Moving Immersive Collaboration Forward

Today we are making not one but TWO major announcements, each of which represents the most important product announcements Teleplace has made to date. In fact, these may be the most important announcements made in the immersive enterprise collaboration space ever.

First, today we’re announcing a new product called Teleplace Connect. Years in the making, Teleplace Connect unifies the two worlds of enterprise collaboration and enterprise communication within a true multi-user platform. The vision behind Teleplace Connect is to provide teams with seamless, multi-user access to the entire spectrum of communication and collaboration technologies and business applications deployed across their enterprise, making these systems and technologies available in the flow of their daily activities.

We’re also announcing the initiation of a new open source project called OpenQwaq. Long-time followers of Teleplace will recognize the name Qwaq as the former name of our company. The code made available through OpenQwaq is equivalent to that currently used in our commercially available Teleplace product—a highly secure, immersive, enterprise-class, real-time virtual collaboration solution used by thousands of users across hundreds of enterprises worldwide. OpenQwaq is available for download and deployment completely free of charge, supported by our entire community of engineers, business partners, and end users.

Each of these announcements on its own represents a tremendous leap forward in enterprise collaboration. Combined, we believe these new offerings will completely reshape the use of immersive technology in the enterprise.

Admittedly, immersive technology has thus far failed to live up to the vision of some of its early advocates and visionaries. Reflecting some of those expectations, I recall a senior analyst at a well-known IT consulting firm once telling me he was certain that Second Life would beat out Facebook as the preferred platform for Web-based social interaction among consumers. That prediction was made in 2007, and he was just one of many who thought consumers would prefer 3D gaming environments over text and pictures when interacting with their friends over the Web. Online multi-user gaming was exploding at the time, and why wouldn’t users prefer a UI that more closely simulated the real world?

By the end of 2010, that analyst admitted he had been completely wrong. “In the end,” he said, “text and pictures won.”

But I think we should stop using war analogies when it comes to describing the business of technology. Winning and losing imply permanence. When it comes to high tech, there is no permanence. Just ask Microsoft and Apple.

Technology adoption is much better understood—and predicted — in the context of how it’s being used. When it comes to immersive technology, online gaming is a great example. I recently observed a group of kids playing a game with each other over the Internet using Xbox Live. These kids had never actually met in person. They lived thousands of miles apart. But the interaction between them was little different from what would have taken place had they been playing in their own backyard. It was highly interactive. There was a lot of shouting, with a few gestures thrown in for good measure. It was structured yet unpredictable. It demanded tremendous focus. The strengths and weaknesses of each of the players were readily apparent. Peer pressure was rampant. There was a clear pecking order, and alliances ended up separating the winners from the losers. In the end, it was a shared experience—not an individual one — and that’s what made it feel highly social even though the users were thousands of miles apart.

What I observed that day was far different from how those same kids interact on Facebook. Though we call Facebook a social network, social networking is not a good contextual description of how it’s used. Facebook is more like a hole in the fence of your backyard allowing you and your neighbor to peek in on each other from time to time. It’s certainly not about shared experiences at all. At its core, the Facebook experience is a clever amalgamation of voyeurism and narcissism. It’s either all about me or it’s about what I’m going to discover about you.

Of course, neither narcissism nor voyeurism is encouraged at work, and that may be why the concept of “Facebook for the Enterprise” has never really taken off. CEOs understand the concept of Facebook, but they struggle to see how it’s appropriate in the context of work.

Group interaction in the context of work has a lot more in common with what I observed in those kids playing Xbox Live than it does with Facebook. Work-based collaboration is highly interactive. It often involves a lot of talking and gesturing. It’s structured yet unpredictable at times. It demands focus. The strengths and weaknesses of other people are readily apparent. Peer pressure is rampant, and there’s always a pecking order—both formal and informal. Alliances often separate the winners from the losers. And in the end, it’s a shared experience and a shared outcome, not an individual one.

Though I’m a veteran of the social business software market, I’m convinced now more than ever that the asynchronous collaboration technologies most often associated with social business software will continue to fall far short of what’s needed for distributed enterprise collaboration. Those technologies are inappropriate for the context. Workers need technology solutions that more closely replicate how they interact in person. They need ways to make distance irrelevant without losing intimacy.  They need tools that enhance, instead of interrupt, the flow of their daily activities.

Though some very interesting products, such as what we have been offering at Teleplace, have attempted to deliver against these requirements, it’s clear that a lot more needs to be done. More people need to be exposed to the technology. More people need to add their insights about how the technology needs to evolve. A platform needs to emerge that can be embraced by a broad community of developers, users, and solution providers that collectively have full confidence that the platform will continue to be enhanced for a long time to come. And that’s why we decided to initiate OpenQwaq. We have decided to provide the world’s first enterprise-focused, fully functional, tightly integrated, commercial grade, AND completely free of charge immersive collaboration platform in the market. See for yourself by downloading it at http://code.google.com/p/openqwaq/.

In addition to the need for a freely available commercial-grade immersive collaboration platform, it’s equally clear there are too many redundant and competing communication and collaboration technologies being used within each enterprise. Communication and collaboration can never be unified until the individual components are first standardized. But standardization can be tough to pull off. Text messaging is a great example. Skype, Sametime, Lynx, Twitter, Facebook, WebEx, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN, Google Talk, Yelp–the list of choices goes on and on. Which one should you use when you want to quickly chat with a colleague at work? Nobody ever seems to know. While this broad selection may be fine for personal communication, it’s not okay for enterprises. Enterprises need to deal with compliance laws and retention policies. They need to apply security and access controls. Management needs to be able to measure and monitor what’s going on. And workers need to be able to easily find and connect with each other. They shouldn’t have to know what technology they should be using. It should be seamlessly and instantaneously presented within the flow of their daily activities. It turns out the technologies best suited to do that have more in common with Xbox Live than with Facebook.

At Teleplace, we have been offering a solution that effectively demonstrates how this should work. It includes all of the required communication and collaboration technology components – voice, video, chat, documents, applications, social media, laser pointers, digitized meeting artifacts, activity streams, and so on. It’s all there, tightly integrated, highly secure, and performance optimized. But in some ways it competes with the other communication and collaboration standards in an enterprise. That’s why we developed Teleplace Connect. What’s different with Teleplace Connect is that we’re now allowing customers to plug in their own standard components. And we’re making it all accessible from within a browser (or from within an app on a mobile device). Yes, you read that correctly.  Teleplace Connect runs in a Web browser!

We’re kicking off the plug-and-play integration capabilities of Teleplace Connect with “out of the box” support for SharePoint and other native Windows applications. A SharePoint Team Site can now become an entry point into a Teleplace virtual workspace. People, permissions, identity, and content flow seamlessly between the two systems. Any native Windows or Web-based application can now be presented within Teleplace Connect, and all users present in a virtual workspace have multi-user access to any of the applications presented in the workspace.

Though we’re starting with SharePoint and other native Windows apps, our intent in the future is to allow any business application—not just SharePoint—to become an entry point into a Teleplace virtual workspace. In addition, we intend to make any communication, collaboration, or application technology deployed in the enterprise instantly accessibly by Teleplace Connect users. With the inclusion of mobile device support, users will get anytime, anyplace, any content, any application, any communication channel, always-on access from any device and from within any application. Teleplace Connect represents the ultimate enterprise collaboration system.

Teleplace Connect is initially being made available under a development license to select business partners and customers. Users of the current Teleplace product, which is licensed on an annual term basis, have the option of moving to an OpenQwaq license with no disruption of service. The OpenQwaq community and the Teleplace partner community are both enabled to provide a variety of service and support options to meet the needs of even the most sophisticated users. Once Teleplace Connect becomes generally available under a production license, users of OpenQwaq will be able to migrate to Teleplace Connect at their option.

This is a lot to digest, but as you can see this is a big day for immersive technology in the enterprise.  I hope you’re as excited as we are.

Finding a “Place” for Distributed Agile Teams

Agile development methods are a powerful way to manage projects in order to meet dynamic customer requirements.  By breaking tasks down into small increments, emphasizing face-to-face communication, accountability, and working systems, a team using Agile methods can make progress when traditional methods would not work. 

As Agile methodologies have spread, maintaining face-to-face communication and accountability have become important issues.  In a presentation she delivered at Ignite Boston 6 in September 2009, Julie LeMoine of the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology said…

One of the biggest mantras for Agile teams is that you have to be co-located.  If you are not co-located, you are not going to be highly performant.

This mantra is increasingly difficult to follow as organizations become distributed across geographies.  Since Agile methods give preference to working systems as a measure of progress, the ability to collaborate closely within the development process by working side-by-side is a challenge in today’s era of global teams.  With a distributed team, there is no physical “there” anymore; no physical project room or war room can offer equal access for all team members to working documents and the project context.  Acknowledging this as a reality, Fidelity’s LeMoine added…

We are looking for a location where we can all be, regardless of where we all are.

Virtual environments can be that location – or place – where all members of an Agile team can be, regardless of where they are physically.  At Teleplace, we have customers who are using our solution to help them manage their distributed Agile projects.  They are using Teleplace workspaces as “war rooms”, as well as a place to conduct daily standup meetings.

There are some very tangible reasons why it makes sense to use virtual environments like Teleplace for Agile project management:

  • Workspaces are persistent and are continuously available for the duration of a project.
  • Team members can communicate in a variety of ways – voice, video, text chat, etc.
  • Team members can share – and work on – multiple applications and documents simultaneously.

However, many of the arguments for using virtual environments to manage distributed Agile teams are less tangible.  Virtual environments, like Teleplace, give team members direct visual feedback on each other’s interactions in a room, as well with applications and data, as though they were physically side-by-side.  This enables a level of communication among users that fosters mentoring and coaching, unlike what is possible with web conferencing solutions.

One of the largest insurance companies in the United States uses Teleplace to manage Agile projects that involve team members that span the United States, Ireland, and India.  In a recent project, they were able to shave ten months off what was supposed to be a two year development project because their day-to-day communications were so much more effective in a virtual environment versus what they used in the past (email and web conferencing).

Do you have Agile projects that involve team members in different locations?  What challenges do you face in managing such projects?  What does your organization use to manage distributed Agile projects?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.

- Perry Mizota, Marketing, Teleplace

What Social Business Needs Now

I have a lot of young friends. Many of them turn to me for both personal and professional advice. It’s kind of scary, actually, when you realize you’ve become the mentor rather than the mentored.

Because of that, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and how to best prepare oneself for a world of rapid and constant change. It’s a difficult environment for good decision making and a reminder of why social collaboration is transforming the way we make decisions every day. It’s the only way to cope.

Of course we all try to make the best decisions possible. But I for one have found that the pace of change has obsoleted most of ways I made decisions in the past. In fact, I’m down to about 4 solid general purpose tools in my decision making toolbox:

  1. The Golden Rule (for basic survival)
  2. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (to better understand why people do what they do),
  3. Algebra (to help identify the most important variables in any situation), and
  4. Walter Gretzky’s admonition to “Skate where the puck’s going, not where it’s been.” (to keep yourself thinking ahead)

I’ve been using these tools quite a lot lately. They’re very powerful and easy to carry around with me all the time. I certainly had them with me as I attended the recent E 2.0 conference, and boy did they come in handy there.

By the end of the conference’s first day, I realized that something had fundamentally changed. The evangelical conferences of the past had given way to practical conversations about standards and best practices (watch this video where people talk about what they are doing today with Enterprise 2.0 tools that they weren’t doing a year ago). It appeared that the Social Business (aka E 2.0, Social CRM, etc) community had accurately predicted where the puck would be and was now in firm control of its destiny.

But it was equally clear that no one was celebrating quite yet. Some, oddly, were even declaring defeat. I found myself wondering what’s going on here? Surely everyone should be thrilled with the apparent progress—not moaning about it!

But as any hockey player will tell you, getting your stick on the puck doesn’t count for much. It just gives you a better chance of shaping your destiny. And perhaps that’s the challenge now facing the Social Business community. Collectively, we are in a great position to shape our destiny. We’ve successfully skated to where the puck would be. But now we face a conundrum:  where the heck is the net??

Being reflective for a moment, I think the Social Business community has done a poor job defining what success looks like. We talk transformation, but we don’t describe it in a way that gets anyone excited. We’re like a bunch of pioneers on our way to California who never talk about why any of us should want to go there in the first place. And that could be why some among us have been sounding so pessimistic lately.

That needs to change. And fortunately it is changing. But it’s not the vendors or consultants that are creating the change. It’s the users. Organizations are transforming the way they operate. They are deploying social business tools and techniques to great success. And they’re doing so because they have to. It’s the only way for them to cope. And the fact is that they are in control of the puck now, not the Social Business vendor and analyst community.  We skated to where the puck would be, but users—large enterprises in particular—are in control of the puck. They are the ones defining success now.

So all of us Social Business vendors and analysts should know exactly where the net is located. It’s right behind us. Our customers are backing us into the net. I know that sounds a bit ass-backward, but that’s how evolution works. Evolution is an exercise in ass-backwardness, and this market is evolving quite quickly now. We’re being pushed by our customers backward into the net. And frankly, we’re beginning to look like a bunch of dorks. It’s time we all turn around and face the net. It’s time for a fresh round of listening to our customers.

So what are users saying to the Social Business community?  A look at some of the newer attendees of the E 2.0 conference lends some interesting clues.

For one, all of the major Unified Communications folks had a major presence at the conference this year. Their message was quite simple: social business collaboration tools need to be deployed as part of an enterprise’s overall communications strategy and infrastructure. Unified Communications (UC) is giving way to Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C), with social business collaboration being a core component of the UC&C stack. How do you think these vendors came up with this idea? Yup, they heard it from their customers. They’ve been told that compliance and security requirements need to apply to social collaboration in the same way they apply to other communication and collaboration activities in the enterprise. For those with a lot of experience working with large enterprises, it’s a pretty obvious requirement and one we better get our heads around fast.

HR business process folks also had a major presence at the conference this year. Their message was also quite simple: communication and collaboration need to happen “in the flow of work”—a phrase first coined by the Social Business community’s own Michael Idinopulos a few years ago. Where do you think they heard that? The same place Michael did—from customers. People want and need to communicate and collaborate as they perform their work, which is usually in the context of a business task—automated or otherwise. At the conference, Geoffrey Moore referred to this as live session collaboration, which in his opinion is the next major opportunity and challenge for the Social Business community. Whether that’s true or not, it’s easy to understand the benefits of making real-time communication and collaboration tools seamlessly accessible from within business applications, email included.

Social CRM advocates and Community Managers also turned out to the conference in large numbers. Their messages, too, were clear: stop erecting barriers between internal and external collaboration, and recognize that there is a science behind maximizing the effectiveness of enterprise communication and collaboration. Ignore these realities at your own peril. And yes, they, too, having been hearing this from users.

So what are users telling the market?  Integrate with how we operate. Don’t interrupt. Become part of the fabric. Follow our lead. We’re in control of things now.

What will customer-driven success look like? I suspect that activity stream monitors will begin to be proudly displayed in the lobby of every business in America (I’m only half joking). Certainly the press will begin to talk about social businesses in the same way it talks about Web businesses—huge disruptors to old-style businesses. Social Business management consulting practices will become highly strategic to all the large consulting firms. Tightly integrated, cross-enterprise Social Business collaboration tools will be as accessible and easy to use as a telephone. Visionary investors will make billions of dollars feeding this mega-trend through wise investments in the ecosystem.  Entrepreneurs will make wads of cash and blow it all on exotic sports cars.  And the government will institute a Social Business tax because social businesses will be the only ones making any money.

So that’s my vision of success for the Social Business community. What’s yours? If nothing else, I hope you have your skates on!

- Anthony Nemelka, CEO of Teleplace

The Enterprise 2.0 Market is Growing Up

Two weeks ago I attended the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, California.  Having attended many of these conferences in the past, I was struck by the change of tone I heard in many of the presentations I saw and in many of the conversations I participated in.

A few years ago, I was the CEO of a SaaS vendor in the CRM space when the CRM community first started talking about the potential for using social technologies to improve customer relationship management.  At that time, the biggest debate was over what we should call it.  Since then, the Social CRM community has done a great job defining and legitimizing SCRM as a valid business concept–building a robust community of customers, experts, and practitioners along the way.

I am seeing a similar transition occur in the broader Enterprise 2.0 space.  At the conference last week, much of the discussion was less about evangelizing new products and technologies and more about examples of deploying these solutions broadly across the enterprise.  As a result, I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words “integration” and “standards” spoken, as organizations look to integrate their Enterprise 2.0 solutions with other solutions they depend on.

This is a great sign for the Enterprise 2.0 market and I disagree with those pundits–most of whom didn’t attend the conference–who have been declaring that “Enterprise 2.0 is dead”.  When you hear large enterprises talk about integrating E 2.0 solutions with other business solutions they have invested in for years, this is the sign of a rapidly maturing segment (though not necessarily a mature one).

I not only heard the integration theme discussed by enterprises but also by technology vendors.  We are now seeing vendors take their Enterprise 2.0 offerings and extend and integrate them more broadly, like in the area of Unified Communications.  This is another classic sign of a maturing segment.  Some have mocked some of the UC vendors for building “me-too” social collaboration products.  But I see these efforts as reflecting customer demand for a truly unified communication and collaboration infrastructure.

The only thing about E 2.0 that’s dead is the name.  The E 2.0 moniker has given way to Social Business, a name appropriate for the operational transformation that is occurring as people are re-inserted into previously automated business processes.   This mega-trend is sure to keep all of us busy for years to come.

- Anthony Nemelka, CEO of Teleplace

What About the Physical Channel?

Editor’s Note: To kick off our blog, we thought it would be appropriate to publish a couple of posts that were written earlier this year by our CEO, Anthony Nemelka, as he was joining us at Teleplace.  These posts were originally published on Esteban Kolsky’s blog, “crm intelligence & strategy“.  You can find the first post here.  Here’s the second post…

In my earlier blog post, I asserted that in order to really transform how businesses operate, social business collaboration faces one more big challenge. I called it “The Last Mile of Social Collaboration” and described it as follows:

“At the end of the day, business is all about getting the right stuff done. If the right work doesn’t get done, you really haven’t accomplished anything–whether it’s shipping a product, closing a sale, or fixing a bug. Making sure the most important work actually gets done is the biggest challenge for social business today. It’s the “last mile” in enabling social collaboration to transform the way businesses operate.”

After coming to this conclusion several months ago, I began to think about the skills, processes, and technologies needed to pull this off. Somewhere in the back of my head I kept hearing two voices. One was the voice of that delightful Yankees fan (yes, I know that’s an oxymoron), Paul Greenberg, who time and again has pointed out to all of us that the social part of CRM is all about engagement—engaging with the customer on his or her terms. The second voice I kept hearing was that of my Argentinean friend, Esteban Kolsky, the esteemed host of the crm intelligence & strategy blog. Esteban’s voice kept drilling into my head that online social collaboration is nothing more than a channel for CRM, not a replacement for CRM. To do CRM right you need to be effective across all channels, not just the so-called social channel.

(See, Paul and Esteban, I do listen to you guys, despite being a Dodgers fan—God help me–and preferring Chinese over Spanish)

These two critical insights led me to wonder that if the social side of CRM is all about engagement, and online social collaboration is simply one channel for that engagement, what’s going to happen to the physical channel?  You know, that’s the face-to-face, voice-to-voice channel that in the old days was considered the only social channel. Somehow we’ve forgotten all about that channel, yet it’s the one that defines what it means to be social.

Is the physical channel doomed to extinction, permanently replaced by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Sharepoint? Are we going to find a way to integrate the physical channel with what we describe as social business? Or are we destined to abandon the very core of what it means to be social—live face-to-face interaction?

The answer lies in a comment made by @CobraA1 (whoever he/she is—how social is that?!?) in response to one of Paul Greenberg’s recent posts:

“The best CRM is a friendly smile and a great attitude.”

Wow, @CobraA1 is a genius!  And if he/she is correct, then the physical channel is alive and well. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that as long as we’re human it will always be the primary channel.

So what does all this mean, and how does it relate to the questions I posed in my previous post?  Where is all this social business collaboration activity taking us, and how are we going to address The Last Mile of Social Collaboration?

I believe the answer lies in going back to the roots of what it means to be social and applying some proven tools for effective management. From a methodology point of view, that means

  1. enabling face-to-face engagement,
  2. embracing and extending physical means of communication,
  3. integrating online social collaboration with how people work in the physical world,
  4. modifying how people interact with existing computer systems and business processes, and
  5. making it possible to constantly deliver “a friendly smile and a great attitude.”

From a technology point of view, by far the most promising technology I’ve come across that’s capable of addressing each of these requirements is commonly referred to as immersive technology. The goal of immersive technology is to pull people into virtual environments that mimic the physical environment they’re accustomed to. And, after spending a lot of time looking into it, I believe we’re on the cusp of seeing immersive technology do for business what James Cameron’s “Avatar” did for the movies. We’re about to enter a whole new world. If you want to begin to understand what that world will look like, I strongly recommend reading Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge. This book has quickly become the blueprint for immersive technology innovation by companies around the world (and will forever change the way you think about your retirement).

After reading this book you’ll easily understand why I’ve decided that my next big venture will be in the immersive technology space. And today I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve accepted the position of President and CEO of Teleplace (www.teleplace.com), one of the leading immersive technology vendors in Silicon Valley. Together with other immersive technology companies like Proton Media, VenueGen, On24, and others, Teleplace has been quietly engineering the underlying technology required to enable large enterprises—both in the commercial and public sectors—realize the efficiency and effectiveness gains derived from integrating immersive technology with the people, processes, and technologies they depend on to effectively run their organizations.

As a veteran of the social business software community, my vision—and passion—is to apply this same technology to the challenge of bridging “the last mile” of social business collaboration, enabling enterprises of all shapes and sizes completely transform the way they do business and deliver “a friendly smile and a great attitude “ to every customer they serve. Thank you @CobraA1, whoever you are.

Yes indeed, it’s great to be back!

The Last Mile of Social Collaboration

Editor’s Note: To kick off our blog, we thought it would be appropriate to publish a couple of posts that were written earlier this year by our CEO, Anthony Nemelka, as he was joining us at Teleplace.  These posts were originally published on Esteban Kolsky’s blog, “crm intelligence & strategy“.  Here is the first post…

We often save the biggest problems for last.  In the world of business, that’s often because problems sneak up on us so slowly that we don’t notice them until they’ve gotten really big. Such is the case with the unintended consequences of social business collaboration, also referred to as Enterprise 2.0 (#e20) or Social CRM (#scrm).

Though still in adolescence, social business collaboration has already had such a positive impact on business that few seem to question the benefits anymore.  Questions like “what’s the ROI?” have given way to statements like “help me do it better than my competitors!”  But as the benefits of social business collaboration have become clear, so too have the next set of issues—as those of you working at the forefront of social business innovation have learned all too well.

Since leaving #scrm pioneer Helpstream over a year ago, I’ve been on a quest to try to figure out where all this social business collaboration activity is taking us. In hockey parlance, I’ve been trying to figure out where the puck is going to be.

To do that, I spent a year at Socialtext, learning the ins and outs of the internal side of social collaboration–complementing the #scrm experience I gained at Helpstream.  I also spent a lot of time with members of the #scrm and #e20 analyst communities, gleaning deep insights from folks on the front lines of implementation–making some close personal friendships along the way.  And I spent hours and hours talking with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are working on “the next big thing” sure to be needed by socially-enabled businesses.  I discovered a lot of very smart people out there with a lot of amazing ideas and insights, and to all of them I owe a deep debt of gratitude.

Throughout this process, though, I found myself coming back again and again to one major theme.  I sum it up like this:

At the end of the day, business is all about getting the right stuff done.  If the right work doesn’t get done, you really haven’t accomplished anything–whether it’s shipping a product, closing a sale, or fixing a bug.  Making sure the most important work actually gets done is the biggest challenge for social business today.  It’s the “last mile” in enabling social collaboration to transform the way businesses operate.

So there you have it.  That’s my big insight.  Social business collaboration’s success or failure will be determined by its ability to ensure that the right work gets done inside—and outside—the organization.

The early challenge of social business collaboration was to prove that work really does get done faster and more effectively.  But it turns out that isn’t enough.  The right work needs to get done.  As they have begun to implement social business collaboration methods, companies have found that the increase in the number of problems resolved through this type of mass collaboration has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of critical problems never resolved.  Why does this happen you ask?  It happens because of how we’re solving the problems we’re discovering in the social ecosystem.  Even though we’re solving a lot more problems, the social collaboration methods we’re using are surfacing a lot more issues, with a lot more issues going unresolved.

Here’s an example.  Before social collaboration, of 10 problems identified by an organization, perhaps 9 got solved rather quickly but 1 really tough problem remained.  With social collaboration methods in place, an organization may now get 100 problems identified and 90 of them resolved quickly by the same level of resources.  But that leaves 10 really tough issues requiring the attention of their most highly skilled, expensive resources.  So they get 81 more problems solved than before, but they’re now left with 10 really tough ones to deal with—9 more than before.  Ouch.

Don’t expect the social collaboration Genie to go back into the bottle anytime soon.  We’re not going to solve this new problem by going back to the old way of doing things.  Clear visibility into problems we never knew we had before is not going away.

What we need is a modern, social way to solve this problem–one that brings big issues to the attention of the right people, in the right way, at the right time, while allowing everyone to collaborate in real time.  Most importantly, this real time collaboration needs to become part of the social record—not just a bunch of hollow words that disappear into a speakerphone or erased from the whiteboard at the end of a meeting like they do today.

It’s a difficult problem, but answers are on the horizon.  Before I delve into those in my next post, I’d like to hear what you think about all this.  Are you seeing this problem among your clients or inside your organization?  What are companies doing to try to solve this problem?  Let me know your thoughts and I’ll summarize them in my next post while introducing some emerging technologies I’ve found that are poised to completely transform the way we think about social business collaboration today.

It’s great to be back.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.