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Social Business Software (SBS) is not a new technology or concept, but while adoption has been slow and hesitant in some regions in the past, the true benefit and collaboration possibilities that it provides have come to the fore and as a result more and more companies are turning to SBS to improve their productivity, communication with obvious bottom-line improvements. As a result, we have also seen more players entering the industry with Facebook at Work becoming the new kid on the enterprise social software block. But will the largest social media platform in the world with over 1.3-billion subscribers be able to replicate its success within businesses? Time will tell whether companies can trust Facebook with their proprietary data.
SBS’s main objective is to improve productivity through collaboration and breaking down silos in the constantly changing business environment. It enables companies to streamline business processes and communication among employees – enabling good ideas to come to the fore in a closed community. Additionally, it allows only employees who have been invited into the community to participate and accelerate innovation through effective collaboration
Trust will be Facebook’s biggest challenge, a fundamental factor when it comes to social business. Facebook’s current model involves mining data to give the user a more intuitive and immersive experience. They do this by tracking web activity and behaviour which allows a level of access that some would see as overstepping privacy rights. Personally from the conversations we’ve had with corporates and our experience in dealing with highly sophisticated data networks, I don’t think enterprises will be comfortable with Facebook having access to proprietary information, the risk for them is too big. Time will tell how Facebook plans to address this.
With that said, this announcement has certainly heightened the awareness of SBS and as Africa lags the more developed markets, the attention is good for the industry at large – and local providers.
Service providers in the SBS world include general SaaS providers that offer a platform with variable capabilities depending on the per user license fee you pay. This largely appeals to smaller more tech savvy companies that are happy to plug, play and discover. Others offer purely professional services to guide strategies and then there are those that offer the complete eco-system from strategy through to implementation, community support and a collaboration platform. In our experience, Corporate SA is open to SBS but they want a customised experience. The system and strategy needs to support their existing tech environment and there’s a lot of work that goes into aligning the strategy with business processes and team structures, not to mention the work that goes into assessing and addressing the cultural impact a SBS solution creates which is fundamental to any implementation and overall purpose for the community.
Having said that, what cannot be ignored in the business environment is that there is an increasing number of GenYers entering the workplace. They’ve grown up with social media and are more familiar with communities such as these than through email. They’re networking, connecting, and communicating all the time. Sharing news, views, knowledge and experiences and expecting the same in return. This turns corporate communications on its head.
One critical factor in our favour has been the focus on unique attributes of our market – an emerging one where connectivity is still a luxury, phones are not all smart and upgrades to the latest software versions and operating systems are not no-brainers. If your product is going to appeal then you best make it compatible. Combining an enterprise collaboration system with a workforce solution for companies that employ en masse is like gold – you open up the channels of communication, enable direct feedback, get on top of issues before they become disasters and cut down on costs and cumbersome processes.
SBS providers will come and go (not least of which through Mergers & Acquisitions), but those that will capture the hearts and minds of the business world are those that have a clear understanding of their purpose and the success they enable for their customers.