This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
Social Software and UC
There are various types of social software or social networking services available--some, like Dodgeball and MySpace are purely social and aimed at consumers. Others, notably LinkedIn, are aimed at professionals, while some are business grade and aimed at enterprises--e.g., IBM's Bluehouse and Lotus Connections.
Some began in consumer social networking but are now also being used for business or enterprise purposes. Twitter falls in this category; it began as a way for friends to keep up with the activities and interests of people in their social network, but now it's used as a business tool as well, even though there are those who argue that enterprises should ban the use of Twitter by employees for fear that these tools are productivity drains, security risks, bandwidth hogs, and there may be inappropriate usage etc. Cisco is one example of a company that uses Twitter to provide updates to customers, and many companies follow Twitter to see what people have to say about them.
I first became aware of Twitter at the UCStrategies.com UC Summit in June when I discovered there was someone tweeting about the conference and what the speakers had to say. Since then I've been hooked, and discovered that Twitter is a great way to learn about what colleagues, vendors, and others have to say about unified communications. The downside is that along with hearing their views and activities related to UC, I also often hear about what they're having for dinner, what movie they just watched, and that their kid just won their soccer match. Users can receive updates from the individuals or companies they follow via the Twitter website, IM, SMS, RSS, email, etc. I assume that it's just a matter of time until users will be able to click-to-connect with someone who posted a twitter update, inviting other people to join in a live multi-party interaction via voice and/or SMS or IM. I would also expect Tweets to show up in users' unified messaging inboxes, enabling them to send a reply via various communication modes.
Integration with business processes is already taking place in some cases. LenderFlex is using Twitter to deliver risk-based mortgage pricing to mortgage loan professionals and real estate agents, who can get information when and where they need it by twittering a few codes. Many communication enabled business process (CEBP) applications rely on immediate notification of events to the appropriate people, and Twitter could be a fast and easy way to do this. For example, the Los Angeles Fire Department used Twitter during the October 2007 California wildfires.
In addition to "public" social software services, several vendors have introduced or are developing enterprise-grade social software products and services, providing security and meeting enterprise-class requirements, with the potential of integrating with UC capabilities. For example, IBM is integrating Sametime with Connections and Quickr, so that a user's profile card from Connections can be made available across the platform, letting users tap into someone's shared files and be able to connect with them through Sametime.
While IBM/Lotus is perhaps the furthest along in this area, I've seen great demos from Alcatel-Lucent and others as well. I expect to see new and innovative social software offerings from several of the switch vendors in the next two years.
The connections between social software and unified communications are becoming progressively clear:
* Tying in presence capabilities, click to call, click to conference, mobility, and other capabilities to make it easier to connect with people in your organization who have the expertise and knowledge you need to tap into at the time seems to be the basic and first step.
* Notifications and Alerts on filtered or community topics is another way CEBP functions can be tied into simple applications such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.
We're at the beginning stages of social networking in the enterprise--there will be many ways in which to UC-enable these applications and services, making them exponentially more useful for individuals and organizations. And hopefully without the details of your dinner or kid's soccer game.