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Jive exec says social enterprise collaboration software is good for IT

Jive’s chief social scientist says social enterprise collaboration software can make life easier for IT pros. But too much focus on the technology itself isn’t good, either.

As end users grow disenchanted by traditional enterprise collaboration platforms, more organizations are taking a look at social alternatives.

Social enterprise collaboration software lets businesses bring their internal systems into the age of Facebook, with the goal of making employees more engaged (and therefore more productive). IBM, Microsoft and other traditional enterprise vendors are adding more social features to their collaboration platforms, and startups such as Jive Software and VMware’s Socialcast are trying to challenge them with a social-first approach.

Jive’s Engage platform, for example, creates an online portal where employees can share documents and information, communicate with each other in real time and access enterprise apps without having to log in to each one separately. It also lets users create Facebook-like profiles -- complete with privacy controls -- as an alternative to traditional company directories.

At last week’s GigaOM Net:Work conference, Jive’s chief social scientist, David Gutelius, talked with about the pros and cons of social enterprise collaboration software, the state of the market and how these technologies will affect corporate IT.

Q: What are some of the common mistakes that enterprises make when implementing or trying to implement social collaboration?

David Gutelius: One of the biggest mistakes…. is thinking technology is somehow the solution, rather than what technology can enable inside of a real, human community. ... A lot of times IT is running procurement options for new tech, and their directive is, “OK, you guys are the tech guys. Go get us some tech to solve this problem.” … If that technology doesn’t closely match what the challenges are inside of that enterprise, there’s a mismatch there. And you’re not going to get … the kind of problem-solving capability that enterprises need.

Q: How should organizations be looking to add that capability?

DG: Software that learns to adapt itself to the particular problems that a given enterprise has. And those will shift. Some enterprises will have a problem that they need to solve with customer service or sales or just generally coming up with new ideas amongst themselves. There are lots of different potential solutions to that from a feature point of view, but regardless of what you choose there, the underlying platform should enable higher-order interaction. It’s not simply throwing people together. It’s throwing the right people together. And hopefully it’s not throwing people together, it’s attracting them.

Q: What’s the incentive for IT to say, “OK, this is something I want to implement in my organization” and how will it affect their jobs?

DG: It starts to make their jobs a whole lot easier. They’re not trying to be moderators. They’re not trying to be community managers. If they do this the right way, a lot of that burden gets taken off IT, and they can concentrate on what they do best, which is maintaining systems. The other thing from an IT management point of view is, if we can create this kind of capability, it starts to simplify the IT infrastructure. … That social platform starts to take the place of other disparate systems.

Q: Are there certain kinds of companies that are more open to adopting social collaboration?

DG: We’ve got representatives from every conceivable vertical out there. We’ve got a lot of the likely suspects: the technology companies that tend to be a little bit more out on the forefront. … But it’s by no means limited.

Q: Some companies take an enterprise-first approach to consumerization; others started as more focused on the end user but are now going after business customers. What are the pros and cons of each approach, and how do you see that shaking out?

DG: It’s about the business value you get. … What we see out there right now, industry-wide, is, “Can we get the check-box features in place so we can tell a story around social?” And that’s really not what it’s about.

Q: How does an organization get user buy-in?

DG: It’s about whether the individuals in that community learn to trust what’s happening there, learn to trust what’s happening in the community, and if that’s the case, learn to trust the system itself and how it’s performing. That will get them back, because that will be the proof that they’re driving some value out of the community.

Colin Steele is senior site editor of Email him and follow him on Twitter @colinsteele.

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