Alan Lepofsky (Vice President and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, Inc.) discussed some of the challenges facing social software and how to address information overload. His excellent slides are available on Slideshare. You can reach him on Twitter: @alanlepo.
[These are my notes from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference 2012 in Boston. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]
- We’ve Been Chasing the Shiny New Toy.20 years ago, we thought that email would be the answer to all our problems. We were wrong. Then we thought it would be Knowledge Management. Now many work places won’t let you even mention knowledge management or KM publicly. Then we thought it would be portals. Not so much. Finally, we’ve pinned our hopes on social technology. How long do we think that will last???
- Navigating Activity Streams.We thought that surfacing activity streams would increase transparency. The concept was that by consolidating everyone’s information in one place, all of us would be smarter. Unfortunately, we’ve been drowning in information. After all, if you can’t handle your own email inbox, how can you ever hope to manage the “social inbox” that includes everyone’s information?
- What’s the Solution? Filter that Activity Stream. We can filter our stream by person, by group, by tags/topics, by key word or phrase, by time, or most importantly, by what most needs my attention. Tibbr allows you to create custom filters. Jive lets you to filter using a drag and drop function. Filters like these allow you to create custom streams. However, vendors tell us that most users rely on the default settings and don’t customize their interface. So it’s important that the vendors fine tune the algorithms. Alan thinks that Zite has found a great way to adjust what you’re seeing by allowing you to ask it to “show me more from….”
- Another Solution is to Organize into ListsGoogle Plus has done a good job of letting users to filter by individually created lists (e.g., Circles). Similarly, Facebook and Twitter have lists. However, in order to benefit from this, each user needs to set these lists up themselves. That may be more work than some are willing to invest. However, lists organized by people don’t always talk about the topics you care about. Therefore, it would be helpful to organize activity streams by interests, by topics.
- How to Manage Activity Streams.(1) Don’t put stuff in a stream that doesn’t belong there. (2) Implement a user interface that allows users to aggregate multiple streams (e.g., Tweetdeck or Hootsuite). (3) Organize content via lists. (4) Provide several notification options. (5) Manual filtering. (6) Automated filtering via analytics. (7) Showing what’s hot, what’s trending. (8) Crowd-sourced curation: taking advantage of the liking or flagging or tagging that your friends and colleagues do.
- Aggregated Social versus Integrated Social. There are unstructured business process such as status updates, sharing, Q&A, exception handling and expertise location. However, organizations also have structured business processes that work well and shouldn’t be jettisoned (e.g., Sales, HR, Markteing, Supply Chain, Engineering, Learning, Suport/Service.) If would be great if you could add a social layer to those structured business process and their existing tools. One approach is to put everything onto a social platform that aggregates all activity streams and business processes and displays them through a dashboard. This surfaces information to a wide audience and it enables discussion. However, this approach typically just links by to the system of record. It doesn’t embed the object. One solution is the “embedded experiences” approach (e.g., IBM Connections lets you see an object in a stream rather than forcing you to the underlying silo or tool). A different approach is social integration inside core business applications. For example, you add a social layer to well-established business tools (e.g., SAP), so the user does not need to skip back and forth between the application they work in most often and the company intranet/blog/wiki.
- What About Me??? When users log in, they want to see what they individually created, what they commented on, what they have “liked,” what I should be working on next. Take a look at likeabilitee — it’s a new tool for Facebook that allows a user to see materials according to what’s important to that user. It literally puts the user at the center graphically and show the user what resonated most with their network. Cisco is doing something similar. It allows you to sort materials based on what the user added/shared, the things people commented on, etc.
- Social Task Management. This issue focuses on helping users figure out what to do first, what tasks need to be completed. Several vendors are working on solutions that range from standalone functionality (e.g., you have to go to the vendor’s site to log tasks) to functionality that is embedded in social software. Some file sharing tools have added a task management layer that allows you to place work flow around the content you are sharing.
- Requirements of Task Management. Projects/milestons, repeatable tasks, commenting, workflow/dependences, etc. Imagine if this was integrated with your HR system. Wouldn’t that make it easier to generate periodic reviews? What if task management was integrated with the Finance system? Would that help capture billable tasks better?
- What’s Next? Sentiment analysis that helps you understand which of your employees are happy or disengaged, which ones are a flight risk. Big Data should be able to improve recommendations and search results.