The world of technology is no longer just reserved for ‘techies.’ Consumer technology now spearheads the technologies which businesses later adopt. Clever user interfaces (UI) and good-looking hardware has also resulted in users building emotional bonds with hardware, such as their smartphone or tablet – something which was unheard of not so long ago.
The trends that drive consumer IT are also blurring the lines between business and consumer needs. Generally, this has focused on hardware, with the increasing adoption of smartphones and tablets. More recently, it has expanded into the software market.
The rise of the social enterprise is seeing social media elements being used in business and commercial contexts. Many companies have started to use social media elements to promote collaboration between their employees. Even the traditional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market has not been immune to this trend.
In addition to collaboration, these elements are being implemented to get employees to share tips and ideas of how to improve the workplace as well as best practices across teams. Imagine using elements of the Facebook experience, such as event invitations, user comments, and photo and video sharing, and applying that to a customer order on an ERP system.
In the old days, orders were simply loaded into the system. Now, one can tag an order as an event and make it more descriptive of its various elements. As the order goes through the system, people who are involved at that specific stage can leave a comment, for example: “There is going to be a delay in implementation time because a spare part had to be ordered.” Suddenly, the entire community of the organization involved in that order is engaging with one another.
This also means that employees could be trading documents in real-time. Gartner estimates that half of enterprises will be using some sort of social network within the next two years. These social networks are not necessarily the mainstream ones currently in operation, but rather customized ones developed by companies themselves, featuring similar elements.
The social enterprise may be tricky to embrace for those people who have more than 10 to 15 years of business experience. It will involve a significant culture change. On the flip side, new employees will more easily find their feet in this collaborative environment.
The rise of mobility will also benefit those employees on the factory floor where computers are difficult to operate. Mobility opens doors to a myriad of opportunity, allowing a factory worker to walk around with a tablet, have wireless internet and intranet access, and flag potential issues that could delay an order.
There are already a few large organizations that are using collaboration across multiple divisions and locations to improve the effectiveness of operations. Social enterprise is about improving collaboration and not about slowing it down.
In the past, ERP solutions allowed companies to do process integration. Today, with the rise of the social enterprise, companies can now do people integration as well.