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Unveiling the Social Enterprise

david baum

Astute CIOs are combining social media and networking tools to boost productivity and enhance collaboration among employees, partners, and customers.
By David Baum

Astute CIOs are getting in front of the social business wave by promoting innovative new technologies and services. Their charter is clear: to create an engaging user experience that integrates yesterday’s enterprise applications with today’s social business tools. Social business is more than just a technology; it’s a complete business strategy that creates an enterprisewide culture of interaction and collaboration. Social business tools and applications enable employees to connect easily, solve problems faster, engage customers in more-personalized experiences, and create valuable services with partners to rapidly expand and extend their organization’s reach.

Social business tools and applications allow employees to connect easily, solve problems faster, engage customers with more-targeted and personalized experiences, and create valuable services with partners to rapidly expand and extend their organization’s reach. CIOs are more than just senior technologists in these ventures. They must create an online culture that breaks down boundaries and transforms rigid business processes. By orchestrating new modes of interaction, they help employees, customers, and partners tap into a real-time flow of information that boosts revenue and creates more-personalized and rewarding customer experiences.

Whether a team needs to resolve a complex customer support issue or approve a multidepartmental budget, social business tools help people collaborate and access information in the context of their everyday tasks. Users don’t have to switch from one software environment to another to connect and add value to a multifaceted business process or activity. These tools preserve the context and history of previous interactions and let people navigate, discover, and interact, streamlining essential business processes.

As part of a natural progression from Web 2.0 technologies and Enterprise 2.0 portals, social business frameworks facilitate collaboration via online conversations and activity streams. In Forrester's "Social Enterprise Apps Redefine Collaboration," it states that this new generation of social applications “will finally deliver the productivity businesses desire by systematically grouping and rating people, information, and processes required to answer business needs.” By creating a social layer between workers and a communications infrastructure, social enterprise applications will “overcome the adoption malaise” that affected the first generation of unified communications and collaboration platforms.

Consider MINI, an automobile manufacturer that uses social business techniques to captivate users during the car-buying process, as well as to create an online community fueled by multiple engagement channels. Instead of visiting a dealership to select a MINI Cooper from the lot, MINI’s online service enables buyers to design and preview the car of their dreams as part of a compelling rich media experience. Customers continue to interact with MINI during the manufacturing, shipping, and delivery process. Once they take possession of their new vehicle, they enjoy mobile applications for roadside assistance, intercustomer communication, and other experiences that reinforce the MINI brand.

Social Upheaval
For most companies, social business began on the sidelines as employees became active users of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media services. With the rise of these popular communities, the Web itself began to change and evolve. Web 2.0 sites that include blogs, wikis, mashups, and all sorts of user-defined content became commonplace, and people started demanding this level of convenience and interactivity from the applications they use at the office. They also wanted to interact using popular mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad, Android, and BlackBerry.

Today these rapidly evolving social paradigms have taken hold of enterprise applications. In a recent InfoWorld reader poll conducted on behalf of Oracle, 7 out of 10 respondents indicated that the delivery of Web 2.0 user experiences to all constituents—employees, partners, and customers—is an important part of their strategic roadmaps. According to Forrester, the market for social enterprise applications and related services will see a compound annual growth rate of 61 percent, to become a US$6.4 billion market in 2016.

Efforts to engage employees pay off. AON Hewitt research shows that organizations with high levels of engagement outperform the total stock market index. These companies posted total shareholder returns 22% higher than average in 2010.

For example, an Oracle customer that had grown tremendously via acquisitions created a World of Workplace portal that helps employees find and connect with each other across departments and business divisions, as well as stay informed about projects and activities in the workplace. The portal has boosted productivity, increased employee retention, and ensured a more-cohesive experience for customers and partners.

Many industry experts see the progression to social business as a fait accompli, with or without assistance from the IT department. But astute CIOs are getting in front of the social business wave and driving their organizations forward by promoting innovative technologies and ideas. Their charter is clear: to create a modern user experience that integrates yesterday’s enterprise applications with today’s social business tools to make common tasks easier and more effective. “CIOs are at a crossroads,” notes Nigel Fenwick, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “They can either choose to lead IT toward social business maturity or sit back and watch as the rest of the organization pushes ahead, leaving IT in social business obscurity.”

As companies are attempting to respond to this relentless “consumerization of IT,” many CIOs have been frustrated with the limited options available to them. They can acquire point solutions from multiple vendors and try to integrate them. They can build custom solutions to meet each specific requirement. Or they can try to scale departmental solutions to work for the enterprise as a whole. Each of these options is difficult, expensive, and compounded by implementation challenges including compatibility issues and a lack of developer skills. Fortunately, Oracle has a better way.

Leading the Charge
Oracle offers a comprehensive solution for enterprise collaboration that reflects today’s proven social models, preserves the context of familiar tasks, remembers the history of group interactions, and enables a widening set of participants—with each member using their chosen type of device and media, including iPad, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. It leverages several key solutions from Oracle Fusion Middleware, most notably Oracle WebCenter, a user engagement platform that integrates collaboration services with portals, composite applications, enterprise content management, and Web experience management capabilities.

Oracle WebCenter provides a framework for building composite applications that are tightly integrated with enterprise applications, and leverages a best-in-class enterprise content management infrastructure. It has four pillars that have been architected together to deliver optimal engagement for customers, employees, and partners:

  • Portals and composite applications
  • Sites
  • Social networking and collaboration
  • Content management

It’s easy to create communities, assemble composite applications, and connect people with critical information using Oracle WebCenter. Oracle WebCenter also lets you embed social computing services such as wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, discussion forums, tags, links, social networking capabilities, and activity streams directly into enterprise applications.

The solution enables a secure platform for enterprise collaboration on a wide variety of tasks, such as preparing a presentation with multiple authors, updating a sales forecast, resolving a customer problem, or reconciling general ledger entries (see Figure 1).

Oracle social network

Figure 1. Oracle Social Network encourages enterprise collaboration using fully integrated social tools.

Gartner places Oracle

Figure 2. Gartner places Oracle in the Leaders section of its Magic Quadrant for enterprise content management, Web content management, and horizontal portals.

“ ... a new generation of social enterprise apps will finally deliver the productivity businesses desire by systematically grouping and rating people, information, and processes required to answer business needs. By creating a social layer between information workers and the applications and communications infrastructure, social enterprise apps will overcome the adoption malaise that has affected unified communications and collaboration platforms.”—Henry Dewing, Forrester Research

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