messaging applications
  • Group chat options
  • Screen sharing and video presence
  • Collaborative workflow capabilities
  • Knowledge management power
  • An ability to “monetise” the functionality of the above and more

So how do we make this happen?  How do we bring these changes to bear within organisations that still need to sustain a 24×7 multinational business operation?  It’s a “leap of faith” in some respects as the migration to more automated business intelligence inside cloud-driven computing environments very typically brings with it inherent advances in agility.  This happens at the same time as IT resources at the infrastructural level start to converge more directly so that they can be optimised (and generally also measured) more accurately.

This, in a very real sense, is what so-called “application modernisation” really means in the real world.


The social enterprise raison d’être

So the enterprise social network exists with a clearly defined goal and raison d’être i.e. to champion the “preservation and promulgation” of intellectual property as the business collaborates toward great commercial success.  If this is achieved then the business works better, faster, smarter and more intelligently overall.

In an ideal deployment scenario users feel personally empowered, departmental managers witness information empowerment and the market starts to see the business edge forward as an empowered brand leader in its field.

If we get this right, there is a virtuous circle to be fuelled here and the technologies do exist now to make this happen.  Facebook went public, so (if it hasn’t already) when will your company?