I recently had the pleasure of speaking with David Andersson, Director at IFS Labs, an R&D division within IFS AB, which is a company that develops, supplies, and implements IFS Applications, a component-based extended enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite built on service oriented architecture (SOA) technology. I wanted to know from Andersson how enterprise software is being affected by the consumerization of IT.
Some experts say that social media applications are “invading” enterprise software design. Andersson reminded me that social media is all about sharing information: “Social media focuses on collaboration and the ability to share data effectively among a project team.”
Because of this, wikis, message boards and instant messaging are easily translated into the workplace. Specifically, “These are effective tools for a group of people involved in a complex engineer-to-order manufacturing project like, for example, a ship building project or other demanding business environment,” says Andersson. The sharing aspect of social media can be tapped into by companies, but protected with enterprise software. As Andersson describes, “[It creates] a collaborative social media-based community for a company’s employees, suppliers and customers, while keeping that community in the secure and traceable enterprise environment.”
In order to keep up with this trend, Andersson suggests that software companies start copying the social media apps that are already popular:
“Software companies need to make their applications behave, look and feel more like the social media functionality that is becoming so ubiquitous in consumer technology. The ability to share and communicate among individuals and groups needs to be just as easy—if not easier—in the ERP than it is on Facebook. Otherwise, discussions dealing with business matters will take place in the public domain social media channels like Facebook and Yahoo Instant messenger. In this environment, they are not secure. Furthermore, those discussions and the information and insight they contain cannot be leveraged by the enterprise. Not only is there no ‘paper trail’ left as to how decisions were made, but important information that could inform future decisions is lost. Enterprise software companies absolutely must pull these decisions back into the enterprise application.”
The goal should be to achieve a familiar user interface inside of the enterprise software to improve ease of use and create a safe environment for information storage. The integration of social media into enterprise software creates opportunities for software companies in that the enterprise software becomes more attractive to customers.
“The success of social media has caused us to rethink our approach to communication within the enterprise and develop embedded wikis, instant messaging and other enterprise 2.0 tools. This makes the enterprise application attractive enough that it can compete with the allure of existing social media tools in the public domain while increasing the amount of data the enterprise application encompasses.”
Businesses don’t want their conversations to be lost in the public sphere. If social media is incorporated more into enterprise software; if it is easy to use; if the data is safe and easily traceable – how can it fail? So the next question is…how do you create a social media environment that’s easier than Facebook and Twitter?