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UC and Social Business: More in Common Than You Think

Move over unified communications, the new kid on the block is social--social media, social business, social software, etc. Social presents a whole new paradigm that is totally different from unified communications--or is it?

For a while now I've been finding more and more similarities between the two, and I recently realized that much of what vendors and analysts are saying about social is the same as or similar to what I and the UCStrategies team have been saying about UC for some years now.

At a recent IBM social business event for journalists and bloggers, Alistair Rennie, General Manager, Social Business, kicked off the discussion, noting that IBM is "Taking the concepts of social networking in the consumer space and applying it to the transformation of business process." He added, "Microblogging and other tools need to be tied to context of the work people are doing. It's less about putting new channels in front of early adopters, and more about putting tools in next-gen business applications for getting work done."

At the same event, Jennifer Okimoto, Social Business Consultant, Organization & People Practice, IBM Global Business Services, talked about the importance of embedding collaboration and social media into business processes.

Does all this sound familiar--business process integration, tying in with back office applications and the context of people's work? It should--this is exactly what we've been saying about unified communications for years.

When I pointed this out and noted that UC hasn't taken off as expected, and asked why will social business be different, Rennie responded, "Customers don't have to make the major expense for social like you do with UC. You can start with a social tool without making a huge investment like with UC." Alistair may be right if you think that UC requires a major forklift upgrade of your entire PBX in order to install UC. But he may be wrong if you realize that UC is as simple as installing just a redundant pair of virtual IBM Lotus Sametime Servers with IM, presence and click-to-communicate.

Another similarity I found between social business and UC during the IBM event is the view of the way we'll look at these in the future. Rennie stated, "Three years from now we won't call this social business--it'll just be business." Jim Burton of UCStrategies has said this repeatedly about unified communications, noting that we’ll just call it communications.

Jennifer Okimoto also made the following statement, which sounded very familiar to me: "Social business is a journey, not a destination or implementation." Those of you who’ve seen my UC presentations at Enterprise Connect and elsewhere know that I always include a final slide that says, "UC is a vision or philosophy that leads to solutions--it is not a product!" Whether talking about UC or social business, it's important to recognize that this isn’t something you plug in and you magically have a solution. Rather, these are ways of changing the way in which we work and get things done, and these tools will be continually changing and evolving as new technologies are introduced and as the nature of work changes.

To hear more about UC and social media, and how companies are using them together to achieve business results, be sure to attend my session at Enterprise Connect, Case Studies: Creating the Social Enterprise. You'll hear from leading-edge end user customers that have successfully integrated these tools to help their workers be more effective and productive, improve customer service, and improve the bottom line. Hope to see you there!