TIBCO: how do we build the 'social enterprise'?

The TUCON TIBCO User Conference is staged this week in Las Vegas at the extremely new and shiny Aria resort. In keeping with the current technology streams being championed and evangelised by many large scale IT vendors right now, TIBCO is working to make the social enterprise zone an accepted business trend.

What is the social enterprise?

Put quite simply, the social enterprise is basically Facebook in the workplace.

But there are some crucial differences to take on board here and we need to clarify. Ram Menon is TIBCO president of social computing, he explains that the social enterprise necessitates a new connection to business systems so that they can be brought into the “social enterprise conversation” in any firm.

Menon says that the social enterprise has been growing fast and that his firm’s interconnetivity technologies are now helping to facilitate a second stage of growth in this space.

Two stages of growth for the social enterprise

For TIBCO’s Menon (clearly a cricket fan) there was a first “innings” where the social enterprise was really just trying to copy Facebook. Now though, a second innings sees us actually trying to build systems that will benefit real worker productivity.

Facebook is really just made up of people and perhaps products if we also include the brands (such as Starbucks and/or various music bands or shops) that have built up a presence and a “fan base” across the social network.

The social enterprise’s mechanics on the other hand go further than simply connecting people, Menon says there are at least five major elements (or objects) to now connect:

1. people

2. machines

3. business processes

4. locations

5. other enterprise infrastructure elements

In practical terms this means that a food production plant could complete a job to bake some pink fairy cakes and post data to the social enterprise space “reporting” this fact. Employees could be discussing pink fairy cake production challenges in terms of ingredient pricing coming in from partners. There might be some level of “gamification” here where workers are challenged to also interact with and show their influence upon the social collaboration that is going around the work tasks being executed.

TIBCO works in this space with it’s tibbr product. So tibbr uses what has been called a “subject-based approach” to filtering and organising information that is channelled through the social enterprise. This software is built with enterprise-grade security, governance and compliance so that tibbr can be installed behind the company firewall

It also has microblogging services and short messages, updates, documents and links with co-workers exist on your tibbr wall – and yes, TIBCO calls it a “wall” too.

So will social enterprise networks make a difference?

As previously reported on TechTarget by James Furbush, “Enterprise social networks can save organisations billions of dollars per year in productivity time spent managing email, communicating internally and searching for information, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Company.”

TIBCO’s Menon recently quoted a September 2011 report from Forrester Research which reported that, “Despite significant and ongoing investment in enterprise social technologies, their roughly seven-year lifespan within enterprises has yielded a maximum of 12 percent adoption within the overall workforce.”

So we’re not quite there yet perhaps in terms of deployment. But the technology is here, it works and perhaps we now need to read more use case analysis pieces where we can see how well the social enterprise has really helped impact firm’s bottom line positively.