What Comes After Enterprise Social Networking? Business Networking

Brad Shimmin
Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • Enterprise social networking is nothing more than a passing fancy, at least in terms of describing the idea of collaboration.
  • For a view into what will follow, we need look no further than our own corporate priorities and the manner in which vendors seek to meet those priorities.

Language is a slippery customer. We mold and evolve words and phrases to meet our expectations of how the world works at any given time. For that reason, words and phrases come and go, depending upon whether or not they fulfill this need. And as I’ve been informed, many of the beloved words from my youth are no longer meaningful, words like preppie, hoser, rad, tubular and of course groupware.

I’m including groupware in that list because I truly do lament its disappearance from the active technology lexicon.  Its idea of bringing together people by means of a network and software built to tackle a given task was spot on for the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the language we currently use as its replacement, phrases such as enterprise social software, social networking, et al. These work quite well to describe the current marketplace. But their rise to supremacy and the demise of words like groupware should remind us that we have and will again change our expectations — and the language we use to describe those — to match an ever changing market landscape.

We need therefore to brace ourselves for the inevitable overthrow of enterprise social networking. I’m not sure what we will replace it with, mind you, or when such language will fall out of favor, but if recent history is any indication, we will soon find a new means of expressing our priorities for collaboration in the enterprise. Perhaps that understanding will reflect our emerging understanding of the important role played by data, analytics, and line of business applications in driving truly effective collaboration. Perhaps that understanding will reflect the inevitable but painfully slow progression toward converged, real time and asynchronous collaboration. Who knows? My guess is we’ll see a deepening preference for business outcomes – maybe enterprise business networking, to re-coin a phrase.

From my vantage point as an industry analyst, what I see is a rapidly maturing vendor landscape. Enterprise social networking vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, Jive, Cisco and others are architecting their products not so much as solutions but rather as extensible platforms capable of melding into established business processes and drawing actionable intelligence out of existing corporate data stores. Certainly social networking does and will continue to play an important, even perhaps dominant organizing role in these endeavors. But one thing is certain. These solutions, as Bob Dylan once said, “they are a-changin’” to meet our evolving priorities and expectations.

What do you think?

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