In a previous blog, I pointed out that success is easier to achieve within an ecosystem of trusted partners. I thought I’d stay on roughly the same theme in tis blog by discussing advances in social media-assisted collaboration.
You might think, with all the current talk of Big Data, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, that the necessity for human collaboration would be on the decline. In fact, a confluence of trends, including globalization, increased skills specialization, distributed value chains and distributed expertize, are making collaboration, often among remote locations, more necessary than ever. Add to that the device-driven lifestyles of younger employees, and the future of internal social media networks seems certain.
SYSPRO is currently developing Harmony, a portal for enterprise communications. Harmony will integrate familiar social media features into SYSPRO ERP. As on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, SYSPRO users will soon be able to tag each other in conversations, create groups; keep each other informed, while at the same time referencing processes, projects, and orders. These capabilities will vastly enhance SYSPRO’s User Experience, facilitate collaboration, and also create a record of communication.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To understand what’s coming, I think it’s important to review our notions of ‘structured’ and ‘unstructured’ data. My favourite analogy for structured and unstructured data comes from the common e-mail. E-mail provides a metadata framework for fields such as To:, From:, CC:, etc. This is structured data – it has (to quote Wikipedia) ‘a predefined data model’. On the other hand, the content of the e-mail is a jumble of unsorted information, perhaps including some jpegs or even an attached or linked video. The (fictitious) e-mail below is separated into structured and unstructured data, regular text and bold Comic Sans respectively.
To: Penelope Potter
From: Sam Smith
CC: Blake Buzzkill
How soon can you tool up for a run of anodised three-flanged widgets for use in the R-18? We talked to Austech, but they have capacity issues and don’t anodise. (We’d prefer a one-stop supplier.) I’ve attached an RFP, a colour swatch, and some pics of my horrible kids. Gotta run – take care. :-) S.
Structured data is important, but it is in the unstructured data, Sam’s messy string of bolded Comic Sans, where the real treasures of information lie. Of course, it’s a bit like sifting through mountains of rock to find the occasional diamond. It’s estimated that by 2020 humans will have generated some 40 ‘zettabytes’ of data, and that 70 to 80 percent of an organization’s information will be unstructured. And yes, along with the Internet of Things, much of that data will be generated across social media.
Until now, there was no easy way to analyze masses of unstructured information. The future, however, has arrived. Software such as SYSPRO Harmony can auto-populate conversations with relevant information from vast quantities of unstructured data. Relieved of their search duties, employees will be empowered with the opportunity for uninterrupted focus – less keyboard time, more time for creativity and thought.
As suggested in the title of this blog, the use of social media goes beyond collaboration. Imagine the possibilities in relation to unstructured customer data from sources such as e-mails, surveys, call centre notes, text messages, posts, blogs, etc. The customer experience, through the analysis of unstructured social media information, can be recreated to a degree never possible before. The implications for manufacturers, hungry to know their customers, are enormous.
Today’s value chains cross borders and oceans. Employees, often highly specialized, are distributed across countries and continents. The promise of social media solutions, such as Harmony, is to bring human capital together, to spur creativity with a richness of data, and, in the final analysis, to drive productivity and profit in the competitive decades to come.