Lately I've been noticing some angst among advocates of the social enterprise movement -- namely that they think it's not living up to its promise. Back in 2011 all kinds of predictions were floating around. An article in PC World introduced a Forrester study predicting a big push to social enterprise that at the time seemed inevitable:
"Organizations will increase their spending on enterprise social collaboration software at a compound annual growth rate of 61 percent through 2016, a year in which the market for these products will reach US$6.4 billion, compared with $600 million last year.
Simultaneously, demand for unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) products that offer IM, audio calls, online meetings and video conferencing, will start to drop overall in 2014 because, unlike enterprise social software, they don't help employees discover peers outside of their work groups with expertise they need to tap, according to Forrester's report Social Enterprise Apps Redefine Collaboration, published this week."
However, rather than flocking to using social enterprise as an end to more traditional (and less efficient) internal collaboration, companies are showing a little reluctance to jumping on the bandwagon. But does that mean the movement is dead? I don't think so.
I think people are expecting too much too fast. Social enterprise is evolving more slowly in some places than others. For one thing, it's not easy to change, especially in very large organizations. An aircraft carrier can't be expected to alter course with the speed and agility of a much smaller vessel, and the same is true for business organizations. It takes years to develop a corporate culture and methodologies for communication, especially in the midst of a technological revolution. Those aren't things that can be instantly changed by flicking a switch.
No, I think we're at the very beginning of social enterprise, much as we were at the beginning of social media just a few short years ago. It's an evolutionary process. And like all evolutions, this one is taking its good, sweet time.
Yes, technology is changing so fast it makes our heads spin-but that doesn't mean that all business processes should be changing just as fast, or that something's wrong. I think we're too quick these days to label something as "dead" before it's had a chance to take hold at the grass roots level.
Social enterprise is hardly failing-it's taking more time than predicted. It requires a whole change in culture that enables and empowers employees to share, collaborate and be transparent. Scaling that kind of interaction in large organizations just isn't going to happen overnight.