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Summary:

[qi:021] Can social web applications like blogs, wikis, and online communities make a company more productive? Enterprise collaboration company Jive Software thinks they can, by enabling social productivity — making things happen across ad hoc social networks instead of just relying on individual progress or within-the-workgroup […]

[qi:021] Can social web applications like blogs, wikis, and online communities make a company more productive? Enterprise collaboration company Jive Software thinks they can, by enabling social productivity — making things happen across ad hoc social networks instead of just relying on individual progress or within-the-workgroup collaboration.

But because social productivity, in contrast to individual or team productivity, aims more at innovation and insight than efficiency and economy, Jive faces a big challenge in demonstrating the benefits of their Clearspace collaboration software to potential customers.

What’s social productivity good for?

Jive Chief Marketing Officer Sam Lawrence defines social productivity like this:

[It's] about getting work done outside the team of like-minded people you work with everyday. With social productivity, an idea is introduced and all sorts of people get to chime in on it. These could be people you work with a lot, people you’ve never worked with or even people outside your company. Now all of a sudden your idea has been developed openly by all sorts of people who bring their own, valuable perspective.

When would you need this kind of ad hoc collaboration across organizational boundaries? Maybe for ambiguous and uncertain projects and tasks where next steps and eventual destinations aren’t at all obvious — designing a breakthrough product or solving an especially thorny customer problem, for example. Such projects require conversations with people outside your workgroup, bursts of insight, and creative problem-solving, rather than discussions with current teammates, static knowledge, and pre-defined processes.

Using features like discussion forums, blogs, wikis, and document management, Clearspace links together corporate employees and their work processes with customers, prospects, developers, and other external collaborators and stakeholders. Clearspace offers both outward-facing online community capabilities along the lines of Drupal or Ning and internally-deployed knowledge management that competes with the likes of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Sharepoint.

Calculating ROI for social productivity tools

Here’s the challenge facing Jive: Demonstrate the benefits of social productivity in a way that makes sense to corporate executives. The enterprise IT market demands quantifiable return on investment, which is difficult to show when you’re talking about encouraging innovation and solving ambiguous problems rather than just making well-understood individual or workgroup processes more efficient and economical.

If the promises of social productivity tools prove out, companies deploying them should see improved customer responsiveness, more successful products, more enthusiastic user communities, and better financial results. Tying such benefits back to the use of social web tools won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible either, as early efforts to calculate the ROI of corporate blogging show (though granted, those emphasize public relations benefits rather than business productivity).

Jive’s Lawrence told me that his potential customers want social networking and other social tools but aren’t quite sure why yet. Let’s see if Jive can convince them that social productivity really is productive.

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  1. Our ‘social productivity’ has an ROI – we don’t have an office (there’s 7 of us) and we don’t commute not only saving time and money but our carbon footprint as well.

  2. Susan Scrupski Friday, October 26, 2007

    Hi Anne. I’m pleased to see you’ve raised this as an issue. For those of us who’ve been tracking “enterprise 2.0″ in large enterprises (where SMB is another story altogether) have been puzzled about the slow pace of user adoption.

    What we are finding within our F500 customer base is a widespread ambivalence regarding these web 2.0 tools. Until vendors, evangelists, analysts, and perhaps most important- other customers- can begin to articulate a solid business case for social productivity tools, the excitement will be contained to those of us who Twitter our lives away wishing everyone else would,”get it.” And you’re right, the early work on measurement and metrics/return is surfacing in the social media/communications arena which is a subset of the larger enterprise 2.0 meme.

    Incidentally, I agree. Jive’s Clearspace is an excellent alternative for enterprises. We used it to manage, communicate, and collaborate on the Office 2.0 Conference in September.

  3. Michael Caton Friday, October 26, 2007

    Enterprises face email entrenchment and silo overload. Even when they see the need and benefit, the cultural change is a real issue. The benefits are most tangible when it comes to cross company collaboration, engaging business partners and customers in ways that email and inwardly focused tools like SharePoint can’t. Internal communications is useful, but companies that spend too much time on inward focused communications are missing revenue opportunities.

  4. Jive and social networking Friday, October 26, 2007

    The future of the internet is social networking and social productivity. Jive has seen this future clearly and that is why its Jive software will make a huge impact.

    Anne, your observation “…enabling social productivity — making things happen across ad hoc social networks instead of just relying on individual progress or within-the-workgroup collaboration” is right on the target.

  5. free market research report Saturday, October 27, 2007

    Extraction of tacit knowledge is the best use of social media tool i.e. KM tools.

  6. ROI is actually relatively easy to demonstrate. There are so many tangible benefits that our clients are experiencing through their internal and external social networks, that the value proposition is quickly converting from nice to have or think I need to have – to absolutely must have to remain competitive. The best solutions enable relationship mapping and knowledge sharing, as can be seen at http://www.leveragesoftware.com and others like that.

  7. ROI is always difficult to demonstrate with products whose USP is UI, or productivity improvements. Such things are hard to quantify.

    Often these are passed off by the people who matter as ‘Gimmicky’,’Eye Candy’ etc etc. Think about the difficulty Apple has had in cracking the enterprise space and compare it with the success it has in the consumer space. Even if an enterprise was all Mac, I am not too sure a CTO would sanction an enterprise upgrade to Leopard citing the lack of any real features which matter i.e. ROI. Consumers on the other hand have lapped up Leopard !

    I guess the enterprise 2.0 folks might have to use employee “happiness” like programmer “happiness” which has been the marketing mantra of Ruby On Rails … However RoR has not had great success in the enterprise either!

  8. Michael LoBue Sunday, October 28, 2007

    Interesting thread, especially relating to ROI. However, I’m not so sure the ROI question relating to “productivity going social” is that difficult to calculate. An experiment of sorts could be devised where “social productivity” tools or methods were used by one group and not by another and measure and compare the results.

    I think the bigger challenge will be to get agreement on the “return” part of the equation. It is likely that advocates of “social productivity” will argue for different results that those that are either not supportive of it, or don’t yet understand it

  9. Where sharing makes sense and where it doesn’t – CorpBlawg Sunday, October 28, 2007

    [...] neglected CorpBlawg far too long anyway, I decided to post here instead. Katherine pointed me to this piece on GigaOM about social productivity that is both a relatively low-key sales pitch for Jive Software’s Clearspace collaboration [...]

  10. share.websitemagazine.com Monday, October 29, 2007

    Productivity Goes Social with Jive

    Can social web applications like blogs, wikis, and online communities make a company more productive?

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