One of the best social media panels I’ve heard in a while came in an unexpected context: A seminar sponsored by software vendor Visible Path, on Monday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
The developing corporate uses of social media are fascinating: Once top-down companies are now embracing a range of applications to increase collaboration and encourage innovation. The session simply reinforced my perception that we’re rapidly moving beyond blogs and wikis to a variety of new tools that will both flatten the organization and blur former corporate boundaries.
Socialtext’s always-insightful Ross Mayfield said that social media offers corporations the chance to rethink the way they approach decision-making. “What would happen,” he asked rhetorically, “if we decoupled information rights and decision rights?” That is, what if everybody had access to the same information, so it wouldn’t just be top decision-makers who hoarded all the data? And what would happen if a particular decision was made more participatory – again, in a process enhanced by social media?
Motorola’s director of Internet and Collaborative Technology, Matt Beveridge, talked extensively about his company’s uses of blogs and wikis, but pointed out that the biggest challenge is integration: data is spread across too many disparate tools. Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang pointed out a second problem: Information context, making sure the right data is asked in the right setting. He gave the example of Facebook, which asked for intimate information he wouldn’t normally want to give in a business environment.
That’s a problem that Anthony Lye, Oracle’s Senior Vice President of CRM On Demand, said his company’s new offering would address. Traditional Customer Relationship Management software, he said, was simply an enforcement function. That “sales 1.0” process could be summed up as, “Report more, sell less,” he stated flatly. But Lye said that the “sales 2.0” process is the reverse: Sell more, report less. “Reporting should be a by-product of productivity,” he claimed. However, he wouldn’t give more specifics in advance of the company’s announcement – though he was scheduled to talk at the Sales 2.0 conference the next day.
Visible Path's offering is interesting: A "social map" of contacts, illustrating the strength of ties by watching a person's Microsoft Outlook activity such as email traffic and calendar entries. These kinds of tools are increasingly being integrated into salesforce automation tools like Salesforce.com, to increase the value of individual and corporate social networks.