Leveraging Enterprise Collaboration Platforms (ECPs – a.k.a. intra-social applications) to Increase Internal Collaboration, Productivity and Overall Company Performance

Part Two – Leveraging Enterprise Collaboration Platforms (ECPs – a.k.a. intra-social applications) to increase internal collaboration, productivity and overall company performance

In my previous blog, I covered the first of three mega-trends hitting the social media marketplace for large Fortune level organizations.  In this blog, I address how the use of enterprise social monitoring and intelligence platforms are helping companies leverage key insights from an array of market activity and major trends including competitor activity & weaknesses, key opinion leader sentiment/needs, regulator trends and concerns, political leader and influencer sentiment, public opinion and key issues. 

This second blog is dedicated to the second social media trend hitting corporate America that focuses on the Intra-Social Media Application or Enterprise Collaborative Platforms (ECPs). In the same format as my last blog, I will cover this subject as follows:

A) What is an ECP or intra-social application
B) What are the benefits from using an ECP
C) What are the hottest tools/applications in the marketplace
D) How do you implement an ECP capability 

A) What is an Enterprise Collaboration Platform (ECP) or Intra-Social Application?

An ECP is a social media application much like Facebook, but exists entirely behind the firewall and is designed to increase intra-corporate collaboration, decrease time to market, and enhance overall corporate productivity. In direct response to this fear of implementing a full bi-directional (conversational) social media program that might trigger a negative market reaction or a warning/fine from regulators (Life Sciences and Financial Services organizations), companies are investing heavily into this new intra-social application since it sits entirely behind the firewall and is virtually risk-free from a market faux-pas or fear of regulatory consequences (particularly true for Financial Service & Life Sciences Companies).  The following illustrates the key features and capabilities of a best-of-breed ECP or intra-social solution/platform:

Intra-Social Enterprise Collaboration Platform Key Features:
•  Social Networking at the Department Level (Intra-Social Networking)
•  Internal & Secure Social Communications System – Behind the Firewall
•  Intra-Social productivity enhancement environment including :
•  Internal Chat
•  Internal Meeting Coordination & Management
•  Internal video conferencing
•  Internal document management
•  Internal blogging, wikis, team profile (expertise) profiling and locating

Capabilities include:
•  Out-of-the-box social networking capabilities
•  Pre-integrated enterprise communications
•  Business Systems Integration
•  Content Management System Integration
•  Enterprise-grade security and policy management

B. What are the benefits – Why are companies and government agencies adopting social Intelligence capabilities?

The following list represents just a few of the benefits of implementing an ECP or intra-social application:

1) Optimized Team Building – Environment increases team visibility, sharing and collective insights, and collaborative/virtual project development

2) Increased Knowledge Sharing – Enables collaborative knowledge development and sharing near real-time

3) Integrates Communications and Business Processes – Integrates and accelerates the use of chat, video sharing, teleconferencing, blogging, video conferencing, etc.

4) Accelerated Team Performance – Facilitates real-time and interactive participation via the right team expertise

5) Fully Engages Teams and Departments – Encourages team interaction and inter-departmental cooperation on programs and projects

6) Increased Control over Intellectual and Digital Assets – Single/integrated environment for asset management

7) Accelerated Return on Existing Application Investments – Integrates and accelerates the value of existing IT investments by seamlessly integrating enterprise content management, unified communications and business management applications

‘8) ECPs allow companies to ‘cut their teeth’ on developing a social media capability without the risk of mistakes that would trigger a market or regulatory backlash. This social media indoctrination includes prototyping the following social media components:
1) Organizational Design
2) Policy and Standards
3) Process design & execution
4) Performance metrics & KPIs
5) Application standards
6) Support model and associated support structures

9) ECPs, when architected properly, can easily integrate with an external and fully bi-directional social media program

10) Companies who integrate and optimize ECPs with traditional market communications channels such as call center, web, mobile, e-mail, etc can benefit from a dramatic increase in the overall customer and stakeholder experience.

11) ECPs can dramatically increase the appetite for increased intra-organizational change and the appetite for innovation and entrepreneurialism. Complimentary to this is the need to support the implementation of an ECP with a heavy dose of change management as this implementation represents a new way of conducting business

12) The overall goal of the increased internal collaboration and productivity derived from the ECP is to decrease the time to market with products and services that have increased market relevance.

C) What are the hottest tools/applications on the ECP or Intra-Social Application market?

Almost all ECPs are relatively new to the marketplace and few software vendors have deployed to more than a several Fortune-500 level companies. 

Leading ECP Software Vendor & Tools:

* Cisco Systems – Quad. Cisco was well positioned for the intra-social market in that they had many of the existing components that are essential for a world-class ECP. Cisco already had many very capable collaboration applications such as the following:
a) Video teleconferencing and team conferencing
b) Instant chat features via their ‘Click-to-chat’ functionality
c) Instant meeting management via their ’click to meet’ functionality
d) Group management and profiling.

The Quad platform allowed them to effectively integrate these pre-existing capabilities with some additional ‘Facebook like’ features such as the following:
a) Community development and management,
b) Blogging and Wiki collaboration,
c) Team member or team activity broadcasting and management,
d) Team expertise profiling, etc. 

The integration of all of these components as well as the integration capabilities with existing corporate applications like document management, CRM system integration, social profiling for customer service and many other features brings Cisco to the forefront of ECP platform vendors and is well positioned to remain a leader in this space

* IBM – IBM Lotus Connections.  IBM was an early entrant into enterprise social tools, and this has enabled the IBM Lotus offering to remain in a leadership position.  IBM Lotus connections has many of the same features/functions as Cisco Quad such as Communities, file sharing, Wikis, team profiling, blogs, team activity tracking, home page activity and preference management, etc.  In addition to these features, the IBM offering has a Social Analytics function that facilitates the user on profiling those who might be good connections both on an individual level and community level. The IBM offering also provides mobile access to access the technology from a mobile device and also provides chat forums to share insights, ideas and concerns.

* Jive with Microsoft SharePoint & SharePoint Connector: Jive in conjunction with Microsoft SharePoint is a very powerful collaboration platform.  Jive is used as the hub for socializing and sharing content broadly across the enterprise. SharePoint can be used in conjunction with Jive with the SharePoint connector by integrating SharePoint with Jive, using SharePoint as the workflow and document storage system (what is was designed to be best at). Together, these two applications drive awareness of enterprise activities by socializing content and team activities, wherever it originates, to inform better business decisions.

* SalesForce.com – Chatter. Following on their success with their Sales application, Salesforce.com has developed a very robust intra-social ECP application called Chatter which allows all people within the company to interact and collaborate on projects. Many times the Sales Force of a company will be the first to adopt this technology due to the fact that the sales force is already using the sales application, hence is a good pilot group to pilot the intra-social application.  Similar to Cisco’s Chatter application, the features and functions are designed to maximize team interaction and collaboration so that teams can operate more efficiently by eliminating the need for many manual cycles to coordinate and conduct meetings, collaborate on documents and projects, and develop deep insights based on team specialization and expertise.

* Oracle  Beehive. Oracle Beehive is also a strong contender due to the size of the company, its existing installed base a relatively strong product line. Similar to many of the software vendors above, The Oracle Beehive product provides an integrated set of modular collaboration services including email, calendar, team workspaces, instant messaging, and conferencing.

Challenger ECP Software Vendor & Tools:

The companies below are considered challengers due to their smaller company size, relatively new entrance to the market place and/or their set of smaller customers that have their products currently installed.

* Atlassian Confluence: Atlassian’s confluence product is mostly seen as a productivity wiki tool, geared toward technology departments. However, the product is highly extensible with integrations into Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Connections.  The product is also most geared toward content sharing, discovery, creation, etc.

* Novell – VibeCloud.  The company’s acquisition of SiteScape brought the company beyond email and calendaring and more into the collaboration space. Novell has many of the futures as some of the leaders above such as document management, social messaging, conversation tracking, group & community management, etc.

* PBworks – PB Works appears to be geared to mid-sized companies in providing collaboration Software for Smaller Advertising Agencies (PB Works Agency Edition), Legal Firm, Consulting, Medical, Associations.

* Socialtext: Socialtext was best known for bringing Twitter-like status functionality to the enterprise called “signals”.  Social text has many of the same features as the leaders above, but is a smaller sized company than an IBM or Cisco.  Socialtext also provides integration with Lotus Connections and Microsoft SharePoint.

* Traction Software: Traction software is highly focused on managing projects in that their own tagline is “Social Software meets Project Management” . Forrester lauds Traction for bringing blogs and wikis to the enterprise

D) How do you implement an ECP capability – what are the steps and considerations on implementing this capability within your organization and company

Social Media Implementation & Program success requires comprehensive visioning; with stepwise implementation, guided by a roadmap and integrated project plan.  I have developed this capability for several Fortune 500 companies and the capability can be enabled via three (3) Major steps as follows (Summarized):

1) Step #1: Develop a ECP and Intra-Strategy including the following:
a) ECP  Strategy/Vision, Objectives, Business Drivers, Critical Success Factors, Community/ Forum Listening Strategy, Key Metrics & Performance Plan, Organizational Plan, Change Management Plan, Communications & Risk Management Plan, monitoring policies, governance plan
b) Put together an implementation roadmap and a centralized PMO to manage the implementation of the roadmap/ECP vision
c) Form your intra-social strategy & vision with key stakeholders

2) Step #2: Social Media Technology Platform Evaluation & Selection
a) Identify potential ECP platform & community management vendors
b) Develop Needed ECP Requirements and Capabilities
c) Perform Technology Platform Vendor Selection
d) Onboard Vendor
e) Build a techno-functional architecture to support the roadmap

3) Step #3: Develop Social Media Program Pilots & Deployment Plan
   a) Develop Pilot Project & Deployment Plan
   b) Develop ECP management processes that provide organizational confidence and exercise process excellence transparency to solidify user/stakeholder buy-in and acceptance.
   c) Develop Technology Pilots
   d) Develop  Program Pilots
   e) Invest in Organizational change management to instill solid user/stakeholder adoption
   f) Develop Organization & Process Pilots
   g) Deploy Pilots and Programs including
      1.  Center of Excellence Deployment
      2.  Multi-Channel Integration
      3.  Policies/Processes
      4.  Roles, Rules, Responsibilities
      5.  Change Management, Change Management, Change Management

That last bullet point is not a typo as I would honestly say that the #1 main key to success in implementing this type of software is an extremely capable change management program. This type of software requires a behavior change on the part of your employees and management and it won’t come easily.   I can say this with confidence – If you are not considering a heavy dose of change management as part of this implementation, your implementation is most likely going to fail!

In summary, ECPs and intra-social applications are gaining a great deal of Momentum.  Many Fortune 500 companies are either planning to implement this capability or already have.  Is your organization planning on implementing this potentially game-changing capability? If so, give me a call, I call help you achieve world-class programs that enable you to surpass your competition and bring your organization or agency to the next level of market and intra-social collaboration capability.

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