Enterprise Social Media, And Why We Just Don’t Get It

Enterprise social media is currently one of the most hyped technologies in business, which has led to a wide range of companies and organisations jumping on the bandwagon but also to a lot of denial of the disruption it brings to the enterprise. Today I want to take away the hype and seriously look at where the true value of enterprise social media lies, and why it is disruptive in ways that many organisations haven’t really understood yet.

Social media – never mind the enterprise flavour – is actually widely miscommunicated, even by its biggest proponents: social media, just like the “web 2.0” concept on which it is based, are not new. Granted, social media use has exploded since around 2008, with the rise of Facebook and Twitter among other services, but social media is anything that allows people to share and collaborate in virtual communities, which we have been doing since the earliest days of the internet in newsgroups, chat rooms and forums.

Many types of social media

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Foursquare… the list goes on and if there’s one clear trend in social media today, it’s that the number of networks we’re part of keeps growing. There’s a very clear reason for this: we use them for different purposes, at different times, to achieve different things, and to connect with different people. In fact, the choice of social network for any given conversation will provide the context for that interaction; much like the difference in the real world between meeting a colleague in the office or at your coffee shop of choice. So with that in mind, why do so many enterprise social deployments seem to be about creating a single social hub for our interactions?

Many different conversations

Perhaps enterprise social media tries to create a single hub because that’s just more efficient: after all, we keep complaining about silos in large organisations which prevent the smooth flow of information and lead to poor decision-making. Really? I see two problems with the “single-hub” model: firstly, how do you prevent information overload; and secondly, the trend is towards employees asking for the ability to work on their terms, rather than being forced into a corporate one-size-fits-all box.

Information overload is a major concern with social media, leading to fears that we are becoming disconnected from the real world and having information with a low signal to noise ratio fill our Twitter feeds. Or our Facebook walls. Or our email inboxes… this isn’t a new trend, in fact it’s a part of human psychology.

Now here’s a bit of a problem: social media gurus and the makers of social tools promote the concept of actively filtering our feeds, or creating multiple feeds, to help us stay on top of the flow of information. The problem is that this remains a wholly passive relationship between us, as consumers of information, and the mass of social media that is trying to stuff us full of information, to “feed” us in fact. The term itself implies that we are passively being fed content.

Social media isn’t just a shared drive with a built-in chat function and a way to like all the CEO’s ghost-written posts; it’s a tool to connect with the people who can best help us work more efficiently. Too often enterprise social media is built purely so that employees can collaborate on work, and see what everyone else is doing. That is, the social network is seen as a hub where users and teams can create folders, store their work and make online edits. This has a use, certainly, but it fails to consider how people want to connect. As for seeing what everyone else is doing, why? Why should we constantly be shown what people far removed from us in the organisation are doing, when it is getting in the way of our own work and network? This isn’t social, it’s noise.

“But”, you may be thinking, “at least having a central hub means we’re getting rid of silos, right?” Don’t be so sure: you could actually be creating more silos because the enterprise social tools are disconnected from your employees’ actual workflows. Just because information is posted on an enterprise social tool, doesn’t mean it is actually being shared in a meaningful way. In particular, if you need to duck out of your workflow to go and see if anyone has been talking on your social platform, that’s not an improvement on corporate email. Worse, if your conversations are detached from your information, this is likely to lead to uninformed decision-making.

Internal, external or both?

So far we’ve only looked at internal collaboration tools, but there is another side as well: external social media is where your customers are, it’s where your partners are, and it’s increasingly where the media are as well. In short, if you want to boost customer and partner engagement, not to mention stave off PR disasters, you need to be active on social channels.

The way most enterprise social tools are used means you end up having customer conversations on Facebook or Twitter; your sales department uses Salesforce Chatter, and so on. The problem is that while each of these tools are great, they can’t talk to each other, to your overarching social hub, or to the actual systems that do work, like Office or SAP. This means that you can’t use it to launch a process, delegate tasks, or act on conversations; and switching contexts increases the chances of tasks being dropped. So are we doomed to a future of fragmented social networks, or do we have to strip out the whole mess and start over?

It must be integrated

We need to take a third option, and introduce a light-touch process-oriented integration layer between all these services; remember, we don’t want to get rid of them because each one reflects how a part of the organisation wants to work. Rather than trying to route all enterprise social media through a single hub, which ends up too full of irrelevant information, integration allows the tools to talk to each other, and lets workflows pass seamlessly between them.

This is a very different concept to the Facebook clones that enterprise social media often tries to be, but I think this is a direction worth taking. We keep hearing about the consumerisation of business IT; but this does not mean that we have to take exactly what we see in the consumer world. Email and network chat, among other tools, started in the enterprise (as “social tools”) and later spread to the consumer world. At work, we need to use social media for more than sharing our cats, feeding our neuroses and seeing what our friends had for breakfast: we need to use it to get work done. Therefore, enterprise social media needs to take the lead in defining not just how social media can be used, but in creating the ways we will work together in the future.

 

Integrating SAP R/3 and Salesforce.com made easy

So you have your SAP and your Salesforce.com estates all lined up exactly how you want them, now how do you get those two applications to talk to each other and work together to optimise your business performance? This is the problem a huge number of customers are coming to us with, and this blog will run through the fundamentals of integrating SAP and Salesforce.com in the hope that we can help lighten the burden and show that this is not an impossible task.

Although both the SAP R/3 and Salesforce.com solutions provide excellent service for the enterprise and are truly considered to be best of breed applications, in most enterprises these systems are isolated from one another. However, in reality there is a great deal of overlap between such systems and a lot of interaction is required between the processes that are executed by each system separately.

I believe that SAP R/3 and Salesforce.com integration is essential to maximise each system’s output, reduce errors, and improve overall organisational efficiency. When SAP R/3 and Salesforce.com are isolated from one another, enterprises find themselves trapped in tedious, lengthy, manual tasks that are very prone to human error, slowing down processes tremendously, and also taking a significant indirect toll on the operational costs of every process.

The benefits of integrating these two systems are many but include;

  • increased productivity
  •  reduced expenses
  • increased revenues
  • improved customer satisfaction

Each system, SAP R/3 and Salesforce.com, provide their own unique API (SAP R/3 with BAPI and IDoc, and Salesforce.com web services). Each API is highly complex, and a lot of effort is required to understand the intricacies of each API. The challenge becomes bigger when considering the fact that SAP R/3 is an on-premise, locally handled implementation whereas Salesforce.com as a completely cloud-based implementation that is provided in the form of Software as a Service. The actual integration and automation processes require a large amount of customised coding, which is highly complex and time-consuming to write. This becomes even more complicated when there are changes that need to be implemented in the project.

There is a solution though using a fully accredited and pre-built integration tool with no need to write complex code. This is where iBOLT comes into play it simplifies and unifies the interfaces of both SAP R/3 and Salesforce.com, and enables the creation of any integration scenario and any business process involving the two systems, using visual and intuitive design means.

Below are some of iBOLT’s high level features that will allow you to incorporate any integration process and not miss out on the great advantages of integrating SAP R/3 and Salesforce.com.

  • Ready-made, out-of-the-box solution – No need to write code or install extra hardware.
  • Highly scalable – Built to handle both small to medium business and large enterprise level transaction volumes.
  • Fast and simple configuration – Easy to configure and run, typically within an hour.
  • Flexible schedule settings – Quickly and easily schedule any process by the day, hour, or even by the minute. 
  • Compatible with any standard database – Including Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, DB2 and MySQL databases.
  • Advanced activity monitoring – Easy to manage and monitor changes and log activities, including process status, error handling, and successfully completed flows.

For further information on how to integrate your SAP and Salesforce.com environments feel free to download our free whitepaper available here.

Why move my applications to the Cloud?

So your CEO has been to one of the hundreds of Cloud events that have been held so far this year, or has read the recent BBC article “Cloud Computing- how to get you business ready” and is now full of the idea that Cloud is the way forward and that the company needs to move to the Cloud as soon as possible. So the CEO has laid down the challenge get us to the cloud fast, but what now?

Obviously you are familiar with the Cloud and have read hundreds of articles around what cloud is BUT where do you begin and more importantly why do you begin? I believe that key to the success of any cloud project is the belief in what you are doing and understanding what is driving your company to choose this route. Like any project if we don’t understand the reasons behind the project and the project goals it’s impossible to measure up success or failure. In this blog I am going to outline the 4 main reasons I feel you should move to the Cloud as soon as possible! Future blogs will discuss how to get you there.

1. Ready or not cloud is coming
We have all heard the primary benefits of cloud essentially its touted as making you IT leaner, greener and meaner and I am sure you have read the increasing number of articles which suggest benefits such as; Cloud promises savings and delivers speed, India’s Cloud Computing industry will be worth $1 billion in five years time, with cloud pegged as The invisible revolution. Whether you agree or disagree with these arguments what must be acknowledged is the fact that Cloud Computing is quickly moving from a early adopters position to an early majority phase in the technology adoption lifecycle . What this means for us is that Cloud is coming whether we are ready or not, this alone means cloud can not be ignored as if we are not researching the possibilities we can be sure your competitors are.

2. The mobile workforce
The number of us considered to be “mobile” in the workforce is increasing year on year from the shop floor to the boardroom, the ability to connect with suppliers, colleagues and clients from wherever you are based, is becoming increasingly important. The new world, where real time information must be available to employees anytime and from anywhere, is all about having access to the same applications and data from mobile devices, that you can access in the office, or on site. Cloud computing is in part being driven by this need for mobility, as the whole point behind cloud is access from anywhere, where as legacy and core applications can hinder this movement to mobile.

3. The economic crisis
The global recession has fueled the growth in cloud computing as IT budgets get smaller and smaller yet the technical requirements continue to grow. Cloud is seen by many as the logical solution as capital expenditure is replaced with operational expenditure and users benefit from the economies of scale that cloud computing brings even to the little guy. There has been much debate on the actuality of cost savings through cloud computing “the real question for many IT departments is whether the cost of transition to an external compute cloud will be low enough to benefit from any medium-term savings” however despite these concerns cost savings continue to be one of the main drivers of companies to the cloud and will be one of the main reasons your CEO or CIO has bought into the idea of Cloud.

4. The competitive advantage
This above all in my mind is the key reason to move to the cloud ultimately if done correctly your cloud environment can bring you a significant advantage in this time of economic concerns which may lead your company to succeed where many other fall by the way side.

To summarise I believe that moving to the cloud can and will save many companies from extinction bringing with it a new breed or super effective IT departments who will no longer be seen as a drain on the budget but who will become one of the main competitive advantages of the company. A word of caution though moving to the cloud is not simple and a different cloud adoption models will be required by each organisation, choosing the wrong model could be a costly mistake. I will cover the different cloud models and the best way to move to the cloud in subsequent posts.

Mobilise your SAP

Magic Software UK has been working with an established SAP partner community for some time, all of whom have been using iBOLT to help integrate and extend the functionality of SAP Business One, All-in-One and R3 ERP. With pre-built adapters and native API links to SAP, iBOLT is the perfect, out-of-the-box integration solution to help extend SAP and integrate it across organisations. iBOLT for SAP is commonly used to link external back office systems, automate business processes, update CRM data, automate eCommerce payments and stock control, as well as much more. However, what is new is the added functionality of taking your existing on-premise SAP application and mobilising it for today’s changing business environment.

What does this actually mean to you?

By mobilising your existing SAP investment, without the need to scrap and start from scratch, you can:

• Gain an improved 360 degree view of your customers across the entire organisation
• Improve the level of customer service and customer satisfaction you provide
• Reduce sales and order processing time and cost
• Reduce the travel time needed to access on-premise, office-based applications
• Increase departmental productivity

Using a combination of both iBOLT ™ and uniPaaS ™ technology you can develop and deploy customised screens from SAP for any mobile device. Information can be integrated directly into SAP as well as any other external applications. Workflows can be generated across applications and systems irrespective of the underlying technologies.

Here are some of the benefits you could achieve by mobilising your SAP:

• No need to synchronise offline and master business data – updates can be completed in real time
• Eliminate the need for extended administration
• Keep sales teams up-to-date with important back office information
• Access SAP anytime, anywhere
• Extend the benefits of your existing IT investment to a mobile investment
• Modernise and simplify your business processes
• React faster to your customers needs

Astadia to Partner with Magic Software

At last week’s Cloudforce 2 Europe event Magic Software UK and Astadia announced plans to form a partnership, which I’m personally very pleased about.

Astadia is one of the leading Salesforce.com implementation
partners, so by working together we can improve the entire experience for Salesforce.com customers, helping them to rapidly and easily integrate their Salesforce.com product with their existing on-premise and on-demand applications. Our
first joint project has already been signed, and we have already begun work on a number of other ones.

iBOLT SE for Salesforce.com has grown in interest and momentum over the last 18 months, as Salesforce users begin to understand the benefits of integrating their CRM with other business applications. Click here to read more on this topic and to view the full press release.