Social objects as explanation of the E20 significance of social messaging

The search for the key triggers to Enterprise 2.0 adoption is still on-going. Many contributions have already been made, but the master plan is yet to be defined (if there is even one to be identified!). In our “Enterprise 2.0 Adoption” paper Joachim summarized quite some concepts and ideas of last year’s Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT. Many ideas for the adoption are framed around the idea of working on the change of culture towards a culture of trust and participation. By achieving the cultural change the participation and further adoption on an enterprise level will follow – according to the discussions of last year’s conference.

But these assumptions imply that the cultural change will alter the participation behavior in a sustainable matter. And at this point I doubt the outcome – as I am strong believer in the 90-9-1 rule of Jacob Nielsen and see only a small portion of the total number of stakeholder will constantly show a strong participation. For any increase of this portion the steering comitee of the E20 project needs to incentify with some kind of effort.

If we have a look at different use cases this is more or less true for all approaches from wiki driven knowledge sharing & retention to networking based collaboration strengthening and open innovation approaches. Only projects that seem somehow being excluded from this stagnation are those based on social messaging approaches at the core of the project. So the question is why? In relation to our “Social Messaging” research I already tried to argue and set the meme about Social Messaging being the key driver for Enterprise 2.0, but I could never nail it down to a single idea.

In an early German post in June last year I tried to bring it down to the following two key characteristics:

  1. E20 immanence – social messaging as the enterprise wide activity stream is showing a river of information about the processes and activities within the enterprise and therefore fullfils and represents the E20 promise of the open and transparent enterprise.
  2. E20 enablement – with showing the activities within the enterprise social messaging also supports the change process because it makes the alteration transparent.

In our “Social Messaging” research Joachim and I focussed the reasoning of the significance of social messaging as the (1) centerpiece of the E20 initiative and (2) the clock of the E20 change process.

It was not before this weekend that I realized another very important key argument. In the follow-up to a German post about the facets of the “social object” I came along the significance for answering the question why social messaging could be the key driver for Enterprise 2.0 initiative – because it is the infrastructure or better platform for “social objects” to expand their power.

“Social objects” are information items that cause social interactions. (The concept was introduced first by Jurie Engestrom at reboot 2007.) The cause is key element of the “social” of “social objects”. “Social objects” are the elements or better node social networks are spinning around. It is seen as the glue or elexir of life of social networks.

“Social messaging systems” provide the infrastructure with low barriers of participation for users to share information about their activities that eventually expand to “social objects”. This means that “social messaging” per se not guarantees the power of “social objects” – but it enables it.

On the second step it creates the network the Enterprise 2.0 initiative is heading for.

Well – it is not me to realise this relation first because the admired JP Rangaswami already discussed this earlier this year in a series of posts:

In a fourth post JP summarize quite well the significance of “social objects” and therefore indirectly the infrastructure enabling the creation and sharing of it:

It is through the sharing of social objects that communities form and grow.

The social objects have another critical use: they form rolling stones that gather the moss of metadata we all need. As we move from hierarchies of product and customer to networks of capabilities and relationships, the topology of the business and the firm changes. Vertical integration is replaced by an architecture best defined as high cohesion with loose coupling or, if you prefer, small pieces loosely joined, to quote David Weinberger.

Therefore the concept of “social objects” relates back to what I tried to frame as the E20 immanence from another angle. It inherits the DNA of the Enterprise 2.0 organization.

Looking forward to any feedback.

  • Walter Adamson

    Aren’t you making this all too hard. I appreciate your logic but we see “knowledge management” systems and ERP fail, or cause havoc and hatred, in organisations because they are just built on an outdated view of behaviour and value – in short they don’t deliver value or satisfaction to any except a small number of people in the organisation. To the rest they are just a burden. Therefore KM systems die and ERP lives on as a operational/efficiency necessity.

    We’re not only the cusp of new technology e.g. cloud / mobile / social /consumerization but also new attitudes and expectations. Just as Facebook has replaced Microsoft (conceptually and in some cases operationally – do you know people who have stopped using email?) then new threats extend to Facebook replacing banks and other huge industry shifts e.g. bye bye HP. All this spells the end of the old Enterprise systems approach – a fact well recognized by the Enterprise communities who have all rebranded themselves as “social” over the last12 months or so.

    But I don’t think the Enterprise groups need to bring all their old baggage with them. Planning and implementing the social enterprise isn’t the province of any one group at the moment. The agile will win and bringing all the heavy old Enterprise baggage – in thinking and approach – is going to be a boat anchor for you. The reason people use social is no big deal. It’s easy, light, and yet delivers (instant) value – whatever that might be for a person. Make that happen and provide some ability to keep a few tracks and records of “interesting” things and share them, and a lot of it is done – that’s the platform driver..

    That’s not going to come from the ERP heritage, my opinion. You can read between the lines when you see Salesforce investing in and expanding their Chatter APIs.

    Nevertheless, I was pleased to find your links to JP Rangaswan who was new to me. Thanks.

    Walter @adamson