GUEST COLUMN: Enterprise Social’s Empty Promises and the $1.3 Trillion “Worksocial” Opportunity

Matt Calkins, Appian

By Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian

Microsoft recently spent $1.2 billion to acquire Yammer in an effort to catch some of the “enterprise social software” buzz. The problem for Microsoft customers is that enterprise social platforms like Yammer, Jive and Chatter can’t deliver the promise of social business to create faster, more fluid and better-informed organizations. Why? Because those platforms are wholly disconnected from the processes, systems and data that drive a business. A different approach, what many are starting to call “worksocial,” is the key to social business value.

Worksocial simply means the close integration of social and mobile networks with the core engines and data that drive a business. Vendors outside of the worksocial equation are missing the point – and the real market potential. According to McKinsey Global Institute data, weaving social into the fabric of the business is a $1.3 trillion addressable market.[1]

Today’s enterprise social collaboration platforms do not contribute much in the way of business benefit because they do not consider the work context in which business collaboration happens. Business process management and other work automation companies are also missing out by not taking full advantage of social technology.  In time, these two types of software are likely to merge into one overarching “worksocial” approach to business.

There is analytical support for this theory. According to a new report by CITO Research, merely bringing external social media into the workplace is insufficient. Real business value will come by bringing work, tasks, and accountability into the realm of social technology.[2] This marriage of social and mobile into core business processes and business data across a broad range of industries is how McKinsey arrived at the $1.3 trillion figure.

Because of the disconnected nature of enterprise social platforms, employees do not hear about business events in real-time, in a context from which they can take immediate action. Enterprise systems do not auto-post key events to a social feed. These systems do not track collaboration in the context of an auditable business process. Consequently, these platforms cannot enforce business rules, support the execution of business actions, or measure business performance.

True worksocial starts with business processes and data, and overlays social collaboration and  mobile access across those business engines. This is what boosts productivity, improves decision-making and makes for a more engaged workforce.

When everyone connected to a particular job can contribute to resolving a business problem without losing process context, every business decision point becomes a “collaboration moment.” A business action can then be taken right from the same social interface – regardless of which underlying IT applications are involved – without any additional effort.

As a practical example, consider the insurance industry, and the case of a high-value client about to have his or her claim rejected. If a system-generated feed post of that impending rejection can be seen at once by the business unit head, the staff, and the customer’s agent, that post will prompt action, create a collaborative environment, and allow for quick resolution all in the same interface. In that case, placing work in the social environment improves the odds of customer retention. Now, introduce mobility, and have those kinds of alerts visible and accessible from any smartphone, tablet or laptop. That’s the power of worksocial for businesses of any kind.

For social business to be more than empty words and empty promises, businesses need understand that social enterprise platforms are no replacement for business process, business data and work context. Social is the style; work is the substance. Work must come first.

Adopting the worksocial mindset is critical to bringing work context and business process into the social framework. It makes for better, faster internal decision-making. Equally importantly, it lets companies understand customers’ attitudes and perceptions of a company’s products or services – which in turn can help you identify ways to grow your customer base more quickly than your competitors.

Matt Calkins is CEO of Appian. He can be reached at

[1] “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies.” McKinsey Global Institute, July 2012

[2] “”Turn Enterprise Social into Real Business Value,” CITO Research, September 2012

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