Don’t Spout Off About Social In The Business World – Just Get The Work Done

Don’t spout off about social in the business world. Just use it to get the work done, because that’s what matters most.

I have been reminded of that often during the year. Earlier this month, I wrote about Moxie Software and how it uses the Facebook social graph and a company’s social data to determine the context for chatting with a customer over a branded page. The company uses Facebook and social data to help customers make the right decisions. It’s not about social itself. Social data is just the vehicle to start a chat session when the time is right.

In November, SAP launched Jam, its collaboration software. SAP General Manager Sameer Patel explained that it just helps people get their work done. For example, a salesperson enters a sales lead into the system and up pops the people who can help with the deal. Out of this, a group is formed and collaboration begins through an activity stream. Sure it’s social technology, but that is inconsequential. It’s just a part of the workflow. Social is the glue that binds the process.

This past week I had lunch with Jama Software CEO Eric Winquist. Jama is a service for managing product development. The service sits on top of product-development tools like Rally Software and Atlassian‘s Jira and GreenHopper products. Its social features help people get the products completed without the marketing person saying, “What the hell is this goddamn Frankenstein you built?”

SpaceX uses Jama to help build its rockets. Rocket scientists develop the spaceships and the rest of the team can see the project progress, keep track of it, and see all the connections between the different people involved. Once done, everyone is on the same page. In addition, the team can get some reusable IP out of it all. The social graph shows the series of developments over the life of the project. The team can triangulate the different connections and make informed decisions about how to make the product-development process run better between the engineers, the product managers and third parties.

Winquist said research and development gets turned on its head when people can share ideas. One body of work in that collaboration can become a new product. But Jama doesn’t call it a social technology. It’s simply a way for a company like SpaceX to make sure something like an instrument panel gets done the right way.

Here’s the thing. Most of the enterprise world does not operate like GitHub or any of the new-age startups. Think of it this way: A dude steps out of his front door in the morning a modern man, sunglasses on, streaming his Macklemore playlist on his iPhone. He drives to work in his Toyota Prius, walks into the building past security, and enters a different world. Transported back to the pre-social age, he sits at his swivel chair, logs into the company network, fires up IE 6, and gets to work. It’s not all that way, of course. People get their work done any way they can. The new startups out there help them do that. But generic social networks? They make as much sense for the business world as cubicles in your living room do.

However, addressing specific business processes with social technologies to get work done makes infinite sense. Emerging services from companies like Jama transform the way work gets done. But they are not “social” tools nor are they social networks. People don’t use Jama to chat about kittens. They use it to get stuff done.